Why the change from the same old, same old?

Years ago, I read a book called Black Like Me, and, as I recall, it had quite an impact on me.

In 1959, the author of the book, John Howard Griffin, a white man, undertook a project on his own to darken his skin and go into the American South to see what life was really like for the blacks there.

Recently, I was questioned by a black lady about my interest in her blog and part of my explanation included that I had read Black Like Me as a young man and that it had made an impression on me.  She is an older lady and what she is doing with her life today as well as her her reflections on the past is fascinating.  I don’t know if I was able to explain satisfactorily why a middle aged white guy with a science and technology background would be interested in the blogging of an old black lady grounded in the humanities.

While in Little Rock last Sunday, I found and purchased a copy of the book and read it from cover to cover over the next couple of evenings. This is the third time that I have read it, and, once again, it has made an impression.

The South that Griffin visited as a black man in 1959 for the most part no longer exists outside of the history books and memories. Segregated schools and separate facilities — or lack of facilities — for non-whites have been left in the past.

However, hatred, racism, and bigotry have not been been left behind. Prejudice, unfortunately, is still alive and well.

“But,” the reader asks, “What does that have to do with your changes, with your moving out of your comfort zone.”

The answer is that I have not fully addressed my own prejudices and I carefully stay away from anything that has anything to do with race, homosexuality, gender bias, profiling, immigration and anything else that is related to the prejudices of others.

Lorelle VanFossen has a blog challenge for readers to “blog about where you find your inspiration to blog.”

Going forward, and in moving out of my comfort zone of only writing about things that are safe, I will be looking for and writing about things that challenge my perceptions and the perceptions of others.    I’m going to be diplomatic and still try to use reason, logic, and persuasion in presenting things that might be a little uncomfortable for me, and , perhaps, for some readers.  But, I won’t be avoiding all of the hard topics that I steered clear of in the past.

I’ll still be doing many of the things that I did before on the blog, of course, including photography and travel.

I plan to re-read Black Like Me again soon.

beliefs, history, Uncategorized, values
12 comments… add one
  • rummuser Aug 9, 2008

    Hello! I am from India, a land which also suffers from a lot of prejudices and hatred based on caste, religion etc and I found your post fascinating. A little digging into your background made my interest in your blog a little firmer.

    I have just started blogging a couple of months ago and thoroughly enjoy it. I am still exploring the blogworld and am sure to enrich myself as I go along.

    I hope to visit and comment on your blog regularly and invite you to do the same in mine.

  • Linda Aug 9, 2008

    I recently came across the challenge, it is a good one. I enjoyed your post.

  • teeni Aug 9, 2008

    Wow – cool! This is going to make for even more interesting posts. I think I read Black Like Me once before too but I should give it another read also. Thanks for bringing that one back on my radar. I joined an application called Good Reads that allows you to list books you’ve read or are planning to read and write your thoughts on them and share the info with your friends/blog buddies. If you are interested in joining, add me as a friend so I can see your reads. I’ll send you a link if you like.

    Anyway, I think we all stay away from certain topics and have trouble addressing our prejudices. I’m already inspired by you for considering to work on those things. Every life is a work in progress. 🙂

  • Beth Ellen Aug 9, 2008

    It can be a challenge to write in a way that challenges the readers thinking without losing your audience but sometimes you will lose a few and gain a few. I admire the risk you are taking as I have been pushing aside a desire to blog on more philosophical/theological issues. My blog is fairly inoculate. I don’t debate or discuss difficult topics. I run perhaps in a different direction in that I am conservative on many fronts but think I have strong philosophical foundations for being so but in our current culture I could easily be seen as prejudice. I could be easily judged as marginalizing and not being inclusive, etc.

