What might today's reaction be if Black Like Me had just been published?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reaction to Black Like Me today would surely be strongly conditioned by two major social factors.  First, it would be conditioned by today’s polarized politics.  Second, it would be conditioned by modern attitudes towards race and modern ideas about the role that African Americans should play in society.

Politically speaking, this book would become a political football.  It would most likely be seen by conservatives as an attack on whites in general and on white conservatives in particular.  In recent times, we have seen very angry reactions to exposés about things like the abuse of animals by agricultural workers.  These have been seen as attacks on farmers and laws to essentially ban them have been proposed.  This would surely be seen in the same ways.  Griffin would be criticized for obtaining his information under false pretenses.  He would be accused of having an agenda and wanting to make his point regardless of the truth.  He would be criticized for “cherry-picking” incidents that make whites look bad.  In short, there would be a firestorm of criticism and the book would be seen not as a legitimate inquiry into race relations but as a politically-motivated attempt to make whites look bad.

However, it is also likely that the book would be criticized by African Americans.  The reason for this would be that it would seem patronizing and paternalistic.  It would seem to many blacks as if Griffin were being presumptuous in thinking that he could understand what it was like to be black.  It would seem patronizing to them that a white man would think that he needed to tell their story.  They would argue that their story should be told by African Americans, not by a white person who was (they would likely say) exploiting their problems to make a name for himself.

There would surely be some positive reaction to the book, but it is very likely that there would be tremendous criticism from a number of directions.

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Black Like Me

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