Although many people in the 1950s believed that African Americans were inferior to Caucasians, nevertheless their theory was wrong because any flaws African Americans had at the time were due to the way they were treated, not their race. John Howard Griffin discovers this by changing his skin color and living like an African American.
John Howard Griffin was an expert on race issues when he darkened his skin and went down south to experience what life was like for an African American. Despite his enlightened view of civil rights, he was fully unaware of what it would be like to become African American. Even though he, like most northerners, was aware of the poor treatment of the African American people in the south, he was unaware of how demeaning it was to be African American and how impossible it had become for African Americans to become successful members of society.
When Griffin's skin was darkened he was treated differently than when his skin was white. He was treated horrifically for no other reason than the color of his skin. He was condescended upon by Caucasians and spoken to vulgarly. On one occasion, he was chased down the street by a Caucasian youth while offensive obscenities were hurled at him. However, the discrimination he endured was not always this obvious. Sometimes it was very subtle. Even before his color change Griffin knew that African Americans were given low paying jobs and were not allowed to work at certain businesses or use some services. He did not know, however, how this treatment made African American life miserable. On page 52, the cumulative effect of the discrimination is explained.
"You take a young white boy. He can go through school and college with a real incentive. He knows he can make good money in any profession when he gets out. But can a Negro- in the South? No, I've seen many make brilliant grades in college. And yet when they come home in the summers to earn a little money, they have to do the most menial...
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