What kind of power does the hate stare hold over its victims in Black Like Me? Why?

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As he goes about the South in the guise of an African American, Griffin is frequently subjected to all manner of unpleasant treatment on account of his perceived race. A prime example of such prejudice comes in the from of the "hate stare", that unique look which Griffin regularly receives...

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As he goes about the South in the guise of an African American, Griffin is frequently subjected to all manner of unpleasant treatment on account of his perceived race. A prime example of such prejudice comes in the from of the "hate stare", that unique look which Griffin regularly receives from white people. It conveys, as the name implies, hatred and contempt.

In one particularly unpleasant episode, Griffin is subjected to a hate stare by a well-dressed, middle-aged white man. He feels drawn to this evil glance like an iron filing towards a magnet, even though it makes him feel utterly lost and sick at heart. It's not so much that the hate stare threatens the person it's directed at as that it reveals humans in a thoroughly inhuman light. It shows a kind of insanity, something so obscene that its very obscenity terrifies you.

This is why the hate stare has such enormous power over its victims. It reveals something deeply unpleasant about the human condition in general, not just about the darkest recesses of a racist's soul. In the hate stare one can see an insanity which can affect everyone at some point in their lives. And that's what makes it so compelling and terrifying in equal measure.

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