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In the book, Griffin explains how he came up with his idea to try living like a black man for a while as a means of trying to understand how their lives are affected by racism and prejudice in the 1959-1960 South. He does this by presenting the material as a journal entry, allowing his thought process to flow, finally leading to the conclusion that you can never know another man unless you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. The first ‘chapter’ is presented as an introduction to the idea, the mechanics involved in putting it into motion and his arrival in New Orleans where he plans to make his transformation, but it ends before the transformation starts as he is still enjoying the comforts and fine lifestyle of the white man in the city. The second chapter outlines his change and his first experiences as a black man before he’s even become one. This is in the form of his doctor’s comments about the ‘nature’ of the black man as inherently violent the darker they are. When he first sees himself as a black man, he panics and feels like he isn’t himself anymore and this is somewhat verified as he is no longer able to do the kinds of things he was used to doing as a white man. The only positive difference he discovers is that the black people treat him better. Although he discovers an entirely different world in New Orleans, he learns about how much more difficult things are for blacks in Mississippi and decides that he needs to go there to understand the dynamics of what is going on.
There are so many experiences in the various chapters that it is impossible to list them all, but Griffin, in his journeys, discovers that the problem of racism isn’t just with the ignorant white people of the countryside, but that it rests more squarely on the shoulders of the educated white men that continue to create laws that make it possible for racism to continue. In
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