“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.

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

The UK, Northern Ireland and Reproductive Rights

In the center of the picture, a woman holds a piece of cardboard that says, "I have this pill I am taking now!" Behind her, other protestors hold similar signs with prochoice words and slogans.

The topic of abortion is often touchy in the United States, as we talked about in my Ethnicity and Social Movements class last week. In my recitation on Friday, my teaching assistant shared a story about a woman in Indiana who was sentenced to 20 years in feticide.

According to NBC News, she “is the first woman in the U.S. to be charged, convicted, and sentenced on a feticide charge.”

Earlier in the week, I heard something similar that I thought my teaching assistant has been referring to but instead it took place in Northern Ireland.

According to the BBC, a woman in Belfast bought drugs online to terminate her pregnancy. In Northern Ireland, as there is absolutely no abortion access for women.

At the time the Belfast woman terminated her pregnancy, she was 19 years old. Now almost twy years later at 21, she has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Some people who read this at first might be confused. In public education in the United States, I was taught Ireland was part of the U.K. Some other students who were in American public education may also tell you that.

However, some students who were educated in the U.S., may be able to tell you that the land we know is Ireland is split into two separate locations: the Republic of Ireland, which is the sovereign nation mainstream American might be most exposed to; and Norther Ireland, which could potentially be less heard of outside of history or geography classes, is part of the U.K.

In 1967, the U.K. legalized abortions and registered practicioners and regulated the practice through the National Health Service.

So why does Northern Ireland not follow this law the same way England, Scotland, and Wales do?

It’s because the law never applied to the country to begin with. In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal unless it is “to save the life of the mother” or carrying the pregnancy to term would put the women in danger either physically or mentally.

Even though this law is in place, the woman is still guilty of her miscarriage under The Offences against the Person Act 1981, which is a list of crimes that can be considered offenses of violence on a person.

Another story by the BBC about this situation says that women who live in Northern Ireland travel to other countries in the United Kingdom in order to receive legal and safe abortions.

In England, Scotland and Wales, women can legally have an abortion up to 24 weeks (168 days). After that, abortion can be legal beyond that limit in cases where the mother’s health is  being threatened or if there is a substantial risk the baby will have serious disabilities.

It is interesting that two similar situations are happening in what are supposed to be two of the most developed countries in the world are still fighting over what women should do about their own bodies.

The difference in these two stories is that the procedure was available to the woman in Belfast, but since she personally did have the resources to access it on her own, she had to use other resources that are otherwise seen as taboo to other societies.

The woman in Indiana claims to have given birth to a stillborn, but prosecutors are insisting the baby was alive when she gave birth and she neglected to get help. But activists are on her side, saying the conviction is “punishment for having a miscarraige and then seeking medical care…something that no woman should worry would lead to jail time.

Reproductive rights are more than just wanting to terminate pregnancies and wanting contraception. It is also about giving medical and psychological support to women whose pregnancies are physically tolling or traumatic experiences.

I’m curious as to see how these to stories, which is are opposite sides of a body of water play out. I hope to keep you updated.

 

Argentina should consider accepting refugees, tend to citizens first

French President François Hollande is currently on a tour of South America, and visited the country of Argentina yesterday, according to an article by the Associated Press*.

President Hollande made a remark at a press conference, suggesting new Argentine President Mauricio Macri should accept  refugees from Syrian and Jordanian camps.

The comment was conveyed via translator and President Macri did not seem to make any visible facial reactions to the comment.

The two men signed many agreements today on issues such as terrorism, but the receiving of refugees was not part of it.

However, I agree with Hollande when he says Argentina should take in refugees.

Argentina has gone through a lot since Macri was sworn in December.

Since he has taken office, he has gone through lengths to hold his country responsible for their issues with the international market that started in 2001. Now he will look to make amends with some of the people his predecessors have upset.

President Obama also announced recently that he will visit the country after his historic visit to Cuba next month, showing that President Macri is serious about helping Argentina rebuild its relationship with the United States.

If Argentina did decide to receive Syrian refugees, it would not be anything new to the country. For one, they have accepted refugees in the past.

Argentina also has the second highest Syrian population in South America, with the first being Brazil. The migration of Syrians peaked in the 20th century, because of wars happening in the Middle East. Coincidentally, I learned in my Ethnicity and Social Movements class this week, that one of the biggest reasons immigration is war.

I am in no way saying the Argentine government should take refugees this very moment.

Along with their money issues, workers are going on strike to protest multiple firings that have occurred. He needs to tend to his own people before he can take in others.

President Macri should not turn away from the idea of placing refugees in the country. He can always plan ahead of time as governments and agreements are made and change and then act how he sees fit.

*The link redirects to the Washington Post’s electronic publishing of the article, but it was written by and for the Associated Press