The Color of Water

How can James relate to Christianity?

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Throughout his childhood, James finds himself in a constant state of confusion and curiosity regarding his family's background. When he asks his siblings about his race or his background, they tease, lie, or dismiss him. When he asks his mother about herself, she avoids the question or answers curtly. James attempts to negotiate these conflicting loyalties. He feels protective toward his mother, but at the same time, he lives in a mostly black neighborhood where the political atmosphere moves him to embrace the revolution

Chapter 6—The New Testament

In Chapter 6, James describes his mother's embrace of Christianity and black parishes and the emphasis she placed on religion in raising her children. He tells the story of how his older brother, Billy, whose memory was one of his greatest assets, drew a blank when it came his turn to recite a Biblical passage on Easter Sunday. Ruth refused to take the incident lightly, beating her son for his forgetfulness. The source of this book's title appears in this chapter when James remembers asking his mother a question about race. He asked, "What color is God's spirit?" and Ruth replied, "It doesn't have a color…. God is the color of water." James's siblings underwent similar periods of curiosity and doubt regarding race. For example, his brother Richie asked his Sunday school teacher why Jesus is always portrayed as a white man.


The color of water