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John Dolva

What is Racism?

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I realise that I don't know. To some extent it helps me to consider what sexism is but perhaps considering that I am a caucasian working class male in his mid fifties perhaps personally I can know something about ageism.

A couple of resources that I have found useful in the past are :

(http://newsreel.org/guides/blueeyed.htm)

Jane Elliott, a pioneer in racism awareness training, was first inspired to action by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. As a third grade teacher in an all-white, all-Christian community, she struggled for ways to help her students understand racism and discrimination. She adopted the "Blue-Eyed/brown eyed" exercise, (in which participants are treated as inferior or superior based solely on the color of their eyes) as a result of reading about the techniques the Nazis used on those they designated undesirable during what is now called the Holocaust.

The purpose of the exercise is to give white people an opportunity to find out how it feels to be something other than white.

also some discussions in the JFK section of this forum has reminded me of:

Black Like Me by

John Howard Griffin (1961)

50 years later : http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/Black-Like-Me-50-Years-Later.html

Late in 1959, on a sidewalk in New Orleans, a shoe-shine man suffered a sense of déjà vu. He was certain he’d shined these shoes before, and for a man about as tall and broad-shouldered. But that man had been white. This man was brown-skinned. Rag in hand, the shoeshine man said nothing until the hulking man spoke.

“Is there something familiar about these shoes?”

“Yeah, I been shining some for a white man—”

“A fellow named Griffin?”

“Yeah. Do you know him?”

“I am him.”

John Howard Griffin had embarked on a journey unlike any other. Many black authors had written about the hardship of living in the Jim Crow South. A few white writers had argued for integration. But Griffin, a novelist of extraordinary empathy rooted in his Catholic faith, had devised a daring experiment. To comprehend the lives of black people, he had darkened his skin to become black. As the civil rights movement tested various forms of civil disobedience, Griffin began a human odyssey through the South, from New Orleans to Atlanta.

Fifty years ago this month, Griffin published a slim volume about his travels as a “black man.” He expected it to be “an obscure work of interest primarily to sociologists,” but Black Like Me, which told white Americans what they had long refused to believe, sold ten million copies and became a modern classic.

Black Like Me disabused the idea that minorities were acting out of paranoia,” says Gerald Early, a black scholar at Washington University and editor of Lure and Loathing: Essays on Race, Identity, and the Ambivalence of Assimilation. “There was this idea that black people said certain things about racism, and one rather expected them to say these things. Griffin revealed that what they were saying was true. It took someone from outside coming in to do that. And what he went through gave the book a remarkable sincerity.”

A half century after its publication, Black Like Me retains its raw power. Still assigned in many high schools, it is condensed in online outlines and video reviews on YouTube. But does the book mean the same in the age of Obama as it did in the age of Jim Crow?

Black Like Me remains important for several reasons,” says Robert Bonazzi, author of Man in the Mirror: John Howard Griffin and the Story of Black Like Me. “It’s a useful historical document about the segregated era, which is still shocking to younger readers. It’s also a truthful journal in which Griffin admits to his own racism, with which white readers can identify and perhaps begin to face their own denial of prejudice. Finally, it’s a well-written literary text that predates the ‘nonfiction novel’ of Mailer, Capote, Tom Wolfe and others.”

The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission has some relevant documents when using John Griffin as a search name :

for example the experiences of a Clyde Kinard whose life parallels that of James Meredith.

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/result.php?image=/data/sov_commission/images/png/cd01/002220.png&otherstuff=1|27|0|68|1|1|1|2162|

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