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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Black Like Me

Amid the present worldwide euphoria of a Black being elected US President, I could not resist sharing here the experience of an American journalist only a few decades ago.
John Howard Griffin, a white American journalist, used medication to darken his skin to a deep brown tone of a Negro, traveled in the Deep South of America - Louisiana, Mississipi, Alabama and Georgia - known for their racial divide, and lived among the Black, being one of them, unnoticed in the year 1959 and recounted his experience in the book - "Black Like Me".
In those days, the Blacks were given voting rights only if they were 'literate'. Here is a story from the book.
A Negro went to register as a voter in Mississipi. The white man taking his application gave him the standard literacy tests:
"What is the first line of the thirty-second para of the United States Constitution?" he asked.
The applicant answered perfectly.
"Name the eleventh President of the United States and his entire Cabinet."
The applicant answered correctly.
Finally, unable to trip him up, the white man asked, "Can you read and write?"
The applicant wrote his name and was then handed over a newspaper in Chinese to test his reading. He studied it carefully for some time.
"Well, can you read it?"
The Negro said,"I can read the headline, but cannot make out the body text."
Incredulous, the white man said,"You can read that headline?"
"Oh, yes, I've got the meaning all right."
"What's it say?"
"It says this Negro in Mississipi is not going to get to vote this year either."

That was US, which elected a Black as its President, only five decades ago.