In a 250 word response, please consider one of the following questions concerning the memoir you read over the summer, composing a well organized, well supported response:
1.  In what ways is identity significant to both James and his mother?  How do their experiences in 20th century America shape and alter their identities?  Compare this to how contemporary American culture shapes your identity.
2.  Detail the ways in which prejudice and exclusion function in the memoir.  How do characters react to experiences of discrimination around them?  How would you describe issues of discrimination and prejudice today?  Be specific.
3.  In what ways does the past function as a powerful force for various characters in the memoir?  Do you think it is possible to escape the past in contemporary America?  Why or why not? 

Please write a well organized response that uses VERY specific examples from the text.  Most of your response should be connected to the text and supported via specific examples.  Feel free to use direct quotes. 

OPTIONAL:  Respond to another person's post with your thoughts/ideas about what he/she wrote. 
 


Comments

Jesse Waddington
09/10/2012 10:16am

In the memoir, James explains the hardships of prejudice and exclusion for both African Americans and Jews. Throughout the story he tells us the problems he, his siblings, and his mother have had because of this. For example, his older brother Dennis, he was the one who silently fought against prejudice acts of people, and would participate in the small acts for Civil Rights movements. While on the other hand, Helen, James’s older sister, would come home and yell about everything that was happening, and she would partake in major Civil Rights movements. Another example can be used for Ruth and her family. Her father was prejudice against practically anyone who wasn’t Jewish and African Americans. He would have the blacks pay more for things in his store, he call them names, and also threaten them. He also didn’t allow Ruth to go to her graduation because it was held in a Christen Church, so she was excluded from that event in her life, making her upset and regretful. Now, even though we say we are the “land of the free blah, blah, blah,” we still aren’t. We are still making laws there are discriminating against other people. For example, we discriminate against gays and bisexuals. We make laws for them not to marry or be together, but do we have the right to stop people from being happy? Even though they aren’t a race, its still prejudice to judge them as unlawful human beings, and to treat them like they aren’t even human.

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Mr. Brown
09/12/2012 6:04pm

Some nice examples from the book, Jessica. Is there some way you can tie your ideas back to one main idea? Otherwise, well done.

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betsy
09/13/2012 2:27pm

Big words :) i like how u tied in LGBT :P

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Johnesha Ragsdale
09/13/2012 7:39pm

i really agree with you Jesse i think you had some very nice examples from the book. Really good job i feel .

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Travon
09/15/2012 9:24am

I think this is put together well, i agree.

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amber
09/16/2012 10:29pm

JESSIE, YOU ARE EXPERT AT WRITING

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sean
09/10/2012 2:49pm

james and his mother were polar opposites in the fact that they lived very differet lives. the differences between them were significant in the way they were tought by their parentals. Ruth was always taught how bad African Americans, but she also fell in love with her first husband who was african american. James had a rough childhood and had no respect to white people. Theyre differences gave the entire family troublem and they were seperated. James struggled early which was the plot early on. His mother struggled when her husbands died and her kids turned on her. Ruth questioned her teachings as a child and tryed to figure out how to solve her problems. her relationship with james second guessed her beliefs.

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Cassandra Berkel
09/10/2012 4:49pm

In the memoir, The Color of Water, by James McBride both James and Ruth experience prejudice and discrimination in their lives. As a young child Ruth experienced discrimination as a Jew living in the South. She also witnessed her father being extremely prejudice against the African Americans, "He thought black folks were always trying to steal form him." (pg. 59) Even though he charged them more money than anyone else he still felt like they were the bad people. Later on when Ruth moved to a predominately black neighborhood she didn't feel very welcome considering she was a white women. Everybody treated her poorly but it didn't seem to effect Ruth that much. She always did what she thought was best whether it was surrounded by different types of people or not. Similarly, as James grew up he was exposed to the prejudice toward his family and his neighborhood. He saw some of his siblings even partake in the civil rights movement which opened his eyes to the discrimination even more. James was a little more impressionable then his mother but in the end he didn't let the discrimination effect him that much. Nowadays prejudice and discrimination are still around. Many people still hold prejudices toward certain races and discriminate against gays. There are even laws against gay people saying that they are not allowed to get married. Therefore we still have some of the same issues as we did in the past but we also have some new issues that need to be solved.

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Laura Shires
09/13/2012 2:10pm

I agree with all of your points. There is no hiding that James and Ruth had a difficult life, encountering prejudice every day. Today, the discrimination is a little different but it definitely still exists.

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Andrew Lipscomb
09/13/2012 7:49pm

Cassandra,

I agree that predjudice had a very significant effect on James and his mother Ruth, but I have to admit I found your sentences to be a bit rushed in pace, and lacking specific connections to events in the text. Overall though, you did quite well in presenting your view.

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Bryce Harlow
09/14/2012 10:06am

I agree with your points both Ruth and James experienced prejudice while growing up. It definitely shaped the way they live there everyday lives.
Love Bryce

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Andrew Lipscomb
09/10/2012 5:10pm

Color of Water blog response # 1:

Question: In what ways does the past function as a powerful force for various characters in the memoir? Do you think it is possible to escape the past in contemporary America? Why or why not?

Answer:
The past functions as a powerful force for various characters in the memoir; as such, it functions most significantly for James’ mother, Ruth. Ruth’s past (the life of a Jewish girl forced to live with an abusive father and a half crippled mother in the deep south) can certainly be seen as a powerful force; capable of motivating her to strive for a life of greater value and meaning, rather than remain in such an environment of adversity and despair as was her childhood. Despite the challenges of letting go of unhappy memories, it is possible to escape the past in contemporary America; at least to a certain extent, if an individual strives hard enough to move themselves forward through life and manages to settle into an adequate environment with a lifestyle that suits their needs. Ruth is one of many success stories in the world of individuals who, despite difficult conditions in her life; managed to overcome, and eventually far surpass the expectations set for her by the world. Though her bi-racial family’s life was difficult, Ruth strove to succeed; no matter how grim things were, trusting God to carry her through the strife. In her own words: “I hold on to god’s unchanging hand.” (After word, pg. 294)

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Mckethan Campbell
09/10/2012 6:22pm

In the memoir James and his mother Ruth both go though their fair share of prejudice and discrimination. Through the story James struggles with being biracial and has some what of a journey of self discovery to find himself. "I thought it would be easier if we were just one color, black or white. I didn't want to be white. My siblings had already instilled the notion of black pride in me. I would have preferred that Mommy were black. Now, as a grown man, I feel privileged to have come from two worlds.". This is showing how James he went from hating his mother's race to feeling grateful to have come from a mixed race union. In the book Ruth talks about living in Suffolk, Virginia in the 1920s and 1930s, when racial tensions reached a fever pitch. You know death was always around Suffolk, always around. "It was always so hot, and everyone was so polite, and everything was all surface but underneath it was like a bomb waiting to go off." I think discrimination is slightly less present today as it was back then due to the fact people are willing to stick up for each other. I don't think discrimination will ever be full removed from the world but we can work to make it less present.

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jimmy brown
09/14/2012 8:44am

we can work to make discrimination scarce in our communities i agree.

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jimmy johns
09/19/2012 11:27am

FREAKY FAST

Laura Shires
09/10/2012 7:48pm

The concept of identity has a big impact on lives, which is portrayed clearly in The Color of Water by James McBride. When Ruth was a Jewish girl, she found herself getting along with black people. This wasn't normal because she lived in the south. She had to sneak around to spend time with her black friend Frances. Her black boyfriend, Peter, treated her with decency while her father abused her. Her sense of identity changed depending on who she was with. Eventually, she wanted to forget her past completely and kept moving to different states. She didn't mention her past to her kids which left James in a difficult position. He was one of few biracial kids at the time. He couldn't figure out if he was black or white. He couldn't decide if he wanted to be a musician or a writer, or if he should be one of the rebellious men on the corner, or a fantastic student who graduated with a masters in journalism. His search for identity lead him to many experiences but the only way he could truly find it was by discovering the identity of his mom. Just as the American culture of the 20th century effected James and Ruth's identities, the 21st century culture has influenced me. Freedom of religion in America has caused me to be more open about my religion. Discrimination is less of an issue now and, likewise, I don't find myself thinking about it when I am with friends. Identity can direct how people live their lives.

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Katie Zitzer
09/13/2012 2:30pm

Laura,

I agree with you. I think identy is very important and it is a big part of the plot! You had a nice little essay!

