To what extent does John Howard Griffin escape

To what extent does John Howard Griffin flight from his already held premises about the significance of inkiness and the significance of whiteness inBlack Like Me?

John Howard Griffin’sBlack Like Mechallenges traditional premises of racism in a figure of different ways. By “becoming” a Negro, Griffin himself is capable to assorted, deep-rooted social maltreatment from Whites and inkinesss likewise, and later, in the text he provides a alone penetration into how the racial lip services of the deep South have a profound impact upon the constitution of individuality among both black and white civilizations of the deep South and New Orleans likewise. Eric Lott suggests that “‘The basic paradox’ of people’s fond regard to a state [ … ] is that it is conceived as something unaccessible to the other, but at the same clip threatened by it.” [ 1 ] By pulling ambiguities between his “natural” individuality as a white adult male and his camouflage ; his minstrelsy, Griffin challenges and inquiries his basic premises about racial classification. Griffin was non alone among white people in holding understandings for the societal predicament of the Negro, but it was antecedently assumed, both by Griffin and by the duality drawn between black and white race, that the two were socially and culturally different from one another, and that this rift was unreconcilable. I argue that by traversing that great divide and by going the American Other, viz. the black adult male, Griffin helped to humanise the racial divide in America, chiefly by presenting ambiguity into deep-rooted and unconscious racial stereotyping, both among racialists and anti-racists likewise. When in Mississippi, subjected to the shocking scepter of close changeless racial maltreatment, he says: “I began to understand Lionel Trilling’s comment that civilization – learned behaviour forms so profoundly deep-rooted they produce nonvoluntary reactions – is a prison.” [ 2 ] Indeed, Griffin besides has the penetration and the sensitiveness to gain that he is non exempt from these “learned behavior patterns” himself and, by life and sing the life of a black adult male first manus, introduces an ambiguity into the premises about whiteness and inkiness he antecedently thought natural. He does this by concentrating on the people ( white and black ) that he meets and by noticing on the personal psychological effects of being black. Although he is, as he says, trapped in the “prison” of his ain white, deep South civilization, he attempts to edify and alter his ain premises about whiteness and inkiness by presuming the visual aspect of a Negro. In this essay, I will look at how, by make fulling the gray country between black and white, Griffin attempts to understand and derive an penetration into his ain ( and the more widely held ) premises about what inkiness and whitenessagencies, both in societal and psychological footings. He provides a fresh and alone position on the societal and the psychological effects of being black and, although the genuineness of his inkiness is undermined by his whiteness in general, by presuming the function of estranged Other, he determines what marked cultural differences really exist between whiteness and inkiness.

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“With my determination to go a negro I realised that I, a specializer in race issues, truly knew nil of the Negro’s existent problem.” [ 3 ]

“Was he [ , Griffin, ] the dark face reflected in the glass of the white consciousness reflecting upon it? ” [ 4 ]

