Through my educational endeavor for my Masters in English, I’ve been rewarded with the opportunity to read some truly talented authors, who are very passionate about how they write, as well as what they write, fiction or non-fiction. Below is a brief response essay to two Civil Rights activists, Gregory Dick and Howard Griffin. Amazing stories. And it is even more amazing how these two protested the hate and violence in such a clever and nonviolent way.
I posted the references at the bottom, with the name of both of the books and authors.
Non-violent Approaches to Social Bigotry
Dick Gregory is a man who follows his mother’s wisdom by using humor as a tool to face the injustice brought on by the racial society he lives in. He laughs at himself so people will laugh with him, and not against him. He learns this is one way to resist the hate he faces on a daily bases being an African American. Then there is Howard Griffin, the Caucasian who changes his skin color to obtain a clearer understanding of how it is like to live as an African American. Both authors show that a non-violent approach to opposing racism is a more effective way of abolishing the hate, including humor and love.
Humor can be thought of as a positive way of dealing with hate. Gregory relies on using his mother’s wisdom to face the prejudice culture he lives in. He makes jokes about himself, so people will laugh with him instead of at him. Through this unique approach, he teaches other activists of the Civil Rights Movement and any other African Americans that a non-violent approach is the best way to defeating racism. I believe he feels the current opposition against the oppressors is not working, therefore, he encourages others to consider his unique strategy through his writing and speaking. I like to refer to the one quote I came across while reading Gregory’s autobiography. “They were going to laugh anyway, but if I made the jokes they’d laugh with me” (Gregory 41). His mom teaches him that laughing is a more effective way of dealing with the negativity from racism than trying to resist it by other means, such as allowing the racists to make him angry or hurt him. “I never let them stop laughing, hit them hard and fast with jokes…on the world situation” (Gregory 101). This comment is straight forward, and clearly describes the attitude Gregory carries through racists’ society. If he can influence others who suffer from the racist oppressors to use this humorist approach, I believe he feels they can also influence other African Americans to make jokes and laugh with them, thus creating a more effective means to abolishing racism. This way, the oppressors are more likely to see the injustice in their hate toward African Americans. As Gregory mentions, “hitting them hard with jokes with the reality of the world’s situation”, I think he means that he provides lessons within his jokes. This way the oppressors, as well as other oppressed people such as himself, will be more likely to listen and realize the injustice and cruelty in their racism. So, the on-violent approach with humor lessens the spread of hate. Love can have this same impact.
Love is a powerful emotion. Can it abolish senseless hate, such as racism? Griffin realizes through his time with dark skin that hate is strong. However, he learns through his experience with an African American preacher that love can be stronger, especially when the love is in numbers. In other words, if the oppressed keeps loving then the oppressors will never defeat them with their hate. “…with the rallying around Martin Luther King’s philosophy of non-violent resistance, that feeling of despair began to change to hope” (Griffin 120). What he means is that using a non-violent approach, such as love, will bring hope of stopping racism. Along his quest to learn how life is like with dark skin, learning about Martin Luther King’s movement is one of his inspirations. I resort to one of my favorite quotes and one that I feel Griffin lives by. “When we stop loving them, that is when they win” (Griffin 99). This is what the preacher man he stays with tells him. I think he learns that in order to get rid of the hate African Americans face, they should not behave like the racists do by resisting with more hate. He feels society is saturated with hate. Furthermore, he feels love will benefit the Civil Rights activists by inspiring them to also love and not hate. With this non-violent opposition, the oppressed teaches the oppressors that love is an unstoppable emotion. They cannot be broken by racism, because they are protected by love. Returning hate will continue racism in both race groups. Also, Griffin learns that the oppressed will not benefit from resorting to the same act of racism the oppressors do.
There have been a lot of activists against racism over the years. Out of these activists, appeared a number of effective approaches against the hate from racial Caucasians. Gregory and Griffin are two influences that bring a unique and non-violent approach to abolishing racism. If people can laugh with me, I feel they will not be laughing at me. If I can love, I feel I will receive more love instead of hate. Gregory with his humor and Griffin with his love, show these two non-violent approaches to be a more successful means to facing and defeating racism.
- Gregory, Dick. Nigger. New York: Pocket Books, 1964. Print.
- Griffin, John Howard. Black like Me. New York: Signet, 1962. Print.