In the skin of a black

Dans la peau d’un noir

Since the beginning of protests in many u.s. cities, I comment on events for the television and the radio. Not only do I want to make sure I don’t miss out on all the developments, but I run frantically to the analysis of a large amount of newspapers deemed to be of the left or right.

In reading all these texts, the title of a book published in 1961 comes back to me constantly in mind. The autobiographical account of John Howard Griffin first had to be a simple reportage on the experience of the author. Griffin, a white texan, was considered at the time that the only way for him to understand the feelings of a black in the segregated south was to slip into his skin. This project will eventually lead to the publication of Black Like Me become In the skin of a black , for the French translation in 1962.

If the idea seems far-fetched in 2020 while we often talk about cultural appropriation, the book, Griffin has become a reference. With the help of a doctor and the use of a drug as well as to the use of a skin cream, the author will be able to change its appearance. Identified as black during his journey in the South, he shares his observations and reflections. He comes to confess his own racism while the project is to bring together communities and raise awareness.

If black americans did not found anything browsing through the book, Griffin (the activist Stokely Carmichael said elsewhere that it is a good book for whites), the author has had the merit to arouse an awakening and reflections among many whites. He will pay for his person to be exposed to racism and discrimination. Members of the Ku Klux Klan the spend on tobacco in 1964, leaving him for dead along a road in Mississippi.

At the moment we feared the worst in some cities, it would not be in vain to read or reread the book of Griffin. I do, if only to see that nearly sixty years after the publication of the book, the overall situation of the black minority is always difficult, and unacceptable. If we can only deplore the violence and the looting of the neighbourhoods of certain cities, it seems wise to me to exceed the call in a quiet and empty promises to pose concrete gestures.

In a text published yesterday on the website of the Los Angeles Times, the former basketball player of the Lakers, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, illustrates well the differences in perception in the face of the current situation. Refusing to condemn the anger, it raises awareness to the dismay and dissatisfaction of the black community. I invite you to read it by clicking here.

The tone used by the legend of the basketball does not seem aggressive or particularly accusatory. He asked us rather to his way of putting us in the skin of a black. This is what he expresses when he writes : “So what you see when you see black protesters depends on whether you’re living in that burning building or watching it on TV with a bowl of corn chips on your lap waiting for “NCIS” to start.” We could translate: “your perception is very different depending on whether you are a victim black or that you were waiting in front of the tv in the beginning of your favorite show.”

The american president may well lock themselves to the White House after six days of riots, tweeting that it encourages the use of force, denounce the weakness of all the leaders except his own or engage in a legal debate with an uncertain outcome to register Antifa on the list of terrorist organisations, none of that will help to soothe the pain or to alleviate the tensions. If only her entourage thought of her to read the book by John Howard Griffin…

I leave you here a link to an article in the Smithsonian Institute, which noted, in 2011 the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Black Like Me.

Share Button