Religious Legalism in the Color of Water

ReligiousLegalism in the Color of Water

Legalismis a strict adherence, observance, or even keeping of the laws andcommandments for improper and mean purposes. It can take the formwhere a person does observe some religious doctrine while neglectingothers and condemning those who do not observe what he or shebelieves. It can also manifest in a person observing the law to gainsalvation. However, this is not the case since the holy Bible clearlystates that salvation comes from the works we do but not from themere observance of the commandments. Lastly, it can involve aChristian striving to maintain the salvation through observing thelaw yet it is clear that we receive justification into salvation byour level of faith.

Racismand conflict between black and white Americans shape the life andprinciples of the characters in the book.

Thecolor of water: a story of a black man’s white mother is anautograph by the able author James McBride. The book takes us throughthe life of James mother and the history that finally got her and herfamily in America. James mother separates with their parents, and sheis, in fact, disowned by her family due to her choice to marry ablack man. The eventful situation make her find herself living in ablack neighborhood- apparently during the period of black mans’revolution. She is alone in the black neighborhood and she receivedmuch abuse due to her skin color. All her children are black and sheis herself a great supporter of the African-American war ofliberation for race equity. Racism is the major theme that drives theplot of the book characterized by the conflict between the black andwhite Americans (pg. 15).

Racismplays a vital role in the life of McBride. Although he comes to learnof it later in life, James knowledge of racism helped him understandwhat life is help build that what he is. After a painful and griefmourning of his stepfather demise, James found himself joining drugand petty crimes. He would later head to Jacqueline’s (Jack), hisstepsister, place in Louisville, Kentucky where he worked with blackmen. It is from there where he learnt about the importance of andnecessity of self-compliance. He also came to be of the knowledge onthe advantages and the goods of hard work. From there, he grew theurge to believe in God and to strain for self-improvement. This wasmanifested in his attempt to improve his talent and skills in writingand jazz music. That got him a place in Oberlin College. JamesMcBride and hid eleven siblings completed and led a successful lifecares (pg.256).

Supposethe greatest victim of racism in the book is Ruth, James biologicalmother. A white lady giving birth to twelve children was notimaginable. However, this indeed happened. All her children had adark color while their mother was light skinned as she constantly putit in the book. The novel of her discrimination started when sheworked as a helper in her families store back in Manhattan. She couldnot stand the constant abuse and total authoritarian rule her fatherhad on her dear mom. She denounced her Jewish tradition and religionand was impregnated by Peter a black. She flees her home and tookrefuge in New York before she finally settles in Harlem, a blackneighborhood. She was disowned by her relatives who strictly followedthe Jewish religion. They painfully mourn her as if she was dead dueto her choice of a black husband. She undergoes so much abuse in herstrive to take care of her twelve children after her husband died(pg. 123).

Theabuse, nevertheless, played a vital role to make her strong and gainabsolute humility. Her true Christian religion is displayed by theway she judged situation. She condemns the killing of Malcolm x, whowas a black. Not because she was black nor that her children wereblack, it is because she believed in equality and that all people areequal. When her family disowns and abandons her, she takes it withgreat humility and single work hard to support her family. This iswhat true religion is. She never replied even on a singlecircumstance when she was abused and only did so when they came nearher children. In one occasion, she is thought to be the adoptingparents of the ‘nigger children’ but she takes it lightly (pg.89).

JamesMcBride utilizes the tool of questioning to try conveying the messageof his book. He keeps on asking very many questions to himself fromthe time he is young and progress telling us that he is not evensometimes meant to ask such. One of the issues he wonders about iswhy the skin color of his is different from that of her mother yetshe is the biological maternal parent. The conduct of her mothertowards others is obviously different and he is not aware why thesituation exists. If she were, indeed, his mother, then, where washis grandparents and what was the color of their skin. He observesthe hatred between the blacks and the white and fears whether itcould one day affect the life of her mother. These and other issueare queried by McBride, and somewhere in his life many answers areanswered and he comes to learn why the life of her mother took thepath it led. He comes to appreciate very many good things in thesociety loving God, doing what is right and working hard forself-reliance (pg. 124, 167, 223).

Inthe end, McBride comes to take a stand and affiliate himself with theAfrican-American race. Not that he hold any special right in beingone, it is reached after a long life experience, and appreciatingwhat he is. He has spent most of his life in the black neighborhoodand that is a part of history he cannot erase from his life. He,however, holds a strong respect for other persons including thewhites, as they are also humans. His education came from whitesschools as propagated by his mother. He comes to learn that life isnot as it looks and can only be better if we work hard and learn torely on ourselves. This can be made through educating oneself andthose under the care of us. He knows that true religion is known andexhibited by the kind of lifestyle and actions. He then understandwhy her mother dropped her childhood religion, Jewish, and adopt amore realistic religion, Christianity (pg. 46, 112).


McBride,James. TheColor of Water: A Black Man`s Tribute to His White Mother.London: Bloomsbury, 1998. Internet resource.

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