Black Like Me

by

John Howard Griffin

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Black Like Me: November 29, 1959 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In Montgomery, Griffin goes out of his way to speak to other white people, who tell him what they think about white society’s relationship with the black community. “They said they knew the Negroes, they had had long talks with the Negroes. They did not know that the Negro long ago learned he must tell them what they want to hear, not what is,” Griffin writes. “I heard the old things: the Negro is this or that or the other. You have to go slow. You can’t expect the South to sit back and let the damned communist North dictate to it […].” As he listens, Griffin suppresses the urge to say, “Don’t you know you are prattling the racist poison?” As he moves through Montgomery—which is so tragically segregated—he wonders if it’s even “worth trying to show the one race what [goes] on behind the mask of the other.” 
Again, Griffin underlines the lack of honest communication between the black and white communities. What many white people fail to realize, he points out, is that African Americans have long been discouraged from speaking the truth about what it’s like to live in the South. Unfortunately, though, the majority of white people (at least in Montgomery) tend to take what black people tell them at face value, thereby giving themselves an excuse to go on living the way they want to live. This, it seems, is how racism sustains itself, as neither whites nor blacks end up speaking honestly about the situation itself (at least not with each other). In turn, the two communities remain tragically divided.
Themes
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
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