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NOVEMBER 24, 1959
The author continues hitchhiking in Alabama. A white man gives him
a ride. The white man is at first nice as he starts asking Griffin about his family.
Griffin realizes his true colors when he makes a snide remark at his wife. He
then proceeds to tell the author how he’s had every Negro girl before they ever
got on his payroll and the author is stunned at the sheer hypocrisy of this white
man erroneously discussing the Negro’s lack of sexual morality. The white man
then asks Griffin what he is doing in this part of the country and warns him that
he will be taught a lesson if he creates any trouble.
Finally the author
gets off and continues his walk. After a long walk, the author is very tired and
goes to a wayside service station to buy some food and drink. At first the white
owners refuse, but then they relent and sell him whatever he wants. Throughout
this period, when Griffin is eating and drinking, he is aware of the discomfort
of the old couple and therefore he leaves hurriedly.
Then the author starts
hitch hiking again and this time he is given a ride by a young Negro sawmill worker.
He tells Griffin how the whites, in order to maintain their control over the blacks,
always keeps them in their debts, that is never allows them to completely pay
off their debts. This man takes Griffin home for the night, although he is poor
and has a large family of a wife and six kids. Although the family has little
food, they share it with the author. The author suddenly remembers that today
is the birthday of his daughter. As he looks at the children he notices the wide
difference in the lives of these children and his own children. That night when
the author goes out to urinate, he remembers, as a youngster, reading a description
of a Negro boy stopping along a lonely path to urinate and he feels more profoundly
than ever before the totality of his Negro-ness. He remembers his own children
sleeping now in clean beds in a warm house. That night he has a nightmare, the
same one that he has been having quite often. The next day Griffin travels to
Montgomery. Sitting in the rest room, as he looks at himself in the mirror, he
notices that his face has not only acquired the skin color of a Negro but that
it has taken the forlorn expression that can be seen on the faces of so many Negroes.
That night he calls up his wife and children and is glad to hear their voices.
Today’s entry in the diary is another example
of the lust and lewdness of the white man, for whom his age or his image is no
barrier. An elderly, white man, already a grandfather, informs the author how
all white men craved colored girls and how he too had taken every Negro girl before
they started working for him. These women adhere to his demands, as they need
money to feed their kids. The appalling attitude of the whites is once again highlighted
here as they think that they are actually doing a favor to the Negroes by getting
some white blood in their kids. One more white, inhuman hypocrite! This elderly
white man, like the others, is not just lecherous, but also mercilessly cruel
as he threatens the author that if he stirs up any trouble he will be jailed or
killed. This entry is about white privileges under racism, how one can merrily
sexually abuse Negro women and also brazenly murder a Negro and toss him into
a swamp and get away. As the author listens to this man he imagines how this man
maybe when he is with his family. Griffin is sure that he never exposes this wretched
side of his nature to his family. They see only his gentle nature.
The next part is one more example of white racism when the
author wants to buy some food and drink and is at first refused, but later served
by the white owners, only for the money’s sake.
The author’s description
of his experience with the Negro saw mill worker is heart warming amidst all this
cold, hard and bitter racism. The young Negro saw mill worker not only welcomes
the author to stay the night with him, his wife and six kids in their two-room
rickety, cramped shanty, but all eight of them also treat him with warmth and
exquisite courtesy, reminding him of his family.
Then the author symbolically
moves into another plane, that of nature and its relationship to man. On that
lonely night, he feels more profoundly than ever, the totality of his Negro-ness
and the immensity of its isolating effects. The contrast between the white boy
reading a book about Negroes in the safety of his white living room and an old
Negro man in the Alabama swamps, becomes even more striking. He thinks about his
children asleep in their clean beds in a warm house while he, their father, a
bald headed old Negro is sitting in the swamps and weeping softly so that the
Negro children do not wake up. He recalls the Negro children’s lips soft and tender
against his, like the night around, and so very similar to the feel of his own
children’s good night kisses. This part poignantly reveals how everything is the
same for a sensitive human parent, be he Negro or white.
The next part
of the diary very acutely and sharply describes the mental and verbal gymnastics
of racism -- how the white racist has masterfully denied the Negro a sense of
his personal value, his human dignity and even his honor. It shows how the racists’
claim about the Negro’s lack of sexual morality and his intellectual incapacity
-- are actually smoke screens to justify his own racist bigotry and unethical
behavior. Scientific studies show how the middle-class Negro has the same family
culture, the same ideals and goals as his white counterpart. How the Negro’s lower
academic performance springs not from his racial heredity, but from being deprived
of cultural and educational advantages by the whites. So as long as the Negro
is kept in tenth rate schools he will remain scholastically behind white children
-- circumstances and the environment determine his fate and destiny.
The final part of the day’s entry is the author fondly telephoning his
wife and kids back home and his feelings as father and husband. However
since he is doing it as a Negro, the strangeness and peculiarity of the
situation is very strikingly described.
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