Black Like Me


John Howard Griffin

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The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean Character Analysis

A young black child whom Griffin hires to help clean out his parents’ house after they move to Mexico. As they work together, the boy asks if Griffin’s children hate black people, and Griffin assures him that kids have to be taught such hateful viewpoints and that he and his wife would never teach their children these things.

The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean Quotes in Black Like Me

The Black Like Me quotes below are all either spoken by The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean or refer to The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Black Like Me published in 1960.
August 17, 1960 Quotes

We had a long conversation during which he brought out the obvious fact that whites teach their chil­dren to call them “niggers.” He said this happened to him all the time and that he would not even go into white neighborhoods because it sickened him to be called that. He said revealing things:

“Your children don’t hate us, do they?”

“God, no,” I said. “Children have to be taught that kind of filth. We’d never permit ours to learn it.”

Related Characters: John Howard Griffin (speaker), The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean (speaker)
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

The most distressing repercussion of this lack of communication has been the rise in racism among Ne­groes, justified to some extent, but a grave symptom nevertheless. It only widens the gap that men of good will are trying desperately to bridge with understanding and compassion. It only strengthens the white racist’s cause. The Negro who turns now, in the moment of near-realization of his liberties, and bares his fangs at a man’s whiteness, makes the same tragic error the white racist has made.

Related Characters: John Howard Griffin (speaker), The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean Character Timeline in Black Like Me

The timeline below shows where the character The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean appears in Black Like Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
August 17, 1960
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
...racists’ attack. As he wraps up his last few days at home, he hires a young boy (who is black) to help him clean out his parents’ house. As they work together,... (full context)