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Free Study Guide for Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin BookNotes

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NOVEMBER 21, 1959


For the last three days the author has been job-hunting. He again experiences that whites do not want anything, but business, with the Negroes. Negroes can buy anything from a store, but they cannot use the soda fountain service. Even for a glass of water, a Negro must only go to the nearest Negro cafe, which is always far away or at times, non-existent. Even famous and distinguished Negroes, who travel to these parts for work, suffer such racial discrimination and segregation.

Griffin, in his efforts to find a job, visits a particular plant. The white foreman of the plant, who he approaches for a job, does not merely refuse but blatantly explains that they (the whites) want to drive out all the Negroes from the plant, except the dock workers, who they believe are necessary as beasts of burden. The author has visited this town, Mobile, as a white man. But now, as he walks down the streets of the town, he sees that now, as a Negro, nothing about the town is familiar to him.


In this entry in his diary the author painfully, once again, describes his futile attempts at job-hunting over the last three days. He once again narrates the economics and politics of white racism whereby a Negro can "buy" any item from a drugstore, but he can never sit down and avail of the soda fountain service. The author describes how even a distinguished and famous Negro's humble request for water or his request to be given permission to use the toilet is refused. Instead, he is ordered to go to the nearest Negro cafe, or the nearest Negro rest room, which is usually halfway across town in densely populated areas, or simply non-existent in sparsely populated areas.

Then the author narrates another cruel and brutal aspect of racism -- the use and abuse of Negroes as beasts of burden. The Negroes are wanted only for hard menial labor, without giving them any individual or social rights or privileges. Here one can see how the whites are trying to drive the Negroes out of the plant and eventually out of the state. The white foreman here can be seen as a representative of the entire white society - a society which so completely believes in the subordinate status of the Negroes that they have developed a systematic plan to do away with them as one would do away with rodents or some disease.

The final part of todayís entry in the diary is the authorís description of the environment around him. How even this is colored according to the color of oneís skin. How as a privileged white he had found this beautiful Southern port town, very gracious and pretty. But now as a Negro nothing is the same. Griffin realizes that this is because of the attitude of the people towards him. The atmosphere of a place is entirely different for a Negro and a white. He comes to the conclusion that the Negro acts and reacts differently not because he is Negro, but because he is suppressed. "Fear dims even the sunlight."


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