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Taylor Slivinski
09/10/2012 9:22pm

In the memoir, “The Color of Water” by James McBride, both the author and his mother, Ruth, were discriminated against and experienced prejudices which shaped part of their identities. Growing up, James had an almost front row seat to the beginning of the civil rights movement. Whether it was his siblings participating in the actual movement or participating in their own way, he saw the symbols and the rise of black power through them. James was getting a firsthand look at how he and his family were discriminated against merely by the color of their skin. I believe that only further fueled James’s inner turmoil about how his being bi-racial, not specifically black or white, made him who he was. Unbeknownst to James, this was a subject that his mother was already very well versed in. Being a white, Jewish girl from the south with an intensely strict family, she experienced much of the same prejudice and discrimination in her childhood that James saw unfold before him. Not only did her father discriminate against them, when she began secretly dating a black man at this point in time the weight fell on her shoulders. This became more real when in 1942 she married a black man, Andrew McBride, and was disowned by her family because of it. Yet, that didn’t stop her. Over the years it had seemed that she had almost grown immune to “the stares and remarks, the glances and cackles that we heard as we walked about the world”(pg.100) because she was happy, to the point where those negativities about her and her family “went right over her head.” (pg.100) It didn’t matter if people talked because she was white or because she had 12 black children, she ignored them every step of the way, because Ruth knew that she was not only marrying a man that she loved, but she got to raise her children the way she wanted to despite the murmurs of a crowd. Whether it was 1942 or 2022, discrimination or prejudice toward groups of people isn’t something that will die out over-night. There will be people who believe the stereotypes and judge a person before they even know their names. Take people who wear turbans for instance, won’t they get checked out thoroughly before they board an airplane, regardless if they’ve lived in America all their lives? Essentially, no one is safe from prejudice, discrimination or being judged, but it all depends on how you let it affect you and your identity. In the case of Ruth, she turned it to stick in people’s faces, that she didn’t care what they thought. With James, he realized that how people look at you based on race doesn’t matter when you have your own identity.

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Andy Winston
09/11/2012 6:52pm

I really agree with one idea that I read in your paragraph, that other people influence one's identity. You can't be born racist, for example.

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Mr. Brizzown
09/13/2012 7:44am

I really agree with what Taylor said regarding identity formation. I think that much of the way Ruth acts as an older mother was determined via her upbringing and the prejudice she experienced.

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Isaiah Agara
09/11/2012 6:14am

In the memoir, The Color of Water, the past functions as an influential force for various characters including Ruth and James McBride. Ruth’s melancholy past shaped her religious, social, racial, and parental views. Growing up in a strict, Orthodox Jewish family, with an abusive rabbi for a father, brought Ruth to the conclusion that the lifestyle of Judaism was not for her. To rebel against her troubled past and help move on from it, Ruth became a Christian with the help of her first husband. Because Ruth was a quiet, bowlegged, poor, foreign Jewish girl, she was not widely accepted by her white classmates and neighbors, but was accepted by her African-American peers. This in turn, caused Ruth throughout her life to identify with black people and hold certain prejudices against whites, therefore shaping Ruth’s views on race. Finally, Growing up with a strict father that sexually, emotionally, and financially abused Ruth and mistreated Ruth’s mother affected the way she raised her family. She instilled the values of having a close-knit family into her children, so that they would not have to grow up in a dysfunctional family as she did. The affects of Ruth’s past demonstrated that it is impossible to escape the past in contemporary America, because we are all shaped by our past experiences, which makes us all who we are today.

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Koh Woojai
09/13/2012 4:41pm

I wholeheartedly agree with you. After all, a painful memory lives and a beautiful memory leaves.

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Andy Winston
09/14/2012 7:00am

I agree with the idea that both main characters' past shaped them. I'm not sure if Ruth has a prejudice against whites, since she does state that everyone is the color of water.

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Zach Pfannerstill
09/18/2012 10:30am

I would agree with you. She does appear to hold certain prejudices against whites, although I think this is more directed against certain professions than the entire group.

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09/11/2012 8:02am

Ruth's father,Tateh, was racist, and overcharged his black customers. Ruth resisted her father's prejudices and sympathized with the black people in her town. She recognized that the Ku Klux Klan, and the white population in general, fostered a tenes, violence atmosphere. As a Jew, Ruth found herself excluded from the white world of the south, and felt she could partially identify with the hardships of her black neighbors.

Ruth's adult life differed greatly from her life with her family in Suffolk. She married a black man, Andrew Dennis McBride, and became Ruth McBride. She had eight children with Dennis, McBride, who dies while Ruth was pregnant with her son James. The family lived in Harlem together for years. In Harlem, Ruth lost the privilege she had enjoyed in the south. She worked at draining, poorly paid jobs. She socialized exclusively with black people, and essentially lived the life of a black woman.

Ruth converted from Judaism to Christianity after her move to New York. She became increasingly involved with local churches, and eventually opened her own church with her husband. Ruth's parents had forced Judaism on her, causing her to resent religion. She embraced Christianity because she discovered it on her own. After her separation from her family, Ruth need some source of relief from the guilt she felt, and she found that relief in Christianity's emphasis on the power of forgiveness.

The issues of discrimination and prejudice today is important to understand those concepts, and know and undersign what is going on in the world about discrimination and prejudice. It makes an impact on us because if people learn about these terms, than people will understand that they are wrong things, and people will never so it, in the future.

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Rose
09/13/2012 6:26pm

I agree with you totally Christine. It isnt right for one to sell products to somebody for more money just because of their skin color. When it comes to people being Prejudice today it is seen all over the place.

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jimmy brown
09/11/2012 9:07am

In the color of water both james and his mother are affected greatly by image.

Growing up James' mother lived in a strict jewish family with a unloving farther, when coming to the states she couldn't make any friends and grow socially because her father couldn't get a job as a minster. also she was sexually abused by her father. when growing up disrimination was strong where she came from but it was un heard of for a jewish kid to fall in love with a black kid. the black kid got her pregnant and she was secretly moved to with her auntes who took care of her but didn't like her. She fell in love with a black man and was considered dead to her family for it.
When james was growing up he lived in a black neighborhood with 11 other brothers and sisters, a white mother which always brought the question " mommy are you black" or something like that. His mother couldn't keep track of all her kids so he began to skip school, smoke, and petty robbery which drove his mother to send him to his grandfathers up south and there he learned jazz and built a better character.

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Shawn McCormack
09/11/2012 10:06am

For James, his identity was his lifelong question. He desperately struggled with the question of whether he was black or white. James mother, Ruth, also had a problem learning where she fit in. She had to put up with an abusive father and a strict and punishing religion. Ruth found peace with her first husband, Dennis. Dennis taught Ruth about Christianity. Even though Ruth and Dennis faced many challenges him being black and her being white she found where she belonged. James struggled finding where he fit in because he is half white and half black. James was torn between his black heritage and the part of him that was white. James had many siblings and sometimes they added to his identity crisis even more by telling him that he was adopted, this sometimes caused him to go into the bathroom and yell at himself in the mirror. During the time James was growing up there were lots of movements for black power. This tore him because part of him supported this and the other half was fearful for his mother’s life. During James teen years he hung out on a corner drinking, their he met a man who made him think about what he wanted out of life. When James learned that the man was stabbed over something trivial he got himself off the corner. James then went to a college and got a degree in journalism. He bounced around many jobs trying to find what he wanted to with himself. He then found what he wanted to do, write and play music. I don’t know that many people who went through this type of crisis because it seems that nowadays there aren’t these types of racial problems that I know about.

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Ryan Eggers
09/11/2012 11:35am

In the story “The Color of Water” by James McBride the use of prejudice behavior and exclusion are a dominant in the novel. The fact Ruth was married and had children with a black man narrowed her places to live and opportunities in New York. Her biological family and white people in general did not respect Ruth due to the fact that she was married to a black man. At the time this was not very common to happen, especially considering where she was raised and the family she was raised in. The way the characters react to the discrimination differs from one another. James notices that blacks and whites have serious hate for one another; however, doesn’t understand until later in his life. Ruth on the other hand ignores the discrimination and goes about her own business despite everything she has been through and the hatred people have towards her. Ruth has very strong feelings towards anybody who uses racism against her or who would threaten he children due to the fact that they are black. In today’s world discrimination isn’t as bad today, even though some people still do face discrimination such as women in the working society. Most discrimination has been eliminated due to the events, which occurred during McBride’s time and life. Prejudice behavior; however, still exists today even though it isn’t as bad. There are still people who think negatively about other races and still use racial terms against them, which can cause conflict. Much of the racism in today’s world is a result of people, parents or gangs who teach or influence people about racism. Most racism today starts at a young age and continues on. The novel “The Color of Water” shows many examples about how life was back then and how it effects his life today.

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Bria Virgil
09/11/2012 1:26pm

In the memoir "The Color of Water" by James McBride, the past plays an important role in Ruth's life, James' life, and ultimately their future's. The upbringing of Ruth's life sets up the whole story. Although Ruth's Father was strict, demanding, prejudice, and abusive his beliefs ultimately makes Ruth such a strong and dynamic character. In his attempt to overrule her and break her, he sets her up, builds structure, and makes her beliefs strong. Because of her upbringing she stays strong in her faith, makes sure her kids get the most from their education, make sure they value any luxuries given. The prejudice beliefs of her father helps her to teach her children to look at people not by their skin and ethnicity but by the morals that build their foundation. These same beliefs that she learned from her father is the same beliefs that help James when he questions, his purpose in life, his identity, and that ways of the world. I don't believe you should escape the past because I believe that each past event, idea, and thought is a piece that you can learn from. James McBride used his Mothers' past and gained knowledge to how to establish his future. I believe their is certain parts of the past that shouldn't be repeated, but knowing not to repeat is also knowledge.