By doing race equivocal, by presuming the function of white Other, Griffin exposes non merely the ardent racism at the bosom of the American South but besides, possibly more significantly, discovers that the “real problem” that he sets out to happen, lies non chiefly with the failure of white people neglecting to gain racial equality, but that the job lies in the Black Marias of all people. He says: “ [ tungsten ] alking along Dryades, through the ghetto, I realised that every informed adult male with whom I had spoken, in the confidant freedom of the coloured bond, had acknowledged a dual job for the Negro. First, the favoritism against him. Second, and about more dangerous, his favoritism against himself ; his disdain for the inkiness that he associates with his agony ; his willingness to undermine his chap Negroes because they are portion of the inkiness he has found so painful.” [ 5 ] By being a white adult male from the deep South, it is safe to presume that Griffin was already dull with preconceived impressions of inkiness and whiteness to get down with ; as we all unconsciously draw differentiations between inkiness and whiteness ; nevertheless, the 2nd portion of the quotation mark is of import, because it introduces an ambiguity to individuality – black society is no longer a individual, exploited homogeneousness of similar ideas and feelings, furthermore, much like the white community that culturally dominates the black community, both comprise of persons, both misinformed and nescient. InThe Location Of Culture,Homi Bhabha suggests that “ [ s ] uch civilizations of a postcolonialcontra-modernitymay be contingent to modernness, discontinuous or in contention with it, resistant to its oppressive, assimilationist engineerings ; but they besides deploy the cultural hybridity of their boundary line conditions to “translate, ” and hence reinscribe, the societal complex number of both cities and modernity.” [ 6 ] Indeed, by “deploying cultural hybridity” , Griffin sets out to interpret and reinscribe the societal complex number of the city. He says that “if we did as we claimed, justice each adult male by his quality as a human person, my life as a black John Howard Griffin would non be greatly changed, since I was that same human person, altered merely in appearance.” He goes on to state: “If, on the other manus, we looked at work forces, saw the grade of pigment, applaud all the false “racial and cultural features, ” so since I bore that grade, my life would be changed in ways I could non anticipate.” [ 7 ] As the afterword implies, it is hard to find whether Griffin is a white adult male or a black adult male in the text. In fact, the text seems to supply a elusive transmutation of colour and individuality. He begins by mentioning to the Negro as a white adult male in a black camouflage: “I Saturday in the monochromatic somberness of twilight, barely believing that in this twelvemonth of freedom any adult male could strip another of anything so basic as the demand to slake thirst or utilize the restroom.” [ 8 ] The transition indicates a certain sense of whiteness, as though he is detecting the actions of white people from the point of position of a white adult male. Toward the terminal of the novel, nevertheless, he says that “because I was a Negro for six hebdomads, I remained partially Negro or possibly basically Negro.” [ 9 ] Bypsychologicallystaying Negro, Griffin in portion interruptions down the incorporate, homogeneousness of race: Richard Dyer suggests that “ [ w ] vitamin E are frequently told that we are populating now in a universe of multiple individualities of hybridity, of decentredness and atomization. The old illusory incorporate individualities of category, gender, race, gender are interrupting up ; person may be blackandhomosexualandin-between categoryandfemale ; we may be bi- , poly- or non-sexual, of assorted race, undetermined gender and Eden knows what category. Yet we have non yet reached a state of affairs in which white people and white cultural dockets are no longer in the ascendant.” [ 10 ] Again, the postcolonial nomenclature of “hybridity” is mentioned, which highlights how, by oppugning racial stereotyping, bygoingthe alienated other, Griffin deconstructs the old certainties of race, and that is where his journey seems to be genuinely indicative. He mentions that “I thought it mistily lighting that the Negro Griffin’s perspiration felt precisely the same to his organic structure as the white Griffin’s. As I had suspected they would be, my finds were naive 1s, like those of a child.” [ 11 ] When he realises psychologically that inkiness and whiteness are merely determined by a societal, cultural and metaphysical duality of inequality, he automatically attacks the antecedently ( subconsciously ) held impressions that inkiness and whiteness are per se different.

“Thinking about these things, the courage of these people trying to convey up a household decently, their gratitude that none of their kids were blind or maimed, their willingness to portion their nutrient and shelter with a alien – the whole thing overwhelmed me. I got up from bed, half frozen anyhow, and stepped outside.” [ 12 ]

