Monday, 26 October 2009

Exposing the colour of prejudice

How much does the colour of our skin make us who we are, and shape the way the world sees us?

The answer to that question may seem obvious now after decades of slow and uneven progress towards racial equality and enlightenment.

It would have seemed very different 50 years ago to the white Texan writer John Howard Griffin, when he embarked on one of the most remarkable one-man social and psychological experiments in history.

Griffin was the white man who fooled hundreds of Americans into believing he was a black man as he travelled through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia - and who felt at first hand the bigotry that meant.

In later life, the six-week venture - described in his book Black Like Me - was to expose him to the hatred and violence that underpinned that bigotry, too.

When he toured the South lecturing to white audiences about his experiences as a black man, he was threatened, intimidated and, on at least one occasion, seriously beaten.


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