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Angelique Hernandez
09/13/2012 7:33pm

I completely agree with Bria. The way Ruth was brought up as a child really made Ruth the mother she became.

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Andrew Kubczak
09/11/2012 1:54pm

How is idenity significant to James and his mother. James wanted to no who he was. For example he wanted to no about his Jewish family and were they all went to/were they are. He went looking for some awnsers later in his life by going down to the south were his mothers family lived and found out that they have moved all over the country. He went to the spots that the people in town said to go to but he did not find any of his mothers family members the just vanished. Now for his mother she just wants to forget about her life down in the south. The reason why she does is because her father abuised her and her family was very very strict. They also did not respect Ruth at all. So she moved found good people as in her husbands and just forgot about it completely. In the 20th century James starts to understand everything better. In doing so it makes him more educated in who he is and who his family is. For Ruth the 20th century i think made her stronger as a person she overcame many many things. Contemporary America shapes me in saying that i don't think all what happened in the book is gone from America today. For example racism is still around today but not as much as it was back when James was growing up.

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phillip poliakov
09/11/2012 3:19pm

In the story "The Color of Water" by James McBride, the past functions as a powerful force for various characters. The past has an impact mostly in Ruth’s life. Ruth grew up in a strict Orthodox Jewish family with a crippled mother and an abusive father in the South. This motivated her to find a better life for herself, and so she left her old life behind which included her family and home. She also converted to Christianity, after marrying a black man as a form of rebellion towards her father. All the things she had witnessed as a teenager made her into the mother she was. She never told her children about her past, instead she taught her children important principles in life, like school and church, so they would succeed and get somewhere in life. When Ruth eventually told James of her past, he also used his Ruth’s past to be successful. Although Ruth faced all those problems early on in her life she still persevered and had twelve successful children. That just goes to show that even though early on in Ruth’s life she faced obstacles, she was motivated to find a better life for herself. I believe that anyone can escape their past because they can just run away and forget everything, but it’s important to remember your past so you can learn from it and use it as motivation to better your life. To sum up, the past is an important part of every person’s life because your past experiences are what shape your life.

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luke
09/13/2012 11:01am

i agree with phil he has all the right points :p

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Sam Emond
09/13/2012 8:58pm

I agree with Phillip the past is a factor in Ruths life,

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/
09/14/2012 6:03am

PHILLOHP

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Amber Flechner
09/11/2012 3:28pm

In the memoir "The Color of Water" by James McBride, identity is important to James and his mother because they seem to be complete opposites. The way that people would treat Ruth for being Jewish and then it got even worse when she married a man of different color. Her own family disowned her for it. James's identity was partially shaped by his mother (who taught him that color didn't matter) and other peoples prejudice about him being a mixed child. I see it as extremely different from how American culture has shaped myself, more accepting and indifferent to ethnicity.
Prejudice and exclusion is almost constantly present throughout the book. Some examples include Ruth being born outside the country and her father holding this fact over her her whole childhood and her moving to the south to be ostracized because for being Jewish. James also experiences tough obstacles such as being looked at oddly for having a white mother and wondering about who he really is. There are still quite a few problems with prejudice today unfortunately. Some people are racist, homophobic, and sexist. There are even cases and lawsuits about different kinds of discrimination and hate crimes. The past affects many characters in this book. Ruth is shown many times to be conflicted with silent problems. Her life story takes up about half the book and so we get to learn about her past; her birth, her childhood, her teenage years and adulthood. Ruth's life has never been easy, but it seemed to make her want to keep moving forward and to raise her children as best as she could. James also learns many lessons throughout his life as well. whether it was something he saw, something someone did, or something someone said. I believe that it is possible to escape your past, if you accept that there was nothing to be done about it. You can either run from it, or learn from it.

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Jesse Waddington
09/13/2012 5:55pm

It was nicely said. But you didn't need to do all three, but again it was nicely said.

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amber
09/16/2012 10:31pm

I didn't know that -_-

Betsy Wilson
09/11/2012 3:32pm

There are many examples of prejudice and exclusion function in “The Color of Water” by James McBride. In the first ten words you can tell that there is exclusion from Ruth family “….here I been dead to them for 50 years.” She was dead to her family because she renounced her Judaism became a Christian, and she also married a black man. In today’s society this would (usually) be perfectly acceptable to change religion and marry out of your race. Throughout the whole book you can experience prejudice of people in the late 1900s. The main examples in this book are how Ruth marries a black man and renounced her Judaism. Because she did this she is shunned by most Jews, and most white people. James McBride faced a few different problems of his own. He grew up and was to a certain extent excluded from the white community because he was part black. He was however overall accepted by the black community. As a young child James excluded himself from the community around him, as he spent most of his time only with his family. As he was growing up he was deprived from knowing about his racial, religious, and social identity. As a young child James also felt embarrassed due to the fact that he was black and his mother was white while his friends mothers were all the same color as he was – black.

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alexia wallace
09/11/2012 3:53pm

james an his mother where very diffrent he didnt know what he or she was all he knew was what people called them an that his mother as so much diffrent from everyone else she didnt talk to anyone an she made sure he didnt talk an tell what goes on in thier house.

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Jordan Cleveland
09/11/2012 4:16pm

In the memoir "The Color of Water" by James McBride, the way in which prejudice and exclusion function is preventing James and his family from functioning like everyone else that lived in their town. James and his mother where stared at, made fun of, and treated completely differently from everyone else just because of their skin colors. People didn't like the fact that his mother was white and bowlegged, and James was black. They felt that it was wrong for two different skin colors to be together. At one point, a local store clerk wouldn't accept a return on spoiled milk just because James asked and he was African American. James can control his temper well because he is so use to it; he just walked away when the clerk dennied his request to return the spoiled milk. His mother on the other hand marched up to the store and got in a heated argument with the store clerk. In today's world, discrimination and prejudice still exist. Although these issues happen a lot less and are not as noticeable as they used to be, some people still treat others differently because of their skin color, religion, sex, and many other reasons. An example of discrimination today is that women are still being paid less to do the same exact job as a men are.On an average, women earn only 77% of what men do. As a community, a state, and a nation, we need to put a stop to making discrimination okay. In the memoir "The Color of Water" by James McBride, the ways in which prejudice and exclusion function are preventing James and his family from functioning like everyone else that lived in their town.

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Christine Love-Sewell
09/13/2012 2:25pm

I agree with Jordan he has all the right points.

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Sara Yang
09/13/2012 7:39pm

I like how you use good examples and explained more about what prejudice and exclusion function had in the past and present time.

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Arianna Cohen
09/14/2012 6:35am

I agree with your statement that as a community, state, and nation, we need to stop making discrimination acceptable. There are many groups that get discriminated against and there needs to be someone who is willing to put a stop to it.

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Rachel RAbenn
09/14/2012 5:48pm

I really agree with you Jordan. The examples that you chose really helped convey your points. I think that today people discriminate still but do it discreetly as opposed to in the older days when they would go around screaming their views.

Larie Bowden
09/11/2012 4:27pm

In the memeoir ruth and james both experienced prejudice and discrimination. Ruth was a jew livimg in the south and watched her father being racist and judging people of the oppisite color, but ruth didnt follow in his foot steps she was married to black and and hung with them. everyone treated her poorly buut it really didnt affect her. james had the deal with it also because his family didnt except colored people. today i dnt think there is much discrimination going on but certainly its not gone.

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Taylor Mackey
09/13/2012 5:34pm

I agree with Larie on the aspecet of the discrimination towards James and Ruth. Although I feel that there is still discrimination in todays world, for example women are not getting payed the same amount as men in the work force.

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Johnesha Ragsdale
09/11/2012 4:32pm

In the story “The Color of water “by, James McBride James explains how he experienced prejudice and segregation for both African Americans and Jews. In the story James tells us the reader the problems him and his mother had to face because of prejudice and segregation. In the story it shows that Ruth James mother experienced prejudice and segregation because of her father. Her father was prejudicing against anyone who wasn’t Jewish he really disliked African Americans. In the book Ruth told us how her father would make blacks pay more for things in his store than other races that he cared for; he also would call them names, and also threaten them and make them feel as if they are not human. He didn’t allow Ruth to go to her graduation because it was held in a Christen Church. Even though Ruth wasn’t black or any other race other than Jewish Ruth still experience segregation and prejudice acts because Ruth was not able to love who she wanted to love and live life the way she wanted live it because of what someone wanted her to live. To touch basis on James and how he experience segregation and prejudice .As James grew up he was exposed to the prejudice and segregation toward his family. Most of James life he saw prejudice from seeing some of his siblings partake in the civil rights movement which opened his eyes to the discrimination or experiencing it him self .To bring this subject into present life there is still discrimination and segregation going around. For example voting, the government is not allowing those who can’t afford a ID to vote. I feel that is discrimination in many ways and I feel that segregation is every where. I feel that the book the color of water has many examples of what kind of discrimination happens in today’s society.