In being a white adult male from the deep South of America, it is a apparently impossible undertaking for Griffin to get away the political orientations and premises of race that, even person every bit compassionate as Griffin, is prone to doing – whether these premises are merely an underestimate of the conditions in which black people have to populate, or a generalization of the ways in which black people forge their individualities. Griffin’s old individuality as a white adult male, albeit one with a cognition of racial affairs, automatically places one in resistance, or in support of an abstract political political orientation that assumes a sense of distance.Black Like Meis extremist in so far as it structurally breaks these abstractions down. The premises that Griffin makes are based on existent experience. Structurally, the manner in which Griffin writes tends to sabotage the traditional premises that one associates with whiteness and inkiness. He does this non by oppugning the political relations and the individuality of inkiness and whiteness singularly, but by looking at it through the paradigm of the existent people that he meets. On both sides of the racial divide, he meets people that he is “overwhelmed” by ; for case, the building worker, whom he comments: “ [ a ] s we drove, the tensenesss drained from me. He was rambunctious, loud and transparent. I could merely reason that he was colour blind, since he appeared wholly incognizant that I was a Negro.” [ 13 ] , and besides people that he is disgusted by ; “ [ m ] Y repugnance turned to grief that my ain people could give the hatred stare, could shrink men’s psyches, could strip worlds of rights they unhesitatingly accord their livestock.” [ 14 ] Similarly, he criticises black people excessively for “sabotaging themselves” . He says that “if whites looked at inkinesss with misgiving, it was nil compared to the dramatis personae misgiving with which inkinesss regarded whites.” [ 15 ] He meets people who are unthreatening, but basically flawed ; “ [ H ] is inquiries had the specious lift of a bookman seeking information, but the information he sought was wholly sexual, and presupposed that in the ghetto the Negro’s life is one of endurance contest sex.” [ 16 ] The feeling he gets is that Griffin challenges and abhors the man’s ignorance but is finally compassionate with the man’s questions. What is of import about this is that, because of the characters that he meets, farther enlivened by the pick of utilizing the diary format to show it, Griffin bypasses premises about race, about what needs to be done, Griffin offers a composite and layered psychological map concerned with the individuality of both inkiness and whiteness. In concentrating more upon the person, instead than the corporate experience, Griffin eschews the tenet that normally dominates such efforts at racial profiling and works towards a solution ; the impression of hybridity.

“It was the same incubus. I had been holding it late. White work forces and adult females, their faces austere and heartless, closed in on me. The hatred stare burned through me.” [ 17 ]

Griffin’s experience as a black adult male is marred invariably by the presence of racism and of the belittlement of his false nationality that occurs on a regular footing. W. E. B. Dubois states that “ [ T ] he double-aimed battle of the black artisan – on the one manus to get away white disdain for a state of mere hewers of word and shortss of H2O, and on the other manus to Big Dipper and nail and excavation for a destitute host – could merely ensue in doing him a hapless craftsman, for he had but half a bosom in either cause.” [ 18 ] This confusion ; this dichotomy is capitalised upon by the economic and situational nothingness that Griffin finds himself immersed in as he begins to presume the features of an laden race. The psychological consequence this has on him makes him afraid to go forth the house. The transition in Mississippi is important in depicting the effects of being ostracised from the dominant community. He is culturally isolated, and frights go forthing the house. “The olfactory property of barbeque tormented my empty interiors, but I did non desire to go forth the room and travel back into the mainstream of hell.” [ 19 ] So, every bit good as being socially ostracised, Griffin besides additions an penetration into the psychological effects of this disaffection from fellow adult male:

“The ocular barrier imposed itself. The detecting ego saw the Negro, surrounded by the sounds and the odors of the ghetto, write “Darling” to a white adult female. The ironss of my inkiness would non let me to travel on. Though I ne’er understood and could analyze what was go oning, I could non interrupt through ;

Never expression at a white adult female – look down or the other manner.

What do you intend, naming a white adult female “darling” like that, boy? ”[ 20 ]