    Just rambling here…

  • Urban Panther Aug 10, 2008

    I am always horrified by my own reactions to things/people who are ‘different’. My reaction only lasts a split second before reason kicks in. I believe we are all programmed to react to things that are ‘not us’ as a survival mechanism. The trick is to recognize it as such, and quickly move out of the primal response, into the reasonable response. I have never understood segregation in the States, but I am not about to cast stones. We put all our Japanese citizens in internment camps here in Canada during the Second World War. And don’t even get me started on how we treat our First Nations people! Anyway, good for you. There are clever, sensitive, and as you say, diplomatic ways to write about these issues. I’ll be back to follow your train of thought.

  • Vered Aug 11, 2008

    This is going to be interesting. 🙂

    There are topics that I don’t talk about. Mostly politics and religion. I might touch on religion in the future, but right now I’d rather not.

  • DragonLady Aug 11, 2008

    Hmmm, sounds interesting. I mostly stick to “safe” stuff these days on my blog. It takes so much mental energy to leave my comfort zone, and I’ve been working on curbing my self-righteous arrogance which makes me judgmental. 😉

    BTW, off-topic, but I read your About page, and I grew up in Conway County. When I lived at Birdtown, the “nuke plant” was due west of our house, and on a really clear day I could see the steam rising from the cooling tower.

  • Barbara (Xerraire) Aug 12, 2008

    I have said it before…
    I believe in ONE race, the HUMAN race.

  • Memarie Lane Aug 14, 2008

    Where I grew up in SoCal there really was no such thing as racism. Maybe because Whites were in the minority. I moved to FL in 2003, and what a shocker! Schools there are actually still using busing to integrate, because the racism is still bad enough that there are “Black neighborhoods.” White people were unashamed of their racism, with stickers on their car saying things like “Angry White Man” and worse. I couldn’t believe it once when we were out eating, sitting between a Black family and a White family. The White family was talking very loudly about their feelings against Black people, and the Black family just sat eating quietly, listening, not reacting. Where I’m from anyone speaking like that would have been out on their ear, to put it nicely.

  • Mike Goad Aug 15, 2008

    I’ve deliberately held off responding to comments just to see what would appear here to let my post stand on its out without anything additional and to see what sort of responses I would get. I appreciate all of that I did get and this is a lot more than I usually get. Thanks!

    @rummuser – welcome to Exit78! While I am bit familiar with India and its caste and religious issues, I look forward to learning more through your blog. I already have!

    @Linda – I was already moving in this direction but the challenge helped me focus this post.

    @teeni – I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. Thanks for the suggestion on Good Reads, but I think I’ll pass for now.

    You are right it is difficult addressing our own prejudices…, and even more difficult — at least at this point — in addressing the prejudices of others.

    @Beth Ellen – rambling is good 😉 While it can be challenging to write about some of these things, it’s no where as challenging as it is to be on the receiving end of prejudice…, though there is the possibility that, in writing on it, I may get some visits and comments that will be extremely uncomfortable.

    @Urban Panther – I agree. Such reactions to people who are different is part of our survival instinct. For me, part of the “coping” strategy is to try to look at those that seem different and recognize that they really aren’t.

    @Vered – I hope it’ll be interesting and not too controversial. I’ll talk about politics and religion here, but I’ll try to do it in a way that will make people think.

    @DragonLady – It is going to take some thought to leave my comfort zone in the way that I want to do it. Adding a little bit of “risky” stuff will make this blog a little bit more interesting and, perhaps, help me grow a little bit in my “old” age.

    @Barbara (Xarraire) – I agree completely. Unfortunately, there are way too many people who don’t think that way.

    @Memarie Lane – I think there are a lot of places in the US where racism still festers. The classic example, of course, is New Orleans and Katrina.

  • Chris Aug 17, 2008

    I like people who go outside their comfort zones and challenge their own perceptions or the perceptions of others (if done in a civilized manner of course)…

    It’s great when one undergoes a pardigm shift.

  • Mike Goad Sep 23, 2008

    @Chris – Thanks ( a little belated). While I haven’t written as much from my paradigm shift as you call it, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in areas that I haven’t before. The writing will come when it comes.

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