In the book Black like me John Howard Griffin points out that the Negro doesn’t understand the white any more than the white understands the Negro. Specific examples of the book show that both colors were racist to each other.The whites are especially racist with the blacks as seen while Griffin was hitchhiking through Mississippi.
The whites were all keens on inquiring about his sex life, which they were convinced, was different than their own. What s the matter haven t you got any manhood? Griffin was taken aback by the questions, he had no idea that there were such rumors of a black s sex life.Another part in the book shows that the whites did not understand why blacks stayed in their towns when the towns offered nothing to the Negro in form of stores, washrooms or jobs. If this was asked to a black the answer would have been related to blacks desire to keep fighting and struggling for desegregation.
Of course, nearly any white man would fail to understand this. The white community wanted none of the blacks about in their town.The ignorance of whites or their “misunderstanding” is clear when Griffin is on the bus and requests to get off at his stop. The bus driver refuses;”I can’t leave the door open all night”.
This was just pure disrespect from the driver for he had nothing better to do than wait for traffic. Griffin at the time was exhausted and he was trying hard not to release his rage towards the bus driver. Griffin later writes in his journal “this is the only deliberate act of cruelty that I encountered on any of the city buses of New Orleans”. He also says that the act was done strictly against his color not the person that he was, if the bus driver even realized that blacks were people.
To a lesser degree the blacks in the book Black Like Me are racist towards the whites. These cases are less in your face than the vulgar actions of the whites and are examples of true misunderstanding. One example of black towards white racism occurs only because the black is so accustomed to being treated like dirt by the whites. Griffin encounters a man trying to sell turkeys from his car.
Griffin states “Ignoring the white man, he spoke to me”. One white man is sympathetic for the man’s misfortune and poverty. In attempt to prove that “not all white men are bastards”. He decides to do the man a favor by buying all the turkeys for a high price.
The black hesitates apparently from fear and dislike for whites.He thought that the white was insane. Why would a white want ten turkeys or even want to buy anything from him? The black was mystified and avoided a white man who only wanted to help him. In reality this insulted the white but what he didn’t realize was how typical it would have been for a white man to reject the black.Griffin is witness to black racism when he roams the same streets that he did as a black but is faced with dirty looks from the blacks that said “you white bastard, you ofay sonofabitch, what are you doing walking these streets?” Griffin states that he detested the town of Montgomery as a black and he realized that it was just as bad as a white.While the author is in the town of Montgomery he asks himself: “Was it worth going on? Was it worth trying to show the one race what went on behind the mask of the other?” This means that both races were uncooperative no matter how much the whites assured they gave the blacks “equal rights” and how much the blacks said they were attempting to not worsen their reputation that was already so horrible in the eyes of the whites.