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Black Like Me & Beloved
Autumn Semester 1998
Some people looking at society today tend to think that the racial prejudice of the past has nearly been done away with. Others, however, those who are still the recipients of racial prejudice in their every day lives see our society very differently. Those who think that racial prejudice is getting better may only be fooling themselves or--perhaps more likely-- in some way are trying to deny the prejudice they themselves carry.
Prejudice against blacks is still very much a part of our society. White society still denies many Negroes equal opportunities for a decent standard of living, for education, for personal advancement, and for self-expression. In John Howard Griffins Black Like Me we see examples of this type of prejudice and oppression. Although the book was published over 30 years ago, the examples of the prejudice that Griffin encountered are still relevant and worthy of further evaluation today.
Another book worthy of our consideration is Toni Morrison\'s, Beloved , which gives us an idea of the life that the slaves led in America before their emancipation, and the price some where willing to pay to make sure neither they nor their children ever had to experience it again.
In this paper I will use the theory of institutional discrimination to critically evaluate Griffin\'s, Black Like Me. The theory of institutional discrimination states that discrimination is rooted in the institutions that run our society. I will also evaluate Morrison\'s, Beloved using the theories of gendered racism and ideology and oppositional culture. Gendered racism is discrimination based on sex and gender. Ideologies are created by the dominant group to further and legitimatize its actions. Oppositional culture is what the people of color, or others suffering from discrimination do to survive the ideologies of the dominant group.
Griffin\'s, Black Like Me takes the reader into the Deep South before the Civil Rights Movement and shows what it was like to be black in the South. In the Preface, Griffin states, "I could have been a Jew in Germany, a Mexican in a number of states, or a member of any \'inferior\' group. Only the details would have differed. The story would be the same."
The first example of Institutional discrimination that I will evaluate is when Griffin is at the YMCA coffee shop talking to a small group of men. The elderly man who runs the coffee shop tells him about how the white people are trying to divide the black race. They do this by singling out the lighter skinned, better looking, and more stylishly dressed Negroes, and try and instill in them a condescending attitude toward the darker "Uncle Tom" Negroes. This is a good example of institutional discrimination. The whites are trying to make the lighter skinned Negroes think they are accepting them more, but in actuality are trying to get the lighter skinned Negroes to help further discriminate against there own racial color. We see later in the book that this has worked. There is the example of Christophe a nicely dressed black man addressing the blacks on the bus as " punk niggers" (Pg.56) and then speaking in German and telling them how stupid they are. Institutional discrimination has put it in the mind of Christophe that he is some how better than these other blacks because he is more white in looks and learning.
Another example of institutional discrimination occurs on page 46. Griffin is walking down a street in New Orleans:
... I walked toward Brennan\'s, one of New Orleans\' famed restaurants . . . I stopped to study the menu . . . realizing that a few days earlier I could have gone in an ordered anything on the menu. But now, though I was the same person with the same appetite . . . appreciation . . . and wallet, no power on earth could get me inside this place for a meal. I recalled hearing some Negro say, \'You can live here all your life, but you\'ll never get inside one of the great restaurants except as a kitchen boy.\'
The above passage represents just one of many instances where he was barred from entering an establishment solely based on his pigmentation. As stated before, Negroes
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Discrimination, Movements for civil rights, The United States, Hatred, Racism, Beloved, African-American Civil Rights Movement, Laissez-faire racism
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