“In the flood of light against white tile, the face and shoulders of a stranger—a fierce, bald, very dark Negro—glared at me from the glass. He in no way resembled me. The transformation was total and shocking.”
(Deep South Journey, November 7, 1959, page 12)
This passage describes the moment when Griffin first sees himself as a black man. Looking in the mirror, he is shocked to realize that he does not recognize himself, and furthermore, he does not like himself. His emotional reaction shows that Griffin himself harbors negative stereotypes about black people. This scene is also the first hint that Griffin’s transformation will be more than just a superficial one; through the course of the experiment, he will actually internalize his identity as a black man.
“ ‘[I]f you stick around this town, you’ll find out you’re going to end up doing most of your praying for a place to piss. It’s not easy, I’m telling you.’ ”
(Deep South Journey, November 8, 1959, page 21)
This is a piece of advice Griffin receives from a black counterman at his New Orleans hotel. As a black man in the segregated South, Griffin must use black-only restrooms, drinking fountains, and cafés.
“ ‘They’re getting sassier every day.’ ”
(Deep South Journey, November 8, 1959, page 22)
This is the response of a white woman on a bus in New Orleans when Griffin offers her a seat next to him. Griffin is humiliated as he realizes that no white person would want to sit next to a black man.
“ ‘Yes, when they want to sin, they’re very democratic.’ ”
(Deep South Journey, November 8, 1959, page 28)
This observation is made by Sterling Williams, the shoeshine man with whom Griffin works in New Orleans. Griffin and Williams note that white customers act very friendly when they are looking for a black girl to sleep with.
“ ‘I’m not pure Negro,’ he said proudly. ‘My mother was French, my father Indian. … She was Portuguese, my mother—a lovely woman,’ Christophe sighed.”
(Deep South Journey, November 14, 1959, page 57)
Christophe, a light-skinned black man whom Griffin meets on the bus to Mississippi, feels superior to other blacks because he has mixed white and Indian blood. He fawns on whites and insults the black people on the bus. Griffin feels sorry for Christophe, a man so obviously consumed by hatred for his own race.
“ ‘I can read the headline…. It says this is one Negro in Mississippi who’s not going to get to vote this year.’ ”
(Deep South Journey, November 16, 1959, page 81)
This is the punchline of a joke told by P. D. East about voting rights for blacks in the South. In the joke, a black man who wishes to vote is given a newspaper in Chinese in order to test his literacy. East tells the joke in order to highlight the problem of blacks being prohibited from voting in the South.
“ ‘When we stop loving them, that’s when they win.’ ”
(Deep South Journey, November 19, 1959, page 99)
These are the words of an elderly African-American preacher who shares his home with Griffin in Mobile, Alabama. He emphasizes that despite all the injustices blacks must endure at the hands of white racists, they should never stoop so low as to hate white people, or they would sink down to their level.
“ ‘I’ll tell you how it is here. We’ll do business with you people. We’ll sure as hell screw your women. Other than that, you’re just completely off the record as far as we’re concerned.’ ”
(Deep South Journey, November 24, 1959, page 111)
These are the venomous words of a white hunter who gives Griffin a ride in rural Alabama. Griffin reflects that this man appears like an ordinary, respectable family man. It is only to black people that he reveals his ugly, racist sickness. Sadly, his words reflect the attitude of many white racists in the South.
“ ‘I’ll tell you—if we don’t have meat to cook with the beans, why she just goes ahead and cooks the beans anyhow.’ ”
(Deep South Journey, November 24, 1959, page 111)
While Griffin is traveling through the rural swamp country in Alabama, he meets a poor black sawmill worker who offers him a place to stay on the floor of his shack. Griffin is touched by the man’s generosity. Although very poor and with six children to support, the man and his wife are thankful for what they have. If there is no meat to cook, the man notes, his wife doesn’t complain—she just serves beans.
“Hell, I’ll buy all your turkeys…just to help you out. I’ll show you fellows that not all white men are bastards.”
(Deep South Journey, December 1, 1959, 129)
These are the words of a well-intentioned white man whom Griffin meets in Tuskegee, Alabama. The man attempts to show he’s not racist by offering to buy a load of turkeys from a black turkey vendor. However, as he doesn’t really want or need the turkeys, his gesture seems patronizing. Griffin notes that in being paternalistic toward black people, whites only reveal their prejudice and downgrade black people’s dignity. Black people want and need their lawful rights, not pity or handouts.
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