The Color of Water

How do religion and race help James figure out his own identity

The whole point was for him to find his identity

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When James asks his mother whether God is black or white, he is a boy living in a predominantly black community with a mother who looks white, and is simply expressing his personal confusion about race. To add to the confusion, however, his mother simply responds that she is "light-skinned". When his mother explains that God doesn't have a color, and that God is "the color of water", the image converges questions of racial and religious division into an essence that is clear and universally spiritual - in other words, "human". Religion is part of James's upbringing. His father's strong commitment to faith was carried on with Ruth. Ruth instills the disciplines that the Christian faith has in her kids.