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Hopee
09/14/2012 11:28am

Good explanation Johnesha I agree with you. I Like how you where very descriptive.

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Koh, Woojai (Michael)
09/11/2012 4:45pm

No. 2
In what ways does the past function as a powerful force for various characters in the memoir? Do you think it is possible to escape the past in contemporary America? Why or why not?

In the memoir “Color of Water”, Ruth hid her past since, well, it was horrible. She was trying to escape from the past, but really couldn’t, since, after all, her past was too traumatic for her. The past did affect her greatly for she was still a creature of experience. The memories and trauma she gained in the past haunted her for a part, if not whole, of her life. She tried her hardest to forget all that happened to her, the good or bad, since the good memories led her to remember the bad memories. However, although she couldn’t forget all that happened to her, she was not owned by the past, nor did she mingle in her past trying to give a meaningless payback. Instead, she learned from the past and taught her children with two important factors that she couldn’t have, or did have but couldn’t fully devour it—education and God. She taught her children the importance of learning and living a life of faith, not wanting them to have the same past as she does. Thus, she learned from her painful past and was able to go forward.
What I really want to say is that no matter how hard we try, no matter how desperate we are, no one can forget the past, well, unless they had a mental disease. This is so even in our time, at America, or any other time, at any other place. However, no matter how worse the situation looks, no matter how horrible our pasts is, we can always learn from the past, and what’s more, we can move forward and make ourselves the next Ruth, the mother of happiness.

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Taylor Mackey
09/11/2012 4:55pm

In the memoir " The Color of Water" identitiy is significant to james and his mother because it is what helps them understand themselves. Ruth, for example, didn't want James to know anythinng about her. She would also tell all of her children not to go and tell anything about their family to any of their friends. As a kid, Ruth was teased and made fun of because she was jewish. Therefore later in her life, when she moved to New York and married Dennis, she converted to christanity because she felt that christians were more acceptent and didn't judge. As she got older she tried to leave the identity she had in Suffolk and she started a new one when she got married. James on the other hand wanted to know excatly who he was. He would ask his mom what race he was and she would say "you are a human being". James was confused and never really knew who he was until he got older and found himself. Being in the 20th century some things of your identity was not acceptable. For example being jewish or black was looked down upon. So Ruth and James were hit with hardships because they were considered different. Contemporary America shapes our identity by saying no matter what you are be yourself.

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Akili James
09/15/2012 1:24pm

I agree to what Taylor is saying. She has good points and examples to show her point of view of the memoir.

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Arianna Cohen
09/11/2012 5:27pm

In the memoir, The Color of Water, by James McBride, James dictates a story about his and his mothers experience with prejudice in their lifetime. Ruth’s family was Jewish. Based on experience I can say that being Jewish opens you up to a whole different kind of prejudice. Ruth’s father was also prejudice against African Americans. Ruth wanted to escape her lifestyle of prejudice and moved to a black neighborhood, where she also experienced prejudice being a white woman. Though Ruth was treated poorly, she overcame and didn’t let her prejudice change who she was. Just as Ruth did, James experienced prejudice. Not knowing what color he truly was, having a black father and a white mother. His eleven other siblings also experienced prejudice and participated in the civil rights movement. There was a time of his life where his prejudice got the best of him and he made some poor choices, but like his mother, he overcame. I don’t believe that prejudice will ever be abolished. Races, religions, lifestyle choices, even genders all experience some form of prejudice. There will always be ignorant people in the world. Some laws against discrimination against women were created, but what about the discrimination of homosexuals. They aren’t allowed to wed freely. They have to go to certain states to get married to the one person they truly love. Isn’t that a form of prejudice? I do not believe that prejudice will ever go away, but there are many things people can do to stop the prejudice and make the world a better place to live for everyone.

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Jeni Hansen
09/13/2012 8:36pm

I agree with you about how Ruth and James both overcame people being prejudice towards them, and how prejudice will never be abolished.

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Colin laskowski
09/11/2012 5:53pm



IN the book color of water by James McBride, James and his mother Ruth’s identity is very important. Ruth was raised in a very strict Jewish home, where she was taught to hate African Americans. She also had a very rough life with her father who sexually abused her. Later Ruth married a black man (Andrew Dennis McBride) they had 8 kids together one of them was James. When Ruth was pregnant with James her husband Dennis passed away. James and Ruth are similar in this way James grew up without a father and Ruth grew up with a very abusive one. When James was younger he was not very accepting of his mother because she was white and he was black. Because of his large family James started skipping school, and participating in bad activities with friends. he later moved to his grandparents and grew into a man, who cared about his mother and his life.

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Matt Brown
09/13/2012 10:10am

I agree with Colin and the whole Ruth theory . Ruth had a rough life and so did her parents so she would hear about it in her household.

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Philohp Poliakov
09/13/2012 4:27pm

i agree with Colin laskowski-lohp, he has some good information and he obviously knows what hes reading.

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cyrinthia reasby
09/11/2012 5:59pm


In the memoir James and his mother are two different colors. So James wants to know why they are different,and where he gets his color from. His mother Ruth is a white jewish woman.James wanted to no who he was. James is a son of a black minister and his mother is a woman who would not admit she was white. James McBride grew up in orchestrated chaos with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Ruth did not want to discuss the painful details of her early family life. James weaves his own life story into his mother's story. In the 20th centry james became stronger he became convinced of the importance of self-reliance and hard work. He began to trust in God and to work toward self-improvement, honing his skills in jazz music and writing. Ruth in the 20th centry I think she became stronger to because she overcame alot.contemporary american shaped me to say that some of the this in the 20th centry havent changed and some have changed. The racism isnt really around today but there are some still around. All the things that happened in the book arent happening now.Some are still happening just not as bad as it was in when james was getting older.

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Deajia Cooper
09/13/2012 1:53pm

i agree with you when yous say " All the things that happened in the book arent happening now. Some are still happening just not as bad " , and that is true . it may be a little calmer but i think things will never change and this is the way things will be for a life time .

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larie bowden
09/13/2012 6:57pm

i agree with cyrinthia she made some pretty valid points

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Haamed Edalatpour
09/11/2012 6:21pm

In what ways is identity significant to both James and his mother? How do their experiences in 20th century America shape and alter their identities? Compare this to how contemporary American culture shapes your identity.

In the memoir, "The Color of Water," the identities of James and his mother, Ruth, are very significant to their lives. Ruth has a rough past, that is kept very secretive by Ruth. The kids share these secrets in a very secretive manner. Ruth, who is white, tells the kids that they are the color of water in order to hide her identity as a past jewish woman. James must hide his identity as well. He is told by his mother to not share anything about their lives to anyone, and only stay close to his siblings. During this time in 20th century America, things were tense between african americans and white people. Ruth is not looked upon by others in a good way at all because she is white, with black looking children. She recieves many threats, and many racial slurs are thrown her way. Somehow she is able to stay strong with the adversity and hurdle through the challenges that come her way in past America. In contemporary America, it is extremely simple to shape your identity with whats happening around you. You can compare it to if a certain word is said that seems funny, then other people will say it and repeat it until it spreads, but eventually this dies down. Our identity is shaped the same way. The way we act is always gonna be different from middle school, to our adult days. Everything around you progresses and is constantly changing.

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Isaiah Agara
09/17/2012 11:06am

I agree that past events shaped Ruth and James's identities. I also agree that the same is true for people today.

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Nick Gauss
09/11/2012 6:24pm

In the story "The Color of Water" by James McBride, James and his mother Ruth both experience prejudice and discrimination throughout their lives. Ruth was raised in a strict Jewish family down in the South. This made it hard to grow up with the people she lived around. Ruth's father was very racist towards African people. This is ironic because Ruth later gets pregnant with a mixed child. Her father was very angry. Eventually Ruth's father pushed her away so much that she ran away to New York. Being a white woman in a black community, she didn't get much respect. Ruth didn't mind being around these people though, she was a strong person. Ruth's son, James, experienced the same discrimination in his life. James and his siblings were mixed children because Ruth married a black man. James hated prejudice people and didn't like to be around it. Then he saw his siblings participate in the civil rights movement, and heard his mother's story about her life. When James heard and saw this he became a stronger person. He didn't let the racism and discrimination get to him as much. Discrimination and prejudice definately still exists today, but I would say that it has gotten a lot better. We have laws against hate crimes and our country is becoming way more diverse. Growing up with this cultural diversity is good for society. People get more "used" to the idea of living with people out of the ordinary. Racism and discrimination are still a problem, but not as bad as it was.

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Colin Laskowski
09/13/2012 3:18pm

I really agree with what nick said he hit all the main points! :! $$$$

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.
09/14/2012 5:30am

no colin..

Bryce Harlow
09/11/2012 6:46pm

Color of Water blog response # 1

In the memoir, The Color of Water, by James McBride the past plays a huge role in how James and Ruth were brought up. Starting with Ruth, she was brought up in a strict Jewish family in the deep south with an abusive father and a mother with polio. Ruth lived a very hard life which played a huge role in the book because she did not give in or quit. She put her happiness in front of her family when she left to move to New York. James was given a little better life to work with but it was still rough. He had to grow up living with 11 brothers and sisters in poverty. Also James's father died when he was 14 which is the hardest age for a boy to lose his father. Ruth proved that no matter how grim your life is you can strive for success. And she accomplished that. Even with the poor life she lived, having 12 children and living in poverty she pushed all her children to extreme success in life. Ruth made sure all of her children went off to school so they could learn to be independent. I believe that the era you grow up in affects how you think majorly. But Ruth strayed away from that.

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sean leahy
09/13/2012 1:51pm

great detials and supporting facts. boo yah!

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Ben Fischer
09/13/2012 5:50pm

I completely agree with you Bryce. Identity is important to both James and Ruth and both had a very hard past, Also you supported your points nicely. Lohp lohp

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Andy Winston
09/11/2012 6:49pm

Identity is a very crucial part of both the two main characters in The Color of Water and in real life. To begin, identity is very important to both Ruth and James in the story. For Ruth, an abusive father, an unloving family, and a racist southern society make her want to completely change herself and her life. For James, the ideas of education and religion were a great part of the identity of the family. However, James doesn’t understand his family identity since his mom hides it, telling him to educate himself. With James’s stepfather’s death, James starts drugs and alcohol, worsening the identity crisis. One factor that turns James around was the Chicken Man saying, “If you want to drop out of school…go ahead. It’s your life!” (150)

In addition, the surrounding 20th century environment impacts both characters. The thick racism in the south, in addition to other factors, causes Ruth to not want to return to the south again. She even wants to leave Delaware when she sees the racism there; it reminds her of the south. James is affected by Ruth’s attitude toward racism by being told that everyone is the color of water. This 20th century racism continues until today in this story; the sons’ and daughters’ childhood was during the Civil Rights Movement. Helen even becomes a hippie and runs away, not wanting the “white man’s education.” (72)

However, the contemporary American culture affects my identity differently. I am strictly against racial discrimination because of learning about the topic of racial and religious segregation and discrimination. I try to stay in style and act cool; the media and other peers act this way and I would like to act in a similar manner. Real life and The Color of Water has a crucial thing in common: identity.

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Rachel Rabenn
09/11/2012 6:49pm

3. In the memoir, The Color Of Water, by James McBride, Ruth had a very complex and difficult past but seemed to escape it as she transitioned into adulthood. Ruth, James’s mother, grew up in an extremely orthodox and abusive household. Her father was very racist and a cold-hearted man who treated his wonderful Jewish wife horribly and even sexually abused his own daughter. Because of her rough childhood, Ruth realized that she wanted to turn to another religion later in her life: that of Christianity. She became very religious and Christianity became a huge component of her and her children’s lives because she believed that it helped her escape her past as well as grow as a strong and independent person. Because Ruth really had no friends of her own except for a girl named Frances while she was growing up, she turned to people more willing to accept her: that being the African American community. Ruth’s father was a very racist man and said to her if you marry a African American never come home. Ruth did just that because she felt safe and at home with the three African American men that she shared relations with throughout her life. Ruth was able to escape her awful past by switching to a new religion and surrounding herself with people who care for her even if that meant leaving her biological family because she realized that the life she was living was not a pleasant one. Her success from her past is evident in her twelve successful children that she raised. I think that it is harder to escape your past in contemporary America because with the new technology it can be hard to erase your identity and start over like Ruth had done.

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Emily mone
09/13/2012 3:02pm

I agree with you about Ruth's past and that it would be hard to start over in contemporary America.

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Ben Fischer
09/11/2012 7:14pm

In the memoir, The Color of Water, by James McBride, the past functions as a powerful force for various characters. James, along with the rest of the eleven children, I think use the past as motivation to do the things they have accomplished in their lives. Living with mostly just a mother and living in not the best conditions make the children feel like they have to be something important in the world. Being criticized for the color of their skin and where they come from also functions as a powerful force. The children not only wanted to be something important to prove many people wrong, but to do it for their mother. Ruth, the mother did everything she could do for her children to make sure they had the best possibility to succeed in life. I think Ruth does this because she doesn't want to be like her parents (mostly her father). Ruth, had a horrible life growing up as a Jewish child in the South. Her father was a rabbi and a store owner. All he cared about was money, he didn't care for Ruth, her sister, or her mother. Her father molested her as a child and didn't allow her to do anything besides go to school and her in the family store. Being kicked out of the family and knowing how bad it is to be treated horrible by your father, I think forces Ruth to try to be the best parent she can possibly be. Giving her children as many lessons and possibilities as she could while they were young made them who they are. Ruth also did a good job escaping from her past and I think you can escape from your past but, it depends on the type of person you are and what your past was like.

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Cameran "Jimmie" Patterson
09/11/2012 7:46pm

In the memoir, The Color of Water by James McBride the past functions as a very powerful voice in the lives of Ruth. Ruth came to the states at a very young age as a Jewish Polish immigrant. In her youth years Ruth had to endure sexual, mental, and physical abuse from her father who was a rabbi. Her father forced her to work long hours in the store he ran on the black side of town where he often defrauded black customers due to his radical racial views of them. It wasn’t easy for Ruth growing up in the south in a strict Jewish household as she also had to her adulterous father. With the oppression surrounding the life of Ruth she had to seek a way out. Unfortunately, on that way out Ruth got pregnant by a black man and was disowned by her family. She elected to move to Harlem to escape her painful past. There she met her husband Dennis whom helped her convert to Christianity. The past of Ruth has molded the beautiful character described in this memoir. The racial discrimination she witnessed in her past helped her to understand that a person is a person regardless of his skin color. The abuse she went through as a child helped her nurturing of her son James so that he could someday learn from her mistakes as he struggles with his racial identity. There are no do-overs; there is no reset button in life. What one has done yesterday has helped one get to where one is today. Someone can give the most conscious effort to eliminate his past, but it is impossible. The past shapes a person’s viewpoints, perspective, and his overall opinions on the world.

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Haamed Edalatpour
09/13/2012 9:53pm

Cameran i agree with your points. Everything she went through made her a stronger woman and learned to overcome. Very well done Jimmie.

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Emily Mone
09/11/2012 7:51pm

The parallelism of the present and past is Jame’s initial motivation to write this memoir. He seeks the knowledge of his and his family’s background. In this book, Ruth deals with escaping from her extremely traumatic past of being raised in a Jewish household with an emotionally and sexually abusive father, a crippled, and painful broken family ties. Whereas James deals with knowing nothing of his heritage and being curious about his unknown roots while having African American pride during the Civil Rights. Both Ruth and James can’t find a compromise with their pasts and presents. They both cherish parts of their earlier lives, but have many memories they’d like to forget. They both know that they are who they are because of their roots, but understand that that doesn’t define who they will always be. In this book, James recounts his mom’s past which helps him to discover his identity and answer questions of race. He also is influenced by his mother's past and it allowed him to be the person he wants to be.
In contemporary America, it seems that it would be impossible to escape from one’s past. Although people can fantasize about leaving all of their possessions and responsibilities and disappearing into a foreign country unheard of ever again, there is no reality to the scenario. And even if someone were to relocate themselves, even within the United States, you can never just forget who you are and what you’ve gone though.

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Laura Banh
09/13/2012 5:08pm

You really captured the fact that the past does plays a part in who you are, but it doesn't define who you will be in the future because you can always change.

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Jeni Hansen
09/11/2012 8:24pm

In the story, The Color of Water, by James McBride there are several ways that prejudice and exclusion function. First James is a black kid with a white mother. Everyday his mom brings him to the bus stop and comes to pick him up there after school. One day she warned him she was not going to be able to come and get him from the buss stop. A couple days later, she was not there and James panicked. None of the white mothers helped him, but only gave him mean looks. Also, as Ruth was growing up as an orthodox jew, her family was very strict. Her father, Tateh, was a very abusive and racist man. At this time period it was out of the question for Ruth to date a black man. She fled her home, and went to New York by her family, where she was pregnant with a black man's child. One of her aunts immediately took her for and abortion. Later she was married to another black man, and they had 8 children. Her family had disowned her, and she was very looked down on by society. After he passed, she had 4 more children with her next black husband. She did not care what people thought of her or about the looks she got. Today, there are still prejudice problems just like this.The amount of racism to a certain group of people has decreased dramatically. But the world is not perfect, and there are racist people that look down on people like Ruth and James.

