During the time that I wrote "Life on the Color Line", race was viewed quite differently than it would be decades later. Your essays, "What Color is Jesus" and "A White Woman of Color", show that some positive changes regarding race and racism have taken place, while also pointing to the fact that much has regrettably stayed the same.
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Sadly, you too, Julia, experienced the same thing when you came to the United States from the Dominican Republic. Your race and your economic status changed once your family stepped foot in New York. