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Conflicts in The Color of Water Essay


Conflicts are everywhere. It is an inevitable part of life that society has to face. An individual rarely goes a whole day without facing some sort of trial. The magnitude of the conflict could range from a life affecting challenge to a miniscule problem as finding ones other shoe. Conflicts could be external against an opponent or adversary but in many cases conflicts are internal, mental battles within ones conscious. James McBride was an African American child growing up in Brooklyns intercity projects where he faced much adversity. James also faced internal hardship as he was unsure of his identity having a white mother. James McBride turned the conflicts, internal and external, he faced in his life journey into words in his book The Color of Water.

James teenage years were a challenge as he became negatively affected by bad people on the streets of Brooklyn. James decided to drop out of school and starting experimenting with drugs and alcohol with his new group of friends. He continued down this slippery slope as he and his gang started stealing from other people. His mother found out that he wasnt attending school so she sent him to live with his sister but he still lacked the motivation to continue with his education.

This problem was solved by a surprisingly source, an under-achieving member of a street corner. His name was Chicken Man and he changed James life for the better. He gave James the motivation and determination to get his life back in line and go back to school and continue his education. He went on to attend Oberlin University and later received a masters degree from Columbia University for journalism. He went on to become a very successful writer, composer, and saxophonist and still continues those activities today.

The major conflict of the book is the fact that James is confused with his racial identity and especially his familys background. James was perplexed growing up as his whole family and community were black except his mother, Ruth, who was white. He knew his mother was different, he just had trouble figuring how or why she was different. When he would ask his mother about his familys history, her mother would answer with very vague responses that would only increase James confusion. This growth of confusion led to making James think he was different as well. As he aged, he became more and more curious about his racial identity. One day he asked his mother whether he was white or black and his mother replied by barking, Youre a human being (McBride, 92.)

The problem was resolved as James visited his mothers hometown and finally persuaded Ruth to tell her life story. A story consisting of the journey from Poland to America, her first and forbidden love, her marriage to a black man, the establishing of a Baptist Church, and much more. The telling of the story helped James find himself and it revealed his true identity as he says in the book, I thought it would be easier if we were just one color, black or whiteNow, as a grown man, I feel privileged to have come from two worlds (McBride, 103.)

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