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BLACK LIKE ME - FREE ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY / LESSON PLANS
The author reads the news about how a Mississippi jury had refused to
indict those guilty in the gruesome kidnap-lynch murder of Mack Parker, even though
the FBI had compiled massive evidence identifying them. So the author decides
to personally visit Mississippi, a state dreaded by the Negroes.
starting on his journey, he goes to cash some of his travelersí checks at a store,
as the banks have already closed. But, he is refused everywhere. Only the white
proprietress of a Catholic Bookstore willingly agrees. When he goes to buy a bus
ticket he again receives the "hate stare," from the white woman issuing
tickets, who also refuses to provide change for his ten-dollar note. Finally,
under pressure, she hurls his change and ticket on the floor. Griffin learns that
the waiting room is out of bounds for him and that he must go to the colored waiting
room. When the bus arrives, whites are the first ones aloud to board.
In the first part of his journey, Griffin has a very interesting encounter with
a Negro passenger. This man denounces his own race venomously and viciously. He
soon earns the contempt of the other Negro passengers because of his haughty behavior.
A considerate fellow passenger explains to Griffin about all the doís and dontís
that he must follow while he is in Mississippi. Then the bus stops at a small
town. Only the whites are allowed to go out to drink water or use the toilet.
So one Negro passenger, in defiance, decides to urinate in the bus itself.
The bus then goes past the jail where Parker was violently dragged down the stairway,
his head bumping against each step. Then it passes the courthouse where the jury
had given the unjust and callous judgement and then the bus passes the creek,
where Parkerís body was secretly dumped. Finally the author alights at his destination.
He soon becomes the target of a car full of white brutes, wildly driving past,
yelling obscenities and throwing tangerines at him.
That night, to momentarily
forget the macabre death dance outside, the author tries writing to his wife,
but is unable to do so. This is because the words of his fellow passenger keep
echoing in his mind that, a Negro must never look at a white woman. One can see
here that his Negroness comes in the way of his writing a letter to his wife.
This shows the extent to which Griffin has become involved in his new life as
a Negro. Then as another means of escape, he contacts a white journalist friend
named East, who takes him to his home, even though it is embarrassing and dangerous.
That night East gives him the manuscript of his very startling autobiography "The
Magnolia Jungle" to read. It is so sharply incisive that the author just
cannot stop reading it throughout the night.
In this entry in his dairy, the author again describes his one week of futile
job-hunting; a week of weary rejection during which he personally experiences
how the Negro is treated not even as a second class citizen, but as a tenth class
one, because of his race, his pigmentation. How this destroys the Negroís sense
of personal value, degrades his human dignity and deadens the fibers of his being.
White racism once more unmasked!
The next part of the diary is about the
police brutality and criminal injustice of the whites that the Negro often has
to encounter. The author depicts this through the judgement in the Mack Parker
kidnap lynch murder case in Mississippi. The jury here deliberately does not punish
the accused white men in spite of having enough evidence against them. They do
so mainly to destroy the morale of the Negroes.
The next part of the diary
is about the authorís many clashes with racism even before he reaches Mississippi.
For instance, when he has to cash some travelersí checks, he is refused everywhere,
except in a Catholic Bookstore. When he goes to buy a bus ticket, the white lady
ticket seller spouts and spews hate and loathing at him and he experiences what
is referred to as the Ďhate stare.í Later he enters an empty waiting room and
realizes that it is out of bounds for him and that he must go to the colored waiting
room. In spite of these encounters with white racism, Griffin looks at these people,
not with contempt, but compassion. This is because he realizes that these behaviors
are a result of social conditioning. Another encounter with racism is when Griffin
notices that the Negroes can enter the bus only after the whites have done so
and must sit only at the back of the bus.
The author, here, also mentions
brave white men and women, even if few and far between. One is the white woman
owner of the Catholic Bookshop. The other is a white army officer who goes to
the back of the queue, rather than ahead of the Negroes. Both are a rare phenomenon
and a sharp contrast to the other white racists the author meets during the day.
During his journey,
the author encounters another interesting character. This is a striking, tall,
slender, elegantly dressed Negro, called Christophe, who gives the whites a fawning,
tender look, but sneers at the Negroes. He is really peculiar as he keeps quarreling
continuously with the other Negro passengers and creates a lot of stress and strain
for the author as well. Here, one must try to understand the reason for his behavior.
As a young man, he is aware of the lack of opportunities available to him, because
of his skin color. His behavior here can be seen as his effort to gain some kind FreeecognitioStudy Guide ng up and speaking like tAnalysis do, he hopes to get
their approval and be accepted as one of them. Later, the author meets another
Negro, a concerned truck driver who is an example of the common Negroes, who comfort
and console each other, advise and warn each other about what to watch out for
from the whites.
Then todayís entry also contains an experience of deliberate
white cruelty but also Negro defiance and Negro understanding, when at one stop,
only the whites are allowed to go to the rest room by the white driver, while
the Negroes are prevented. One Negro in defiance urinates on the floor of the
bus and the others decide to follow him. However, they change their mind, when
they realize that if they do so, whites would then say that the Negroes do not
know how to use the rest rooms. Later there is still more racism in the raw for
the author when he encounters a car full of white brutes speeding past, yelling
obscenities at him and wildly throwing a tangerine at him.
The next part
of the diary depicts the most poignant effect of the authorís deeply intense and
all encompassing Negroness on his very soul and psyche. He attempts writing to
his wife, but his conditioning as a Negro, surrounded by the sounds and smells
of the ghetto, paralyses him. As a Ďblackí man he finds it absolutely impossible
to address his wife, a white woman, as darling. This he finds extremely disturbing
and troubling. Then even in Eastís car, he has grown so accustomed to being a
Negro, to being shown contempt that, he is embarrassed to ride in the front seat
with East. This jotting reveals how, for a Negro, fear is a part of his very being,
while relief and rest, relaxation and recreation are luxuries.
The final part of todayís entry is about Eastís startling autobiography
called "The Magnolia Jungle," which the author cannot stop reading
through the night. In the autobiography, East is revealed as a white with
an admirable lack of racial prejudice, who stubbornly preaches justice,
and consistently exposes the racistsí false propaganda and unjust legislation.
He is a most exceptional white, a man who is openly anti-racist, even
at great risk to his life.
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