We Blacks All Drink Coffee Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story begins in the middle of a fight between a mother and her daughter in the family home. Through the daughter’s stream of consciousness, it is revealed that the teenager wants to go pick coffee in the mountains with a school volunteer group. However, her mother fervently protests the co-ed excursion that will take a sheltered fifteen-year-old girl away from her home for a forty-five-day period. During the dispute, the mother tries to keep her temper in check, does not yell, and closes the windows so as not to be overheard by the neighbors. However, when the daughter continues to dismiss her mother’s reasons for disallowing the trip, the argument escalates into a contained rage.

What the daughter considers ridiculous excuses for not granting permission, the mother cites as good reasons that will avoid grave consequences. The mother reminds the teenager of the behavior expected of young white girls with good upbringing. Taking off to the mountains without parental supervision is unprecedented and unacceptable behavior within the extended family. Besides, the mother argues, the teenager may encounter all sorts of dangers out in the country, contract a disease, turn into a sickly burden, or become the object of town gossip. Sarcastic remarks by the daughter about guarding the family honor, getting pregnant, or falling in love with a black boy suggest just how out of date and exaggerated the mother’s worries seem to the teenager.

The daughter’s stream of consciousness reveals that coming into womanhood fuels her longing for independence from a home environment that she finds stifling. In the struggle for control, the daughter confronts the mother on her racial prejudice by questioning the family’s lily-white ancestry. Centuries of intermarriage between dark-skinned Moors and Spaniards in the mother country, the daughter contends, makes it difficult to prove any claim to a lineage of pure Spanish blood. After this final bull’s-eye blow to undermine the family name and the heritage it holds dear, the mother relents and tells the daughter that she is free to do as she pleases.