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"For years the idea had haunted me, and that night, it returned more insistently than ever. If a white man became a Negro in the Deep South, what adjustments would he have to make? What is it like to experience discrimination based on skin colour, something over which one has no control ?
This speculation was sparked again by a report that lay on my desk in the old barn that served as my office. The report mentioned the raise in suicide tendencies among Southern Negroes. This did not mean that they killed themselves, but rather that they had reached a stage where they simply no longer cared whether they lived or died.
It was that bad, then, despite the white Southern legislation who insisted that they had a “wonderfully harmonious relationship” with Negroes. I lingered on in my office at my parents’ Mansfield, Texas, farm. My wife and children slept in hour home five miles away. I sat there, surrounded by the smells of autumn coming through my open window, unable to leave, unable to sleep.
How else except by becoming a Negro could a white man hope to learn the truth ? Though we lived side by side throughout the south, communication between the two races had simple ceased to exist. Neither really knew what went on with those of the other race. The Southern Negro would not tell the white man the truth. He long ago learned that if he speaks a truth unpleasing to the white, the white will make life miserable for him. The only way I could see to bridge the gap between us was to become a Negro. I decided I would do this. I prepared to walk into a life that appeared suddenly mysterious and frightening. With my decision of becoming a Negro, I realized that I, a specialist in race issues, really knew nothing of the Negro problem."
John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me, (1961).