“Black Like Me” a social justice beach read

Title: Black Like Me
Genre: Nonfiction; Sociology
Author: John Howard Griffin
Publisher: Sepia Magazine
Publication Date:
1960
Pages:
176
Price: Library Rental

To the journalist or the activist who is engaged with racial inequality, it is not uncommon to take a book pertaining to social justice on holiday with them to read when they’re not doing research.

The good thing about “Black Like Me” is that the research is practically already done for the reader. Author John Howard Griffin, a white man from Texas, physically inserts himself into various Black communities in the South and Deep South, by medically and artificially darkening his skin. He uses UV sun lamps and an oral treatment often used in helping the pigment of people who suffer from vitiligo.

Griffin was from Texas and born in 1920. He graduated from the University of Poitiers in France. According to The Telegraph, he became a part of the French Resistance and helped Jewish children escape from World War II to England.

Before talking to various people and doctors, he admits in one of his beginning journal entries that even though he specializes in race issues, he did not fully understand the real struggle of the Negro. So, in a journalistic context, he feels that since he does not know what he calls the “Negro’s real problem,” he feels it is his duty as a journalist has to investigate this matter on his own and see for himself what it is really like.

Before reading this, I was incredibly skeptical of what the content of the book was going to be like. As a woman of color, I have faced racism both inside and outside the home. Here, I thought prior to reading the book, was a white man who medically and physically painted on blackface to put himself in a society he was never in to start with.

However, I was surprised when I started reading the book.

For starters, he went out of his way to talk to multiple people about whether or not it would be a good idea to invest in such a project. Then, he dedicated himself to the cause further by consulting with a dermatologist and getting a medication that would darken his skin. While he only participated in this social experiment for a month, the medication would not darken his skin completely, so he finished it off using a stain and giving him a “pure brown” skin tone. This would come in handy after he creates a system of going between himself as white and himself as a black man.

I was not sure how he was going to interject himself into society as a black man, but it helped he decided to travel for his experience. He portrayed himself as a black man traveling for work, which I thought was a clever but ambiguous identity for him to have when encountering strangers.

I found the book to be an easy read. Griffin writes clearly and easily about his experiences. Even for parts that could seem particularly uncomfortable to the white reader, his points are easy to understand.

I understand Griffin’s desire to want to know exactly the problems the Negro faced in the South and Deep South, it’s hard to ignore the privilege he had not only have the option to try and investigate this as journalism story. But also, he had the privilege to also “zigzag” between being black and white, before permanently returning to white society. While he was able to darken his skin to “see” what the struggles of Black people were like, actual Negros do not have the same luxury or privilege.

But John Griffin gains something from his experience that racist individuals are not capable of having for marginalized people is empathy. That’s the important thing to keep in mind while reading this brief book—only 176 pages. So it makes for an easy read for even a four-day weekend.

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Pisanello’s great for evening munchies

Pisanello’s Pizza, on the corner of North Main Street, is the ideal place for a college student looking a great way to satisfy their munchies. Open since 1964, Pisanello’s has 18 other locations in Northwest Ohio other than Bowling Green.

When first walking into the dining area, you’re welcomed by wood flooring, wood walls, and various colorful works of art hanging on the wall. Accommpanied by the artwork were Halloween decorations—streamers with skulls and plastic pumpkins. Along the walls are booths and on the inside of the dining area as tables and chairs. Hanging from the ceiling onto the half wall that divides the dining room in half is a three dimensional mural.

The dining room was empty upon arrival, but as the evening went on, other couples and groups of friends starting dining in or picking up orders to go.

While the dining is casual with a waitress, you have to order your food at the counter in the back of the dining room first at a register. My boyfriend, who was with me, opted out of wanting anything to eat of his choosing so I decided one thing I loved and was familiar with from my last visit almost two years ago.

I have never been a fan of tomatoes as a general food. I don’t like having slices on my burgers and I don’t like having them minced in my pasta. However, I love Pisanello’s tomato bread. It’s a bread with a tomato slice, with spices and covered in melted mozzarella cheese.