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Brandon Pick
09/11/2012 8:48pm

In the memoir, The Color of Water, by James McBride, James and his mother both have identity problems. James starts out always questioning everything. He wonders what his skin color is, if his white mother actually his mother because he is black. It takes a long time for James to find out who he actually is. In his childhood he saw other kids parents were the same skin color as them but it was not the same for him. When he was a teen, he wanted to escape the pain of death by doing drugs, and leaving his mother with a messy house. James mother, Ruth, has an identity she wants to keep secret for the most part. She does not want to talk about her past, or relatives or anything. Their experiences in 20th century America shapes and alter their identity a lot. James 20th century experiences shapes and alter his identity the most because of where he started. He started poor with a lot of siblings. He sort of had a dysfunctional family in the terms of his mother would not share anything informational about her side of the family with him and he always wondered about his skin color. His identity changed and he started doing crimes and drugs. He really enjoyed music and later he became a musician. His mother wanted the best for her kids, all twelve of them, by getting them a good education and getting them to go to church every week. Also she had to be tough to deal with all the racist comments. Contemporary American culture shapes my identity because parents have a big influence on us.

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Alex Ellison
09/14/2012 6:52am

i totally agree with brandon's points explaining why James and his mother have identity problems. He gives great explanation and examples why he feels they do. A+

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Deajia Cooper
09/11/2012 9:41pm

In the memoir, “The Color of Water” by James McBride prejudice and exclusion functions more in James mother’s life. She was raised in a very strict religious family. Her father was a racist and felt she shouldn’t be with a black man. She was excluded from the outside. Not being able to date the race she was attracted to. Also her father missed treated her and abused her sexually. He made her see the world a different way. Her family didn’t accept her wanting to be with an African American man, and because of that her reaction was to leave from her family and move out to a different state. Discrimination you can be discriminated against for nearly everything you do. It takes one person to decide if you are below them or not up to their standards. You can easily be judged because of how you look, what you wear, your skin color, the car you drive. Just the little things can have you being judged. Schools and jobs are still segregated. Sticking with your own race is what people do. Gender discrimination, People belonging to one nation and being categorized by your race are ways of discrimination and even prejudice. Prejudice to me is still present. Why I believe this? Racial groups are still present today. Still people are not accepted because of their color.

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Danielle Clinton
09/13/2012 10:34am

I agree with you because there still is a lot of segregation in schools and neighborhoods. People are categorized because of how they live or how they look. I don't think people should judge one another because they wouldn't want anyone judging them. Discrimination is still a problem today and I don't think it will ever go away.

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cyrinthia reasby
09/13/2012 4:31pm

i agree with you because people gone judge no matter what. if you are doing some thing right they gone judge and i dont think that people shouldnt do that. i agree with you when you said that there racial groups are still present to day. i think it dont matter what color you are but we can change what people think and do.

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Jessica Holmes
09/11/2012 9:54pm

In the memoir, The Color of Water by James McBride the past functions as a powerful force in many ways for various characters. Ruth or Rachel, the mother of James is affected greatly by her past experiences and will forever be shaped by them. She was made fun of her entire life for being a Jew, people looked down on her and so she learned not to trust anyone. She was also faced with racism while dating a black boy when she was 15, one day she realized she was pregnant with his child and had to get an abortion because if she would have had the kid the boy would have been hung and her own father might have killed her; this made her to be the exact opposite when she grew up. She now wants to help everyone and teaches her kids that race is unimportant; race is the color of water. James is affected by the powerful force of the past when he is faced with racism not only just because he is black but also because his mother is white. He was sold rotten milk at the grocery store and the store owner would not do the right thing by replacing the milk due to the fact that he is black, it did not help when his mother came in and was white, it almost worsened the fact of the matter. I do not believe that it is possible to escape the past in contemporary America because the past is what shaped and created contemporary America. The concept of time consists of the past, the present, and the future; therefore there is no possible way to have one tense in the absence of the others. Without past there is no such thing as the present, or “contemporary” American as we know it.

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Mr. Brizzown
09/13/2012 8:42am

I agree with Jessica's comments that the past shapes who we becomes, and we can never truly escape our past. With Ruth, we see that because she suffered so much in her youth, she wanted to instill values in her children that were against any form of discrimination.

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Laura BAnh
09/11/2012 9:54pm

The past functions as a powerful force for various characters in the memoir, The Color of Water. Although a lot of the characters’ lives, mainly James’ and his eleven other siblings’, have been influenced by the past, none compare to the impact the past had on his mother, Ruth. Ruth’s past consisted of growing up in the south in a strict Jewish family and being a rabbi’s daughter, where her father abused her, both physically and verbally. She was not allowed to walk with her best friend, and perhaps her only friend, at their graduation because her father forbad her to go into a gentile/protestant church. Ruth missed out on many opportunities as a young girl because her father ran the household and controlled what they could and couldn’t do. The hardships and struggles she experienced in her childhood helped shape her into the determined woman and mother she became in her later years. Her past motivated her to raise her children to become strong and independent human beings whose lives were based on only two things that really matter: education and Christianity. Ruth focused all her energy on her children and made sure they had a bright future that was filled with possibilities. She succeeded in sending all twelve of her children to college; some went to some of the most prestigious colleges in the U.S.. It’s never easy for one to forget about their past, but all we can do is move on. I think the society we live in today makes it harder for us to move on from the past because of all the social networks and media. There are also always people who will be those constant reminders of the past that we sometimes try so hard to escape.

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Cassandra Berkel
09/13/2012 3:39pm

I agree with what u said about Ruth and the fact that her past really shaped the way she raised all of her children. As for present day I think you are right about it being hard to leave your past behind because of all the social networking sites- they do bring up a lot of old memories.

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Anna Melamed
09/14/2012 6:43am

I understood what Laura was talking about and very clear of what she was trying to say in her paragraph about James and Ruth. She really explained a lot about Ruth's past and what she went threw in her life.

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Ann Richards
09/11/2012 9:57pm

In the memoir " The Color of Water" the past acts as a powerful force for both James McBride and his mother, Ruth. Ruth’s child rearing methods, according to James, were heavily channeled by her own harsh, Orthodox Jewish childhood experiences. He went so far as to say "It represented the best worst of the immigrants mentality: hard work no-nonsense a quest for excellence, distrust for authority figures, and a deep belief in God and education.”(28) In other words, despite her best efforts to forsake her dark past, let the old her symbolically “die” has she claimed, it has still lingered with her greatly guiding the mannor in which she raised her own children. This might be attributed to the fact that it was the only experience she had to work with as it related to raising children. No matter what she did her past was still a part of her. And in the end, what she wanted to leave in her past is what wound up shaping her future. But it also shaped the childhood of James, as he was one of the twelve examples of how Ruth's unique brand of the immigrant mentality combined with influence from the black community and the tight family ties could be combined to create a highly successful individual. It's what gave James the strength of character he has to this day. He displayed this, misguidedly, in his past as well by punching the Black Panther’s son, thus firmly cementing his allegiance to his family and love over the Black Power movement. While his past was filled with confusion over his racial identity, James McBride states to this day that he's proud of his Jewish history and says: “I just get up in the morning happy to be living.” displaying that he has adopted his mother’s mindfully blasé approach to racial and religious labels.

The concept of a “Fresh start” creates a sort of dichotomy in my mind, where in one might get a fresh start in the eyes of society or within their own minds. While escaping ones past might be more difficult to do in contemporary America, due to the many communication and networking mediums bombarding us for all sides, I still maintain that it is possible one to escape from their past. In my opinion, America is still the land of opportunity and everyone here may attain a fresh start, by starting a new life elsewhere. Our culture is this obsessed with efficiency and is typically willing disregard an individual’s past transgressions to an extent, so long as that individual can maintain a good quality of work. Escaping one’s past, as in escaping a bad reputation or a poor past conditions are one thing, as clearly displayed with is the text of this book, it is impossible for one to fully escape their past within their own minds. While one might move to a new city where no one knows who they are or what they’ve done, that individual will still be influenced by their past, and those experiences will continue to affect how they think and act. In that sense, this idea of “escaping ones past” is inherently flawed as ones past is a major factor, if not the principle factor in how they see the world, their “world view” if you prefer, and the way that they experience or think about things from that point on. In conclusion ones past does a great deal to define who they are as a person and while you may be able to superficially escape your past by concealing it from others and gaining a " fresh start" in the eyes of society, it will always be there will always be a fundamental part of who you are.

