I’ve just finished re-reading Black Like Me. I read it when I was young but it’s had a very different effect on me this time around. It’s the story of John Howard Griffin, who, in 1959, changed the pigment of his skin and went into the South as a black man.
I believe that so much of the racism and prejudice still remains. In Saskatchewan, we see it primarily towards First Nations people, but the concept is the same in many races and cultures. When we believe a stereotype, we engage in the behaviors that follow. Mr. Griffin talks about the “hate stare”; a concious or concious look of hate thrown at people with different skin colors. He talks about the sets of beliefs that frame people’s perceptions, disallowing them from seeing others as they are.
Most poignantly for me, Mr. Griffin talks about seeing the people who hate, in other contexts; sitting down for dinner with their families, talking to their grandparents. When someone is hating us, for whatever reason, if we can see them as human, then there’s a chance that they might see us as human too.
Heroes small and large overcome racism. A smile, a handshake, finding out the answer to “What’s life like for you?”, without assumptions and regardless of color will help to disintegrate these stereotypes.
Please share your own stories of yourself or people you know making strides, large and small, to know people as they are - rather than as they might be perceived to be.
Have a thoughtful Friday!