A picture of tomato bread. Piece of bread with a seasoned tomato slice covered in mozzarella cheese
Pisanello’s Pizza tomato bread. Cost: $4.25

I made this my appetizer and chose a small size baked potato specialty pizza as my main course. I’d never heard of such a pizza until this moment, and since I loved baked potatoes, I decided to try it. Other toppings, besides potatoes include sour cream, bacon, broccoli, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. The employee at the register asked if I wanted either bacon or broccoli on the pizza and I decided on both. We also orded two refillable fountain drinks.

a slice of baked potato pizza from Pisanello's
A slice of baked potato pizza. A small (seven inches) cost $5.25

After ordering, we sat down at a booth and I smoothed my hand over the wooden walls. I didn’t noticed until I moved my hand, but carved into the wooden walls of this corner pizza pub are carved with people’s names, initials, doodles of hearts and arrows, and even a carved in drawing of a rocket ship.

A wooden wall with a carved rocket ship and a heart that says,
Drawings and writings carved in Pisanello’s Pizza’s wooden wall.

When the tomato bread arrived on an oval plate, six pieces lay on it, myself taking two and my boyfriend (despite his mutual dislike of tomatoes and previous declaration that he was not hungry) also taking two. However, he opted to take the tomato slices off of the bread.

When I pulled apart the first piece from the group, the mozzarella cheese stretched and oozed with departure. This was good for me since I’m a fan of cheese that is melty and oozing. The cheese seemed to mask the sliminess of the tomatoes that I normally dislike with other tomato dishes.

The baked potato pizza arrived and I knew upon sight, it would not disappoint. The mozzarella and cheddar cheeses are melted over top the toppings, giving its cheese the same gooey stretch of the tomato bread. The sour cream served as the sauce for the pizza, which I found to be a bold decision over something else such as butter or standard pizza sauce.

The total meal cost me almost $19 plus a tip. But I got my money’s worth, since I went home with two extra slices of tomato bread and four extra slices of the pizza, since a small comes with six slices.

This is a great place to eat and relax after a long day of classes and homework. Order, sit down, and just enjoy the artwork while you’re there.

Name: Pisanello’s Pizza
Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 4 p.m. -11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.
Phone: (419)-352-5166
Day: October 5, 2016
Time: 8:30 p.m.
Website: http://pisanellos.com/index-bg.htm

Unique debut album

Unlike Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, Melanie Martinez continues to prove herself to be a rarity in the business of singing competitions.

After going on “The Voice” in 2012, Martinez has been busy making her own name.

She competed on the third season and was on Team Adam. She was eliminated on week five with fellow team member Amanda Brown.

After “The Voice,” Martinez started working independently and announced she signed to Atlantic Records in April 2014.

A few months after signing with Atlantic, Martinez released her debut single “Dollhouse.” Then in the fall, she released the single “Carousel,” which was used in one of the premieres for the hit FX miniseries “American Horror Story: Freak Show.”

This past July, she released two new singles, “Pity Party” and “Soap,” in anticipation of her debut album.

On August 14th, 2015, Martinez’s album “Cry Baby” made its debut in stores, digitally and on vinyl. The CD versions even come with storybooks.

On the surface, the record is a concept album that is narrated by Martinez’s persona “Cry Baby,” a little girl character inspired by her childhood.

The best phrase I can think of when it comes to describing this album is an R-rated children’s book.

As she makes use of childhood concepts (the title tracks are objects often associated with childhood, such as carousels, doll houses, stuffed animals) and mature themes (drugs, suicide, sex, dating).

Along with these themes, some of the songs also touch on alcoholism, mental illness, self-esteem and body image.

I remember hearing “Dollhouse” while on spring break last semester and the music of the song alone was hypnotizing enough to get stuck in my head after listening once. The sound is electronically childlike, but extremely catchy.

I recommend her music to anyone who’s a fan of electronic artists such as Kat Dahlia and Tove Lo. “Cry Baby” has Kat Dahlia’s catchy rhythms and beats, but Martinez has a wider vocal range than either of the two artists, . She also follows Tove Lo’s “fall-in-love,” “fall-out-of-love,” “I’m an independent woman” story line, except with a dark twist and childhood metaphors. Martinez is a rare singing competition commodity just by being signed to a major record without winning said singing competition. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

This article was originally published on Sept. 3, 2015 by independent student run newspaper, The BG News, which can be found here.