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Taylor Slivinski
09/13/2012 7:16pm

I agree with Ann's statements whole-heartedly both based on the book and in real life. I feel like "what [Ruth] wanted to leave in her past is what wound up shaping her future.." was a perfect way to describe what she did in her life. Also, I really enjoyed that even if you "[gain] a 'fresh start' in society it will always be...part of who you are." That's just awesome.

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Josh Knight
09/11/2012 11:39pm

In his memoir The Color of Water, James McBride detailed how segregation and exclusion and exclusion adversely affected both himself and his mother. He emphasized how they manifested in both racial and religious forms. Ruth, for example, was restricted from many activities by her deeply religious father, who refused to let her partake in anything “Christian” such as attending her graduation ceremony in a church. He also refused to let her interact in any means with African-Americans, as he was deeply racist and saw them as an inferior class. This led to clandestine meetings with her African-American boyfriend so her father would not catch her. Much later in her life, after she left her family and married a black Christian man, her family was so horrified that they actually mourned her as if she was dead. That act served as the perfect paradigm for how rigid the racial and religious barriers were during those times, and exactly how much of a taboo it was to cross those barriers. Today, however, these problems are almost nonexistent, as it has become much more culturally accepted to practice interracial and interfaith relationships. James McBride, on the other hand, was almost solely discriminated against because of race, namely his white mother. Because his mother was the only white person in his entire neighborhood, James was shunned and sometimes even mocked because of the racial oddity in his family. Compared to Ruth’s hardships, though, James was barely discriminated against at all, and basically never knew how difficult segregation and exclusion was at its height.

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Angelique Hernandez
09/12/2012 3:49am

In the memoir "The Color Of Water" written by James Mcbride, James and his mother both care about their identity in different ways. Growing up james seems as though he is embarrassed by the fact that he is among the only boys in his neighborhood with a white mother. James tries to go everywhere he can alone, not showing his white mother in public. Ruth cares about her identity not so much as what others think of her, but who her kids become. In Ruth's opinion your nothing if you don't have a good education, so she ensures even though the family has limited money, her children are given the best education. Given how James was raised he rebelled as a child but grew to realize that his mothers teachings were key, and later led a successful life. Ruth, growing up with a strict family, taught her kids the values she wished her own parents would have instilled on her. In contemporary American culture, whatever is considered cool is how any typical person will act. The values that are taught to a child will be instilled to their later life. The lessons learned by making mistakes all through life shape what the personality the average American will have. In closing, in the novel "The Color Of Water" written by James Mcbride, Ruth and James consider identity in dissimilar ways.

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Tyrell Ellis
09/12/2012 5:45am

In the book The color of water it was a lot of prejudice. An example is I thought it would be easier if we were just one color, black or white. I didn't want to be white. My siblings had already instilled the notion of black pride in me. I would have preferred that Mommy were black. Now, as a grown man, I feel privileged to have come from two worlds. Its like they only want one race to be superior.

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Jessica Holmes
09/13/2012 2:17pm

I half agree with tyrell and half disagree. I agree with his statement on the book being very prejudice and the quote was an awesome example, but i think what they really want is for there to be equality for race to be unimportant. James wants the fighting and judging to stop and for everyone to except each other as they are. Unfortionatly his thoughts were blurred by race.

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Katie Zitzer
09/12/2012 6:30am

In the memoir, The Color of Water, by James McBride, both James and his mother Ruth, struggle with their identities. Ruth being a Jewish girl growing up in the south where Jews were looked upon with curiosity and some times hate, she sought out people who were also outcastes. She befriends a boy, an African American boy that lives in the town around her father's grocery store. Their friendship turns to romance and Ruth finds herself dating, and in love with a man that her father strongly disapproves of her even speaking to, let alone hanging out with. She goes against what she's told by her parents, her religion, and even her society, by with the boy. She finds herself in a predicament with the relationship; she is now carrying a baby. Her mother sends her away to New York, where she is thrown into the hustle and bustle of it all, to stay out the pregnancy there, until her grandmother finds out. Her grandmother takes her to get an abortion, something that is wrong in the eyes of her religion, making her question her upbringings as a Jew. Later on in the story when she is back in New York, she try's desperately to become part of the community she had grown up in, one with the type of people she knows, African Americans. She finds herself lost as she tears herself further and further away from the way she had grown up, and amerces herself into this unknown culture. That trip to New York is where she met Rocky, the Barber Shop owner by day, Pimp by night. She starts to hang around him and his types of friends, in places like bars and clubs. Her first Husband was the one to save her. Dennis, a man that had worked for one of Ruth's Aunts shows Ruth his life. He takes her to church, and Ruth finds herself lost in it. She had found something that gave her a new life, a new view on the world. She severs all connections to her orthodox Jewish live when she's brought into the church and gives herself to the church, and even she and her husband get married there. She slowly starts to find herself and even after her first, and second husbands die, she finds help from her twelve kids, and Church. Even though through most of the story, Ruth is not totally welcomed by the white society or the black society, she still finds peace living among them both. When James was growing up he knew his mother was different, and so was he, but it never really bothered him to he grew up. He struggled through the Black Power movement knowing that people could hurt his mother, and worse him. As he grew into an adolescent he started skipping school, drinking, smoking and doing what his peers were doing in that time, all because he wanted to associate himself with a group of people, because maybe he’d find his place in life and he wouldn’t have to keep searching. When he was living with his half sister, he learned some valuable lessons from a wise old man named Chicken Man, telling him to straighten up and be better James took it to heart. When he returned home he buckled down with his academics and attitude, he played jazz and found his two loves of life, jazz and writing. Even though he had made such a change in life and was slowly finding himself and his purpose in life, he still wasn’t fully satisfied with it. So, he went in search for more information about his family from his mother’s side, he traveled to where she lived as a young girl. He met all business partners, family friends, and people that knew them from the synagogue. He finally finds himself there, half black, half white, half Jewish and half Christian. He is finally content on who he is, and how the rest of his life will be. I think in modern American, your identity is really shaped by how your parents are. For about 12 years of your life, you have the same religion as them, the same political beliefs as them; you grow up with them teaching you how to be, just like them, and I think it’s hard for lots of people to shake off those thoughts. You might grow some of your own as you go through experiences of life, but I think in today’s society, you are who you were brought up by, and who you were brought up around.

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Ann R.
09/13/2012 6:50pm

I agree with Katie. This had good flow and your thoughts were organized well. also good job with all the examples you were very clear.

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Alex Ellison
09/12/2012 6:34am

3. In what ways does the past function as a powerful force for various characters in the memoir? Do you think it is possible to escape the past in contemporary America? Why or why not?


In the book, The Color Of Water, Rachel's past influences her life and the life of her children. One example of the past influencing her life of her children is that she had a very strong desire in doing well in school, which lead to her teaching them to do very well in school and succeeding in life. She was not a "helicopter" parent as we now call them, but she did demand and make sure they were doing well in school and in the best school possible for them. Rachel talked very little about her past to her kids because of how much she did not want them to know where she came from or her childhood background ended up being. I defiantly agree that it can be possible to escape the past, but i feel you need to want to escape it. If a person was not trying to leave or forget the past, then i feel it will be very hard to escape the past.

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Anna Melamed
09/12/2012 6:45am

In the memoir "The Color Of Water" written by James Mcbride they both have some identity because everyone has there own personality in a different way not everyone is the same. James wasn't so open up about himself just because the way he grew up and who he grew up with. One of the things that really bothered him was how his mother Ruth was a different color than him. Ruth is kind of different she didn't really care about the color of her kids, she loved her kids with all her heart she was always there for them she wanted the best for all and each of them. Ruth always wanted her kids to have wonderful education, not everyones parents would care so much especially when you have twelve kids in all. The experience that they went threw in there childhood thats what makes them who they are now. All of the hard work James went threw with his brothers and sisters made them successful and happy now. All the hard work they did payed of now for them. In the book "The Color Of Water" written by James McBride everyone has different personalities and differences.

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Mr. Brown
09/13/2012 12:01pm

I agree with Anna's thoughts concerning identity development as it connects to one's past. For instance, it is clear that James comes to value education because of his mother's influence.

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Fabian Geissmann
09/14/2012 4:51am

I agree with Anna, because she wrote some true things about identity.

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Zach Pfannerstill
09/12/2012 7:16am

Identity is Significant to both James and his mother. His mother struggled with her identity as a Jewish person as she unconsciously related her religion to her abusive father. She abandoned this part of her identity when she ran from home and started to live with David. She became a devout Baptist as they accepted all people, regardless of race or gender. She also began to raise her children in an environment that she thought would serve to protect them best from the racism of the day. James struggled early, as he had a white mother but considered himself black. He did a lot of questionable activities, and neglected his responsibilities at home to participate in them. He went along with his friends when they started to make fun of and hate “the white man” or “The MAN”, although he considered his mom to be in those groups. He turns his life around, however, when one of his friends from “The Corner” is killed after telling him to not crave the life he has. James starts a search for his mother’s mysterious origins, and finds out more about himself and the rest of his family in the process.
It is a little easier to avoid being a slave to other’s needs in the modern day. The Internet gives you a way to express your beliefs without being criticized, and less people are what would be considered “racist”. On the other hand, more and more people are becoming dependent on the Internet for everything.

