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29+ quotes from Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Quotes from Black Like Me

John Howard Griffin ·  208 pages

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“Every fool in error can find a passage of scripture to back him up”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man's face. I felt like saying: "What in God's name are you doing to yourself?”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“He who is less than just is less than man.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“Humanity does not differ in any profound way; there are not essentially different species of human beings. If we could only put ourselves in the shoes of others to see how we would react, then we might become aware of the injustice of discrimination and the tragic inhumanity of every kind of prejudice.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“I'm annoyed by those who love mankind but are discourteous to people.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“How can you render the duties of justice to men when they may destroy you?”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“It was a little thing, but on top of the other little things, it broke something in me.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“for so long as we condone injustice by a small but powerful group, we condone the destruction of all social stability, all real peace, all trust in man’s good intentions toward his fellow man.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“This tendency to make laws that are convenient or advantageous rather than right has mushroomed.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“This system of discrimination, an inculcated double standard, may vary in content from culture to culture, but it is always unjust. There are thousands of kinds of injustice but there is only one kind of justice - equal justice for all. To call for a little more justice, or a moderately gradual sort of justice, is to call for no justice. That is a simple truth.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“Your blanks have been filled in far differently from those of a child grown up in the filth and poverty”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“A love for his child was so profound, it spilled over to all humanity.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“If virtue does not equal powers, powers will be misused.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“Eventually, some black thinkers believe, this "separation" may be the shortest route to an authentic communication at some future date when blacks and whites can enter into encounters in which they truly speak as equals and in which the white man will no longer load every phrase with unconscious suggestions that he has something to "concede" to black men or that he wants to help black men "overcome" their blackness.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“The music consumed in its blatant rhythm all other rhythms, even that of the heartbeat. I wondered how all this would look to the casual observer, or to the whites in their homes. “The niggers are whooping it up over on Mobile Street tonight,” they might say. “They’re happy.” Or, as one scholar put it, “Despite their lowly status, they are capable of living jubilantly.” Would they see the immense melancholy that hung over the quarter, so oppressive that men had to dull their sensibilities in noise or wine or sex or gluttony in order to escape it? The laughter had to be gross or it would turn to sobs, and to sob would be to realize, and to realize would be to despair. So the noise poured forth like a jazzed-up fugue, louder and louder to cover the whisper in every man’s soul. “You are black. You are condemned.” This is what the white man mistook for “jubilant living” and called “whooping it up.” This is how the white man can say, “They live like dogs,” never realizing why they must, to save themselves, shout, get drunk, shake the hip, pour pleasures into bellies deprived of happiness. Otherwise, the sounds from the quarter would lose order and rhythm and become wails.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“I must have had a dozen rides that evening. They blear into a nightmare, the one scarcely distinguishable from the other. It quickly became obvious why they picked me up. All but two picked me up the way they would pick up a pornographic photograph or book - except that this was verbal pornography. With a Negro, they assumed they need give no semblance of self-respect or respectability. The visual element entered into it. In a car at night visibility is reduced. A man will reveal himself in the dark, which gives the illusion of anonymity, more than he will in the bright light. Some were shamelessly open, some shamelessly subtle. All showed morbid curiosity about the sexual life of the Negro, and all had, at base, the same stereotyped image of the Negro as an inexhaustible sex-machine with oversized genitals and a vast store of experiences, immensely varied. They appeared to think that the Negro has done all of those “special” things they themselves have never dared to do. They carried the conversations into depths of depravity.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“But there are differences. The social studies I’ve read …” “They don’t deal with any basic difference in human nature between black and white,” I said. “They only study the effects of environment on human nature. You place the white man in the ghetto, deprive him of educational advantages, arrange it so he has to struggle hard to fulfill his instinct for self-respect, give him little physical privacy and less leisure, and he would after a time assume the same characteristics you attach to the Negro. These characteristics don’t spring from whiteness or blackness, but from a man’s conditioning.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“After the first difficulties in Rochester, New York, I was asked to consult with community leaders. I went and spoke for quite a long time. The leaders were concerned and sincere men. The first question one of them asked after I talked was: “Well, Mr. Griffin, what is the first thing we should do now?” I told him that I had been asked to come and consult with community leaders, and yet I was sitting in a room full of white men. The white man who had asked the question slapped his forehead in real chagrin. “It never occurred to me to ask any of them," he said apologetically.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“What fragmented individualism really meant was what happened to a black man who tried to make it in this society: in order to succeed, he had to become an imitation white man - dress white, talk white, think white, express the values of middle-class white culture (at least when he was in the presence of white men). Implied in all this was the hiding, the denial, of his selfhood, his negritude, his culture, as though they were somehow shameful. If he succeeded, he was an alienated marginal man - alienated from the strength of his culture and from fellow black men, and never able, of course, to become that imitation white man because he bore the pigment that made the white man view him as intrinsically other.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“In reality, the Us-and-Them or I-and-Thou dichotomies do not exist. There is only one universal We - one human family united by the capacity to feel compassion and to demand equal justice for all.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“Didn’t Shakespeare say something about ‘every fool in error can find a passage of Scripture to back him up’? He knew his religious bigots.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“We shall remain prisoners of culture unless we become aware of the process and force ourselves to confront it and to deprogram it.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“He was one of those young men who possess an impressive store of facts, but no truths.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“Once again a 'hate stare' drew my attention like a magnet. It came from a middle-aged, heavyset, well-dressed white man. He sat a few yards away, fixing his eyes on me. Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man's face. I felt like saying, 'What in God's name are you doing to yourself?”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“DESEGREGATE THE BUSES WITH THIS 7 POINT PROGRAM:

1. Pray for guidance.
2. Be courteous and friendly.
3. Be neat and clean.
4. Avoid loud talk.
5. Do not argue.
6. Report incidents immediately.
7. Overcome evil with good.
Sponsored by Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
Rev. A. L. Davis, Pres.
Rev. J. E. Poindexter, Secretary”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“He was not talking with US, but with his IMAGE of us.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“How can you render the duties of justice to men when you're afraid they'll be so unaware of justice they may destroy you? ...especially since their attitude toward their own race is a destructive one.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“The delusion lies in the fact that no matter how well we think we know the Other, we still judge from within the imprisoning framework of our own limited cultural criteria, we still speak within the cliché of the stereotype.” That”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


“We led strange, hidden lives. We were advocating one thing: that this country rid itself of the racism that prevented some citizens from living as fully functioning men and as a result dehumanized all men. We were advocating only that this country live up to its promises to all citizens. But since racism always hides under a respectable guise - usually the guise of patriotism and religion - a great many people loathed us for knocking holes in these respectable guises. It was clear that we would have to live always under threat.”
― John Howard Griffin, quote from Black Like Me


About the author

John Howard Griffin
Born place: in Dallas, Texas, The United States
Born date June 16, 1920
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