Study Guide

Black Like Me Hypocrisy

By John Howard Griffin


I read recently where one of them said that equality of education and job opportunity would be an even greater tragedy for us. He said it would quickly prove to us that we can't measure up— disillusion us by showing us that we are, in fact, inferior. "I wish those kind souls wouldn't be so protective. I know plenty who'd be willing to take the chance of being "disillusioned," the proprietor laughed. (9.25)

What reasoning do you think the man who wrote this article had for believing that equality would disillusion black people?

We need a great saint—some enlightened common sense. Otherwise, we'll never have the right answers when these pressure groups—those racists, super-patriots, whatever you want to call them—tag every move toward racial justice as communist-inspired, Zionist-inspired, Illuminati-inspired, Satan-inspired… Part of some secret conspiracy to overthrow the Christian civilization. "So, if you want to be a good Christian, you mustn't act like one. That makes sense," Mr. Gayle said. (9.29)

We're pretty sure that there are two definitions of Christian civilization here. What do you think Mr. Gayle means by that? What's the other meaning?

"That's what they claim. The minute you give me my rights to vote when I pay taxes, to have a decent job, a decent home, a decent education—then you're taking that first step toward 'racemixing' and that's part of the great secret conspiracy to ruin civilization—to ruin America." "So, if you want to be a good American, you've got to practice bad Americanism. That makes sense, too," Mr. Gayle sighed. (9.31)

Here's another case of two meanings for the same word. We get the feeling that the people who think that equality will ruin America mean that it will ruin a land of smiling white families with 2.5 children and white picket fences. Mr. Gayle, on the other hand, probably means the America that stands for equality, democracy, multiculturalism, and all that jazz.

"You mean a white driver! Take a N**** passenger?" I asked. "Yeah." "They wouldn't in New Orleans… They said they weren't allowed to." "They're allowed to do anything to get your dime here," he said. (10.210)

So taking black people's money is fine, but letting them have jobs so that they can make that money isn't?

He cannot understand how the white man can show the most demeaning aspects of his nature and at the same time delude himself into thinking he is inherently superior. To the N**** who sees this element of the white man's name—and he sees it much more often than any other—the white man's comments about the N****'s alleged "immorality" ring maddeningly hollow. (12.27)

Why do you think these white men feel that it's okay to show their dark sides to black people?

He appeared astonished and delighted, not at what I said but at the fact that I could say it. His whole attitude of enthusiasm practically shouted, "Why, you talk intelligently!" He was so obtuse he did not realize the implied insult in his astonishment that a black man could do anything but say "yes sir" and mumble four-letter words. (12.62)

Amazing. I wonder what he would say if he knew that black people could run America. We bet it would look something like this.

"Well, they sure as hell do. We figure we're doing you people a favor to get some white blood in your kids." The grotesque hypocrisy slapped me as it does all N****es. It is worth remembering when the white man talks of the N****'s lack of sexual morality, or when he speaks with horror about mongrelization and with fervor about racial purity. Mongrelization is already a widespread reality in the South—it has been exclusively the white man's contribution to the Southern Way of Life. His vast concern for ""racial purity" obviously does not extend to all races. (15.25)

Remember kids, eugenics is totally racism, not really science, and doesn't really make any sense. The more you know.

"Wait a minute, dammit. You people are my brothers. It's people like me that are your only hope. How do you expect me to observe if you won't talk to me?" (20.24)

Of course. This white guy attempting to observe black university students is the only hope of the entire race. Because they can't, you know, stand up for themselves.

The unpardonable had been said. The white man, despite his protestations of brotherhood, had made the first dirty suggestion that came to his mind. He was probably unaware of it but it escaped none of us. By the very tone of his question he revealed his contempt for us. His voice had taken on a hard edge, putting us in our place, as they say. He had become just like the whites he decried. (20.45)

This guy is the same dude in the previous quote. We knew that this was going to happen. You know how? Say it with us: Because paternalism is still just racism.

At the Atlanta station we waited for the whites to get off. One of them, a large middle-aged man, hesitated, turned and stepped back toward us. We hardened ourselves for another insult. He bent over to speak to the young N****. "I just wanted to tell you that before he slapped you, he'd have had to slap me down first," he said. None of us smiled. We wondered why he had not spoken up while whites were still on the bus. […] "Well, I just wanted you to know—I was on your side, boy." He winked, never realizing how he had revealed himself to us by calling our companion by the hated name of "boy." We nodded wearily in response to his parting nod. (20.65)

We have another word to add to your list of racism related vocabulary: infantilization. That's when you reduce someone to the same status as a child or a baby. That's what this guy is doing by calling the black man "boy."