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Teferi Whilby
09/12/2012 8:30am

Identity is really imortant in the book to both James and his mother Ruth. His mom had a really hard time fighering out who she is as a jewish lady. When she ran away from her family and lived with her boyfriend david, he did not want to be a jew anymore and became a baptist. James grew up wondering is he was white or black because he had a white mother but his skin color was darker than hers. When James and his friends started to hate the white man he saw his mom as one of them, but he made a commitment and started to do well in school. when he finds out about his moms orugins and about his moms side of the family.

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Matt Brown
09/12/2012 9:22am

The past functions as a powerful force for various characters in the memoir like Ruth McBride. Her father was racist and did not like black people. When she married a black man the family did not accept it because of the past. She also converted to Christianity from Judaism. Her family was Jewish but they disowned her, so she looked at the past and changed her religion. James did drugs and commited crimes after his stepfather died. The past made him do bad things. Fishel Shilsky, Ruths mother made some mistakes that his daughter would never forget. The past you will look back on for information. So Ruth will look back for trust and not find it because so much has happened in her life. It is not possible to escape the past from contemporary America. Everything you see and look at has a past. Like how it was made or who or what did it. Traditions are ideas from the past that you do at the present or future. History repeats its self. Even if you went and sat out in the middle of nowhere in America you still could not escape the past. Technology is everywhere. You might see a plane or an old hunting stand for example.

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Jacob
09/12/2012 10:23am

In the memoir, James talks about how he was trying to find his place in life, which being an African American male in the 20th century was really hard to do. His mother was white, but he hadn’t even noticed a difference until he began going to school. His mother always told him that it didn’t matter that she was white and he was black because he was her son and that’s all she saw. Due to his surroundings, living in the south in the 1960’s, his identity was drastically altered because of racism in the south. When he started doing drugs that became a huge change to his identity. Even when he got clean and went back to school was huge for him changing himself and becoming a better person. When James was just an infant his biological father died, which made a huge impact on his mother. A few years later she remarries and then that husband dies. James’ mom has had many huge changes to her identity based on past events. Both of these people have been shaped by their past and it has shaped them into better people. The way we live today will still change someone’s identity at any given moment. When we lost Halee and Jenni I made huge changes to my life to make sure that if something this horrible should happen again soon, I will be ready for it.

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Austin Klees
09/13/2012 5:20am

In what ways is identity significant to both James and his mother? How do their experiences in 20th century America shape and alter their identities? Compare this to how contemporary American culture shapes your identity.

For both James and his mother identity is important because James wouldn’t have written the book “The Color of Water” if it weren’t. The book is about a black mans tribute to his white mother the black man being James McBride and his mother going by the name of Ruth. During the book James tries to figure out as much as he can, not only about his past but his mother’s roots. The book details Ruth’s real name is Ruchel Dwajra Zylska and that she has a Jewish background from Poland from where she immigrated. Ruth doesn’t like talking about her past, for many reasons. Her father wasn’t a good person he molested her and was a very racist man. When he heard she was marrying black men he kicked her out the family. James was born in Harlem, New York and grew up the 4th youngest of 12 brothers and sisters. As a young boy he struggled fighting for his way in the household constantly being overridden by his older siblings and had to fight for food and clothes. As opportunities began to close, James quickly found himself in the drug game and in trouble with the law. James was trying to provide for himself but his family as well. Overall, Ruchel Dwajra Zylska found a way to put all 12 of her children in college and graduate. James became an author along with being a musician and her other children became lawyers, teachers, and doctors.

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Andrew Kubczak
09/13/2012 1:27pm

I agree with Austin. The reason i do is because well in the first sentence when he said identity is important because otherwise he would not have written the book, really good point there.

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Rose Hyland
09/13/2012 6:22pm

In the memoir then Color Of Water by James McBride, Ruth (a white women who grew up in the south) has her life experiences that show how the pasts are powerful functions. Her life as a child was rough with prejudice shown and talked about everywhere. Even now we have people who are so prejudice against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Black people and even white people. Back then people judged mostly on somebody’s color of skin. James is a black boy (Ruth’s 8th child of 12). He always wonders why she is a different color then him but she chooses to keep the race out of the family because of racism. Ruth’s father forced her to have an abortion at the age of 14 because it was a black man’s baby. Now day’s people are still forced into certain things because of race or sexuality. Same sex marriage is illegal in almost every state. By people trying to force you in to doing something it is bringing up the past and history does replete itself. One choice can hold somebody in the past forever.

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Sara Yang
09/13/2012 7:32pm

3. In what ways does the past function as a powerful force for various characters in the memoir? Do you think it is possible to escape the past in contemporary America? Why or why not?

In the memoir “The Color of Water” by James McBride, there are many ways that the past function as a powerful force for many of the characters such as Ruth. Ruth always tries her best for her children education because she wants the best for them and wants them to succeed in life unlike her past. She keeps quiet about her own past from her kids because she doesn’t want them to end up like her. So she prevents things from happening again from her past with her children.
Well, I do think it is possible to escape the past because you can just run away from it and stat a new life somewhere else and not go back. But the bad side of it is that people can bring up the past again or things that just remind you of that past. But for Ruth I think it would have been hard for her to hold it in from others like her children but she did it. In conclusion, I will say you can try to escape but it will always come back someday no matter if your alive or dead because others can find out about it too.

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Asia
09/13/2012 10:51pm

I strongly agree, the past will never go away and Ruth was strong enough to keep it from her children. I believe you could have added another example.

"You have to know your past to understand your present." --Dr. Carl Sagan

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Sam Emond
09/13/2012 8:50pm

In the memoir, The Color of Water, by James McBride both James and Ruth experience prejudice and discrimination in their lives. When Ruth was young she saw discrimination as a Jew living in the south. Ruth also saw her father was a raciest against the African Americans he was charging extra money to in the stores. She also experienced prejudice when she moved to New York to escape the problems of her home life. Being a white woman in mostly African American neighborhood Ruth always felt she was treated unfairly, but Ruth always treated others with the respect they did not show her. James also experienced discrimination in his life as he grew up in a neighborhood that had many racial conflicts. James saw some of his family help with the civil rights movement witch made him see the unfairness of discrimination. Today people still discriminate against others for their skin color and religion, this shows that times haven’t changed as much as we think they have.

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Asia Allen
09/13/2012 10:42pm

In the memoir, “The Color of Water” by James McBride, James and his mother’s, Ruth, identity was developed through their experiences and society. Through Ruth’s childhood experience, she went through an unwanted lifestyle and altered herself as she got older. She moved away from her family, converted from Judaism to Christianity, and married a black man named Dennis. Her experience as child caused her to not want her children to tell their family’s business to anyone. According to James, his mother’s life was a mystery. It’s like she wanted to forget the past. James learned early that there was something different about his family. People would stare at his white mother and black children. The pressure of finding who he was raised. He began the search of himself through several of activities. HE joined a gang, did drugs/other criminal activities, and slowly disconnected with his mother. When being sent Kentucky James found a group of people who accepted him. He had to get through obstacles and barriers to get to know himself and where fits in society. Ruth relied on her thoughts and emotions to find out where she lies socially. I believe with any given person, your surroundings and beliefs influences affects what we do and who we are just as it did to James and Ruth in “The Color of Water” by James McBride.

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Luke P. LOHP
09/14/2012 11:09am

1. In what ways is identity significant to both James and his mother? How do their experiences in 20th century America shape and alter their identities? Compare this to how contemporary American culture shapes your identity.


In the memoir “the color of water” by James McBride the identity to the family is very important. Ruth is a polish born girl; she comes from a strict Jewish family and has a background of a strict father who abused he sexually. By talking to his mother bout her past, as well as talking about his own past, he discovered a better understanding of his racial, religious, and social identity background and wrote a memoir about it. The fact that Ruth was born an orthodox Jew usually means that she would be against interracial marriage; however, since she is very religious and she doesn’t follow anyone else’s thoughts and ideas and is her own person, it makes Ruth who she was in the memoir. She’s very strict with her kids and believes that education and religion is the key to success. Ruth’s experiences in her 20th century make her a very aggressive person who doesn’t take any crap from people. In today’s society culture changes peoples identities due to the fact that people tend to follow what other people do and also the fact that there’s a lot of conflict in the world and different beliefs. In the memoir “the color of water” by James McBride identity is what makes James and Ruth the characters that they are and their personality in the memoir.

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SHOWBIZ
05/11/2014 9:45pm

DR. B IS DOPE CITY

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Robby
05/11/2014 9:46pm

Jomo

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