Analysis of John Howard Griffin's "Black Like Me"

Topics: Black people, African American, Research Pages: 5 (1848 words) Published: March 15, 2004
Analysis of John Howard Griffin's "Black Like Me"

John Howard Griffin's research should undeniably be considered sociological. He began with a theory, if he became black he could help understand the difficulties between races as both a white man and a black man in the south and with this knowledge develop a means to bridge the gap. With this information he developed a micro-theory, trying to explain a limited part of human behavior; why is there hate among blacks and whites? He collected his data in a process of explanatory research. He needed to test his theory in order to elaborate existing explanations. He gathered all his data and went through all research methods in the hopes of explaining his theory. He followed the research process; developed a question, took into account what would be needed to answer the question, decided how to get this and conducted it as ethical as a black-white southerner could. He used a meta-analysis in examining the information. Griffin improved the description of the relationship while developing explanations for the cause of such activity and aimed to advance research in this area by gathering new knowledge. Finally, when he gathered all his information he released it to the mass media. Although it takes the form of a journal it should still be considered sociological research. The diary method is, in fact, beneficial. Instead of conducting a cross sectional form of research in which information is gathered at one particular time, Griffin, using the diary, conducted a longitudinal study. With such a study change can be identified and a broader understanding will develop in the hopes of answering the research question. Of coarse when such a research method as a diary is used questions arise as to its validity and reliability.

It can be assumed that the reliability of Griffin's work is quite substantial. He had an insider perspective due to his covert observation and participant observation. His information was derived from a large population across more than one state, while still focusing on the southern parts of America. All the persons mentioned in the diary shared the same belief; whites were limiting the black potential. Then it must be asked whether the diary was biased or not. Since it was, in reality, a diary, the information published could be selective. This then questions the validity of the research. There is no doubt that Griffin had opinions on the topic before it was investigated. However, the research was also very generalizable. This should help to alleviate many of the doubts towards the ethics of the means of research. Since human behavior is very complex it is difficult to narrow down the independent variable. All doubts on validity aside, the research was conducted in a method of sociological nature. It was a combination of participant observation, covert observation and unstructured interviews. For example, Griffin had conversations at the YMCA with other black men, or on the bus between New Orleans and Mississippi. These weren't done with an outlined set of questions; they were conducted by way of one oppressed African-American to another. In conducting his research in such an unobtrusive manner Griffin helped the media identify the setting, the human and social environment, their activities and behaviors, and non-verbal communication. In this method Griffin wasn't looking to prove causality, rather looking to support his argument in hope for change. With all this taken into account it can be summarized that Griffin followed the research process and used sociological methods.

Part B

Norms are generally defined as an aspect in society in which an expected behavior binds a certain group of people. However, norms can be applied to many different areas. It can mean placing a set standard for achievement on a certain communal grouping based on the accomplishments of the average person from that grouping. It can also mean a characteristic that is representative...
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