Customer Review

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant after all these years., March 31, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Like Me (Turtleback)
Although it was written nearly forty years ago, this book points squarely and unflinchingly at unpleasant racial realities that are still too much with us. Taking to heart the axiom about "walking a mile" in the other guy's shoes, the caucasian Griffin altered his appearance in the late 1950's by the use of skin dye and hair treatment, so that he could spend a few weeks on the other side of the curtain of segregation that was an undisputed fact of life in the South. What he learned was not only profoundly eye-opening for him, but can be so as well for anyone who reads him sensitively today.
As a light-skinned African-American who has spent much of my life among whites, I have often observed that perhaps only their becoming black could convince most whites of the reality, the pervasiveness and the persistence of racism in America. Short of that, I would heartily recommend this venerable classic by Griffin.
Especially valuable is the Epilogue, in which the author recounts the experiences he had following the book's initial publication, when he was invited numerous places to expound his insights into America's "race problem." Time and again, he is exasperated to find that those seeking solutions to racial unrest and animosity ignore the perspective of knowledgable blacks, preferring the views of a white man who has briefly experienced blackness over those derived from decades of such experience. In this section of the book, Griffin also offers a superb brief for the value of the perspectives presented in black newspapers and other black-controlled media. His own brief sojourn into blackness had shown him that such perspectives on events are no less valid or "objective" than those coming through the mainstream (white) media, and often provide a healthy and necessary corrective to the latter. It remains true that no American can consider him/herself fully informed on the issues of the day without exposure to a variety of viewpoints, and Griffin's admonitions on the dangers of ignoring black perspectives are as true in 1998 as they were in 1958.
A sobering read, highly recommended to anyone seeking insight into the still-troubled world of American race relations. It would be a grave mistake to assume that the realities Griffin describes in this book ended with the Jim Crow laws. The only reason I would not rate it a "10" is that Griffin is no longer alive to give it a proper updating.
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