In 1959, John Howard Griffin underwent a thought-provoking experiment. He darkened his skin and posed as a black man in the South.
In this 1961 book, Griffin recounts his experiences. The men he hitches rides with ask him bizarre, racist questions about his sexual experiences. One white man tells him about his conquests of black women and threatens him with death if he causes any trouble. Griffin had to plan carefully because there may not have been anywhere nearby to get water or use a bathroom.
For exposing the truth, John Howard Griffin recieved death threats.
Challenges to this book name "vulgarity" and "obscenity" as justification for banning. In 1967, an Arizona school removed the book because of "four-letter words". A 1977 challenge was denied in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In 1982, a Missouri school put the book on a closed shelf when a parent complained that the book was obscene, vulgar and "because of black people being in the book."
There is nothing like showing people their hypocrisy. Griffin held up a mirror to American society of the time and it is a shame that high schoolers would be kept from seeing this historical experiment because of the true-to-life conversation in the book. Hiding the truth because it might offend our delicate sensibilities is wrong.
But then again, I guess the complaints about profanity were just a cover.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Banned, Censored, Challenged: Black Like Me