Black Like Me

by

John Howard Griffin

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The Café Owner Character Analysis

An elderly black man who owns a café near the local YMCA in New Orleans. The café owner engages in discussions about race with Griffin, Mr. Gayle, and Reverend A.L. Davis, making especially noteworthy points about the pervasive economic injustice that racists use to ensure that it’s difficult for black people to attain upward mobility.

The Café Owner Quotes in Black Like Me

The Black Like Me quotes below are all either spoken by The Café Owner or refer to The Café Owner. 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.
November 8, 1959 Quotes

“Until we as a race can learn to rise together, we’ll never get anywhere. That’s our trouble. We work against one another instead of together. Now you take dark Negroes like you, Mr. Griffin, and me,” he went on. “We’re old Uncle Toms to our people, no matter how much educa­tion and morals we’ve got. No, you have to be almost a mulatto, have your hair conked and all slicked out and look like a Valentino. Then the Negro will look up to you. You’ve got class. Isn’t that a pitiful hero-type?”

“And the white man knows that,” Mr. Davis said.

“Yes,” the cafe-owner continued. “He utilizes this knowledge to flatter some of us, tell us we’re above our people, not like most Negroes. We’re so stupid we fall for it and work against our own. Why, if we’d work just half as hard to boost our race as we do to please whites whose attentions flatter us, we’d really get somewhere.”

Related Characters: The Café Owner (speaker), John Howard Griffin
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
November 10-12, 1959 Quotes

Our people aren’t educated because they either can’t afford it or else they know ed­ucation won’t earn them the jobs it would a white man. Any kind of family life, any decent standard of living seems impossible from the outset. So a lot of them, without even understanding the cause, just give up. They take what they can—mostly in pleasure, and they make the grand gesture, the wild gesture, because what have they got to lose if they do die in a car wreck or a knife fight or something else equally stupid?

Related Characters: The Café Owner (speaker), John Howard Griffin
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

They make it impossible for us to earn, to pay much in taxes because we haven’t much in income, and then they say that because they pay most of the taxes, they have the right to have things like they want. It’s a vicious circle, Mr. Griffin, and I don’t know how we’ll get out of it. They put us low, and then blame us for being down there and say that since we are low, we can’t deserve our rights.

Related Characters: The Café Owner (speaker), John Howard Griffin
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Black Like Me LitChart as a printable PDF.
Black Like Me PDF

The Café Owner Character Timeline in Black Like Me

The timeline below shows where the character The Café Owner appears in Black Like Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
November 8, 1959
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
...the “biggest problem” facing African Americans, Griffin says, “Lack of unity,” to which the elderly café owner says, “That’s it. Until we as a race can learn to rise together, we’ll never... (full context)
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Going on, the café owner says, “Now you take dark Negroes like you, Mr. Griffin, and me. We’re old Uncle... (full context)
November 10-12, 1959
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
...that his inability to find work is because of a larger “pattern” of “economic injustice.” The owner says that while a white boy has the incentive to go to college since he... (full context)
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
Going on, the owner says that black people can’t afford an education “ or else they know education won’t... (full context)
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
...we can’t measure up—disillusion us by showing us that we are, in fact, inferior.” The café owner adds that racists often accuse people who believe in equality of being communists. “We’ve reached... (full context)