Thanks to the BBC's
Kevin Connolly for Exposing the colour of prejudice
"How much does the colour of our skin make us who we are, and shape the way the world sees us?"
...and spotlighting a 50 year-old book by John Howard Griffin
"...embarked on one of the most remarkable one-man social and psychological experiments in history. Griffin was the white man who fooled hundreds of Americans into believing he was a black man as he travelled through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia -- and who felt at first hand the bigotry that meant. The whole business of racial impersonation might make us feel vaguely uncomfortable now, but in 1959 a black writer simply could not have found an audience for such a graphic portrayal of African-American grievance. Only a white writer prepared to take the extraordinary steps that Griffin took could tell the story. [...] He took a drug called Oxsoralen, which is to combat Vitiligo [...] and got under an ultra violet sunlamp."
This procedure worked and allowed him to embark on a six week journey in the Deep South, including working various trades. Griffin published Black Like Me
in 1961 describing the problems he encountered in finding food and facilities as well as the default hatred of many everyday white people towards him. Connolly concludes...
"It is worth reading what he wrote -- and then reflecting, in this age of the first African-American president, on how far we have come. And how far we have to go."
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