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The Theme of Hope in "Black Like Me" and "I Have a Dream"

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In John Howard Griffin’s novel, Black Like Me, hope is present in select places Griffin goes in the south where people fight racism and the black people haven’t yet “given up hope.” For example, Griffin finds that in Montgomery, Alabama, the black people fight racism no matter what the consequences are. He could not identify the white viewpoint, besides that they were a little upset-they didn’t want the black people assimilating into society, and that they were angry about their rebellion. But the black people who were fighting back sparked hope in Griffin because the lack of utter hopelessness he found in other cities he had travelled to. Griffin was picked up by a kind young black man on November 24th who provided him with hope. Even though the man was struggling to support his family, they were rich in the sense that they had unconditional love for each other. The family also had love for all humankind; they welcomed a complete stranger to eat meals with them and stay in their home for a night.

In A Place at the Table, teenagers from all different backgrounds were explaining the oppression their ancestors endured and how they were proud of them. Once they had each explained their stories, the teenagers realized they actually weren’t too different from each other, even though they are of different races. They became conscious of the fact that they are not alone and there are plenty of people they have for support and who they can depend on and empathize with. For example, the girl who had ancestors from Ireland said that they came over to America and they faced oppression just like the ancestors of the guy who were black slaves. All of their ancestors had to face oppression, when they expected America to be the “land of the free.” The main idea of hope from this movie was that everyone, no matter what background or race, has “a place at the table,” the table meaning America. Race should not matter. In Dr. King’s speech, I Have a Dream, King is talking about his hopes for the country. He explains how he wants everyone to realize they are equal no matter what skin color they have-just like the hope shown in Black Like Me and A Place at the Table. His speech demonstrates the hope of one individual, but a hope shared by many that are oppressed just like King.

Black Like Me changed my thinking of oppression significantly. I used to think oppression meant that you cannot fight back, and no matter what you do you are always oppressed. But now I realize that oppression does not necessarily have to come without the victim being unable to fight back. In fact, oppression can be greatly influenced if the victim stands up for themselves. It is even more effective to defend your position when you have people supporting you, and that is why I liked the hope found in all three sources I discussed. Most ideas anticipated by the oppressed are best carried out when there are other oppressed people fighting with them. Black Like Me didn’t change my opinions of stereotypes. I still think they are utterly unjust, unreasonable, and untrue. I was also shocked at some of the stereotypes introduced to me by Black Like Me, for example, when many of the white men Griffin caught rides with assumed that “the Negro man” has a more exciting, different sex life than the whites. They were obsessed with that stereotype and they failed to see that skin color doesn’t determine sex life anymore than hair color would.

From prior knowledge and past experiences with oppression, I know I have been inspired by others to have hope. For example, when people who are besieged by the same troubles “stick together” and help each other to overcome not only oppression but the day to day issues they encounter. This is present in the situations I described from Black Like Me. Some black people Griffin met were fighting for the greater good and were not acting defeated like other people he met-the difference was that they had hope.

All of these works connect by way of everyone rallying together and uniting against oppression. If we all, as a society or a people, keep our dreams alive, anything is possible. That is what having hope means. If you can believe something will happen, you have hope. Although one person can certainly change the way things are, mainly it is when people that believe the same thing unify that there can be change; and this is the main idea of Black Like Me, A Place at the Table, and the I Have a Dream speech. Taken from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “This is our hope…with this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

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The Theme of Hope in “Black Like Me” and “I Have a Dream”. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 20, 2021, from
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