This transition is of import in depicting the estranging conditions of inkiness, and of how they affect and suppress the person. Harmonizing to this transition, finally the black adult male begins to presume the psychological function of inferior, and therefore lives in a changeless province of lower status to the dominant, white codifications. He imagines voices in his caput knocking him for composing to his married woman. Importantly, it prevents him from making so. The psychological effects are profound, in that it steals Griffin’s voice ; his desire to pass on with people from his white life. The “chains of his blackness” prevent him from being anything other than the Other ; cut off, ghettoised and subjugated to assorted, systemic signifiers of maltreatment by a society that remains ( mostly ) intolerant of inkiness. InOriental studies,Edward W. Said suggests that “ [ I ] n any case of at least written linguistic communications there is no such thing as a delivered presence, but are-presence,or a representation. The value, efficaciousness, strength, evident veracity of a written statement about the Orient therefore relies really small, and can non instrumentally depend on the Orient as such.” [ 21 ] If we substitute the Orient for the construct of the Other, so Said suggests that inkiness is constructed non by the black community, but instead, exists in the shadows of whiteness. It is this peculiar signifier of cultural isolation that cuts off black civilization, and, through psychological desolation, Griffin articulates this inability to pass on as a black individual to a white individual. The discourse between whiteness and inkiness remains separate. It can be argued that, through the societal experience of going black, Griffin does a great trade to interrupt down these racial boundaries. It surely extends and adds a complicity to the epistemic and ontological codifications of inkiness and whiteness.

The premises that Griffin made about inkiness and whiteness are invariably challenged inBlack Like Me.His surprise at the gravity of the intervention of Negroes, every bit good as their heat, honestness, charitable goodness, and ( sometimes ) hatred towards Whites. Overall, Griffin paints a image that is at one time complex and elusive in how it challenges traditional stereotypes of inkiness and whiteness. Griffin was antecedently cognizant that, despite being an “expert in racial matters” before the societal experiment, and besides being far from overtly racist in his sentiments, Griffin seems invariably surprised at merely how gravely black people are treated by white people, particularly in Mississippi, and in composing in direct, crisp prose, while utilizing the device of the diary entry, Griffin gets beneath the scholarly veneer of equality and theorising, and lends the theories an genuineness that was antecedently absent, both in himself and in white civilization. I argue that, by presuming the character of the American Other, Griffin undermines certain to a great extent ascribed ideological premises about whiteness and inkiness. By composing plain prose, unencumbered with expansive political orientation, and merely by speaking about his ain personal experiences and merely documenting the other people he meets, he introduces a impression of ambiguity or hybridity to the inquiry of race. He does this in a figure of ways. First, he remarks on the sociological deductions of inkiness and whiteness, reasoning that each disparate, separated group both contain good and bad people. He besides goes to some length in depicting his experiences, these people that he meets. He seems invariably surprised about the discrepancy of how people behave, irrespective of race. Because there are good and bad people on either side of the racial divide, Griffin non merely sees a certain hope in a hereafter of racial equality, but sees it in the persons he has met that are, as he suggests “color-blind” . Second, Griffin explores the impact that being black has on himself. The socio-politico-economical effects of inkiness are explored from the point of position of Griffin, who, I believe, bit by bit alterations and becomes darker and more insightful about the nuances of inkiness as the fresh develops. His crises with individuality that litter the piece aid to keep that there is a glowering rift between whiteness and inkiness. This feeling is concentrated to its most intensified grade when he visits Mississippi, and is epitomised by his failure to pass on with the white universe – he is efficaciously denied a cultural infinite to interact, and is testament to the power of cognition, and of ideological domination. In the text, Griffin besides experiences the psychological side-effects of being black. This is besides of import, as it paperss how the white adult male would experience in the social place of a black adult male, and offers fresh penetrations into how a systemic, deeply-engrained spirit of racism and hatred effects Griffin as an person. Indeed, the societal effects are so sedate that Griffin is, in the terminal, forced to go forth the state wholly. InBlack Like Me,by taking the dip into darkness, and by depicting sociological and psychological racial forms as opposed to political 1s, Griffin enters the gray country between black and white, and in bend dispels the positions of racial disagreement as viewed through the paradigm of dominant white, middle-class, scholarly behavior, detecting alternatively a hybridity that is at the same time devastatingly tragic, yet imbued with a certain sense of hope.

Bibliography

Dyer, Richard,White,Routledge, London 1997

Griffin, John Howard,Black Like Me,Wingss Press, Texas, 2004

Lott, Eric,Love And Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class,Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1993

Rivkin, Julie & A ; Ryan, Michael,Literary Theory: An Anthology,Blackwell, London, 1998

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