“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”
In the late 1950’s a man named John Howard Griffen conducted a unique social experiment. A white man, he darkened his skin with a combination of drugs and tanning lamps and went down to the Jim Crow south. An admitted racist morally conflicted with his religious principles went to experience it for himself.
He wrote of his experience in a book titled “Black Like Me”. I read this very young and am grateful I did. The part that stuck with me the most was when Griffen said the worst part of it all was not the separate drinking fountains and bathrooms. It was not being explicitly told he was being rejected for a job because they don’t want black people. He said the worst part was everyone looking at him with disgust.
He had to hide with friends for a short time and after a month he frantically scrubbed himself back to whiteness and hid in a monastery. Think about that for a moment. He was traumatized by the experience. A month.
“Griffin was one of the most remarkable people I have ever encountered,” the writer Studs Terkel once said.
*I only included this quote for the amazing name. I may have found my new stage name.
The book was a surprise success selling millions of copies and at least for me had profound impact.
So, the nation by and large realized their views of the black experience in America were misinformed and intolerably racist, sparking massive progress in racial equity in the country and John Howard Griffen was celebrated for his actions.
I’m bullshitting… they threatened to cut his penis off and kill his family.
“In interviews with Time and CBS, he explained what he’d been up to without trying to insult Southern whites. He was subjected to what he called “a dirty bath” of hatred. Returning to his Texas hometown, he was hanged in effigy; his parents received threats on his life. Any day now, Griffin heard, a mob would come to castrate him. He sent his wife and children to Mexico, and his parents sold their property and went into exile too.”
Earlier I received a heat advisory alert from Alexa. Apparently in Los Angeles a hear advisory signals a great day to sunbathe and play games at the beach. Having recently just relocated from Arizona my expectations were mis calibrated. In the greater Phoenix area heat advisories mean stay the F&!K inside you could die. I like these advisories much better.