Whenever Griffin looks in the mirror while disguised as a black man, he’s forced to consider the ways in which appearance affects identity. As such, the mirror itself comes to stand for the complicated relationship people have with their own personas, especially regarding how people think about their racial identities. Looking at his reflection for the first time after making his initial transformation, Griffin notes, “I knew now that there is no such thing as a disguised white man, when the black won’t rub off. The black man is wholly a Negro, regardless of what he once may have been.” By saying this, Griffin calls attention to the fact that white society only cares about the color of a person’s skin. Since Griffin has already decided not to change anything about his actual identity, any discrimination he experiences moving forward will be completely based on the dark color of his skin. Interestingly enough, this is not a new realization, as one of the police officers Griffin consulted before this project insisted that nobody will stop to “ask [him] any questions” about his identity. “As soon as they see you,” the officer said, “you’ll be a Negro and that’s all they’ll ever want to know about you.” Griffin’s sudden existential crisis in the mirror is still significant, as it denotes how tragic it is that people judge one another by such superficial standards. In turn, the mirror represents the sad reality that aesthetic features dictate how a person moves through the world, even though such matters have little to do with who a person actually is.
The Mirror Quotes in Black Like Me
All traces of the John Griffin I had been were wiped from existence. Even the senses underwent a change so profound it filled me with distress. I looked into the mirror and saw reflected nothing of the white John Griffin’s past. No, the reflections led back to Africa, back to the shanty and the ghetto, back to the fruitless struggles against the mark of blackness. Suddenly, almost with no mental preparation, no advance hint, it became clear and permeated my whole being.
My inclination was to fight against it. I had gone too far. I knew now that there is no such thing as a disguised white man, when the black won’t rub off. The black man is wholly a Negro, regardless of what he once may have been. I was a newly created Negro who must go out that door and live in a world unfamiliar to me.
I had tampered with the mystery of existence and I had lost the sense of my own being. This is what devastated me. The Griffin that was had become invisible.