“Black Like Me” a social justice beach read

Title: Black Like Me
Genre: Nonfiction; Sociology
Author: John Howard Griffin
Publisher: Sepia Magazine
Publication Date:
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

Parsing out complexities of intersectionality

A column published in Tuesday’s paper titled “LGBT Community’s unseen racism problem,” caught my attention, and I immediately began to read. But what I found when I was reading this column was an emotional response that left me raising my eyebrows.

While the column did open the conversation about racism in the LGBT community, the columnist missed the opportunity to address the things that make the LGBT less inclusive: the conversation on intersectionality and the conversation of preference versus racism.

First, let me just say that there is no “fine line” between preference and racism. Having a preference is not only racist but sexist as well.

As an afro-indigenous ally to the LGBT community, I will be the first to tell you that I do not know what it is like to have the experiences an LGBT individual does. But I do experience racism and sexism and those are both things I can speak about.

A woman of color can tell you that sometimes the racism she experiences can be sexist and the sexism she experiences is racist, so it is no surprise that the same can happen to LGBT people of color.

An Australian study published in the summer of 2015 looks at sexual racism, which the abstract describes as “a specific form of racial prejudice enacted in the context of sex or romance.”

In that same summer, a UK charity publication FS magazine surveyed 850 gay men of color.

Eighty percent of the black men who responded to the survey said they had experienced some sort of racism while on Britain’s gay scene. Even worse, 63 percent of black and South Asian men reported racism within the community being a worse issue than homophobia.

“Intersectionality” is a word that I’ve heard often, mostly with the feminist movement.

“Intersectionality” is the idea that describes ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.

Instead of using myself as another example, I will use my sister who identifies as lesbian, but like myself, is of mixed races. Since her identity as a woman and a member of the LGBT community are both a part of her. They cannot be separated. As goes for LGBT black men. One hour, they could be getting followed around a store in fear of stealing something; the next hour, they could be having an experience similar to the one(s) described in the previous column.

The only way to get past sexual racism in the LGBT community is to converse. It is important to have these conversations about sexual racism so can grow as a community.

I agree with the column that the LGBT community is becoming strong. However, I think the column is being too hard on the LGBT community for not knowing about things that haven’t been brought up in conversation or discussion yet. The LGBT community is not perfect, like any other community. It will have its flaws at the start. But the bigger it grows and the more people talk to each other about issues, the stronger it will be.

This is in response to the column “LGBT community’s unseen racism problem” originally published February 2. 2016, which can be found here.
This response column has been updated for the internet by the original writer.
This response column first appeared in the independent student publication, The BG News on Feb. 4, 2015. You can find their web edition here.

Report shows strives made in diversity on TV

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released their annual “Where We Are on TV” report on Tuesday. GLAAD counted a total of 881 series this year.

The report is released every fall and analyzes the overall diversity of fictional primetime television show characters on both broadcast and cable television networks.

For the first time in their report, GLAAD counted the number of LGBT characters that appeared on original series shows that stream on sites Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. On the 23 streaming series, 43 regular characters and 16 recurring were LGBT.

Broadcast primetime had no characters that identified as transgender and cable only had three, but streamed series had the highest percentage of their characters identifying as trans*. Of the total transgender characters, only one of them was a trans man. This is frankly a terrible and gross lack of representation for an entire community of people. Hopefully, shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent,” which feature strong, well written and complex transgender characters (and are notably both on online streaming services rather than traditional cable or broadcast) will inspire showrunners to include more trans men and women in upcoming series.

Bisexual representation is also on the rise, but many of these characters perpetuate harmful bisexual stereotypes, according to the report. Although, I do feel some shows, notably “The 100,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Arrow” treat their bi female characters with respect and care. Bisexual men on television are unfortunately almost nonexistent, which is a huge shame.

While black characters are at the highest percentage since they started gathering racial data, regular characters living with disabled characters has dropped. Between both broadcast and cable however, only one recurring character is depicted as having HIV.

When you break the broadcast networks down by gender, almost half (48 percent) of FOX’s characters are female. NBC has the most characters are people of color with 41 percent.

While broadcast and cable have been doing an excellent job in raising diversity in people of color, they’re definitely lacking in adding LGBT representation. Although characters on television they have more intersectionality with having characters who are not only people of color, but also LGBT.

Streaming services definitely cater to a brand new audience and it’s reflected in this report. They have the highest number of LGBT characters out of all three television outlets.

The success of these original shows caters to an newer generation of viewers—a generation of viewers where their favorite shows can be watched in the palm of their hands, no matter how busy or not-so busy their lives are.

The ability to be able to watch your favorite television shows is more crucial now in a more fast-paced American working society than ever before, since watching an episode of your favorite show is most often a way people relieve stress.

Television is also a reflection on American society as a whole, which should now be calling for more POC and LGBT characters.

But slowly and surely diversity in both these departments is on the climb. Shows like “Black-ish” and “Empire,” which are led by an African American cast, are critical and fan favorites, and Viola Davis, who plays a queer woman of color on “How To Get Away With Murder,” made history with her recent Emmy win.

What does concern me most as an avid television watcher is the decline in disability representation.

I have to confess, I think the original spike in disabled characters last year could be attributed to the success and casting of “American Horror Story: Freak Show” since a range of characters on the show were disabled in real life.

Also, I would like to ask the question of what exactly GLAAD is defining as a disability? Is it one you can see or is it something requires medical attention and possibly discussion in mainstream society? Are mental illness and spectrums of autism in this category as well or is it only just counting physical disabilities?

These are just some question I think GLAAD should keep in mind next fall when they release this report.

Representation has come a long way in the last 10 and 20 years, but I think, like everything else, there is always room for improvement.

This articles was originally published on Oct. 28, 2015 by independent student newspaper, The BG News, which can be found here.