James McBride gives tribute to his mother’s life and writes his autobiography simultaneously in “In The Color of Water”. His mother Ruth McBride migrated to America as a young girl and married Andrew Dennis McBride, a black man. Jame was raised in a catholic household with twelve children who never wondered on race and identity due to the shortage of time. Ruth had an abusive father and later had cut all ties with her family. She spent her early childhood travelling around the country as her father looked for a job. In her childhood Ruth was also sexually abused by Tateh. Tateh also cheated on her wife and had an affair. Ruth’s brother left home at the age of fifteen. She left her home and married a black man whose child she carried. Consequently she was disowned by her family. She could not keep up the promise with her sister of returning back and consequently her relation with her sister suffered. James was the etith child of Ruth with Dennis. However Dennis fell ill and died before the birth of James. Ruth suffered great emotional loss due to his death.
“Mommy staggered about in an emotional stupor for nearly a year. But while she weebled and wobbled and leaned, she did not fall” (McBride 251)
However she had to take help to support her eight children. Her relatives refused to do so. Ruth met her second husband, Hunter Jordan, got married and had four children.
Ruth opinions on religion, race and work influenced James a lot. Ruth always sent her children to the best schools, to ensure they received the best possible education. In return for her efforts she expected respect and hard work from her children. She acted kindly towards her children and had developed strong moral convictions and unwavering faith in God. In her opinion race and identity were always of secondary importance.
“I asked her if I was black or white. She replied "You are a human being. Educate yourself or you'll be a nobody!”
However after working with black men, he became convinced of the importance of hard work. He began to trust God and worked to sharpen his skills of writing and jazz music. He was surprised when he got admission in Oberlin College; he not only successfully completed college but lead a successful career. Ruth remained close with her children and then her grandchildren, cherishing the time an moments.
Thesis Statement: Problems faced by a multicultural society and how to deal with them.
The immigrants peruse the American Dream. The Shilskys migrants found a safe haven from the turmoil of Europe. Tateh opened up a store for the persuit of the American dream. Also Ruth changed her from Ruchel Dwajra Zylska to Rachel Deborah Shilsky, it is indeed Americanization. At school when she goes by her new name she becomes less outwardly. This enhances her confidence and starts the beginning of the American life. Especially when she marries a black man, moves away to New York and raises her own family, she has infact started to make her own destiny and consequently the American dream. Brooklyn's Red Hook Housing Projects is a place where she moves and describes it as the “real American Life” and also that she had always dreamed of it. Hence in fact she always wanted the American way of life. Lastly when each one of her twelve children choose their own successful professions, in a way her American dream comes true once more, or on a massive level.
Both Ruth and James are the victims of prejudice in their lives. Rutrh endured such at two times once a white women living in black neighborhood and secondly a Jew in South.
“She couldn’t stand racists of either color” (McBride 163)
James also had different stereotyping incidents and witnessed the harsh treatment of black people. He is a victim of another generations problems with racism.
“The question of race was like the power of the moon in my house” (McBride, 94)
Due to the problems faced and the mixed feelings, he becomes confused of his personality and background. He has problem preferring his white or black side. This confusion leads him to drugs and crime. However finally he pulls himself together. Eventhough he wasnot happy of belonging to both white and black but in the end he is content.
He says: “privileged to have come from two worlds . . . a black man with something of a Jewish soul” (McBride 30)
Growing up Ruth and James both realized that color or religion come second to education.
When Ruth arrived in New York City, her work ethics served her well. Hence experiencing it, she teaches her children the lesson of hard work and education each of whom not only completed a bachelor’s degree but also progressed. She also taught her children to be self-sufficient. Although by being rejected by her relatives when she needed the help the most, she learnt to be self-sustaining and independent.
“The man died without a penny, yet his children grew up to graduate from college, to become doctors, professors, teachers, and professionals all’ (McBride 103)
As observed by the above examples in order to become a successful member of multicultural society patience, work ethics and education is the key. Religion, cast, color and creed come secondary. The successful careers of Ruth’s twelve children is a living testimony of this fact.