The Color of Water Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 3 June 2017

The Color of Water

The Color of Water by James McBride was a story about a young boy trying to figure out his racial identity but his mother would not talk about her past or what race she was. All James knew was that she was white living in a black power neighborhood and that fact terrified him. He thought that to grow up he had to know his racial identity but through all the trouble and hard times he went through he learned that his race did not matter. It was his education that was the most important.

Ruth attitude about her race effected James through his childhood and as a young adult, she negatively affected his racial development, and Ruth eventually clears up his questions that he has been dying to get answers from. Ruth McBride’s attitude toward her own race affected her son, James McBride, as both a child and as a young adult. Ruth mainly looked down on her race because of her father. All he care about was money and the store, he did not care about his own wife or family. He also molested Ruth when she was a young girl.

When James was a young boy he always questioned her about race. He wanted to know if he was black or white and he also asked what color Jesus was. James mother would not completely answer his question. She responded saying that James was a human and education was all that mattered, and that Jesus was the color of water. As a kid, James knew that his mother was white, and that terrified him. He knew that a white lady living in a black neighborhood, also with black kids, was living in danger.

James really realized his mother’s danger when Ruth and James were walking home and a man came up and stole Ruth’s purse. James figured out how strong and brave or crazy his mother was when she did not fight the theft back and all she told James was that it was just a purse and it did not matter. When James grew up, he thought that Ruth was going crazy, and he didn’t respect her like he did in the past. If James would have known about his mother’s past, it wouldn’t have change much. He might have been more apologetic for her but that would be about it.

Ruth’s impact on James’s racial development is negative, but she had good intentions. James never knows what his racial background is and that bothers him throughout his life. If he would have known what his mother’s background was maybe then he would understand himself in his eyes, but it does not take your race to figure out yourself, it takes learning who you are on the inside. Ruth was trying to make it a positive impact on his racial development. Ruth knew that race did not matter, it was about what was on the inside of the person, but James did not understand that concept.

Race never concerned him by saying he was not going to associate himself with a person because of their background but he want to know about their race, and Ruth had no cares about their race, which is a better way to go at it. Ruth offers James confusion as he grapples with his racial identity as a younger boy, but she offers him clarity as a young adult. When James was young, Ruth would answer any of her questions and that bothered him but he knew not to push her to her limit or he would get the belt. He does not know what half of his race is, he know he was black from his father but knew nothing about his mother’s race.

Ruth was not ashamed to be a Jew, but she did not support Judaism because of her father, Tateh. She was not hiding the fact that she was a Jew from James but she did not want to think about everything that she ran away from when she left Suffolk, Virginia and her family, more importantly her mother, Hudis Shilksy. When James turns into the young adult he finds out that knowing your race does not help you in life like a good education does. Even though he has learned this Ruth starts to explain his questions about race to him. In the story The Color of Water, James has unanswered questions as a child.

At the end of the book James learns about Ruth’s race and he finds out his racial identity. James also finds out God’s color, He is the color of water and water is neither, black or white. Ruth had harmful memories when she was a Jew because of her father and when he might her first husband, Dennis, she changed her faith and found happiness. Ruth’s race affected Ruth which later on affected her son James negatively. Her angry about her past led to James’s confusion about his own racial identity, but later on got all his questions answered.

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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 3 June 2017

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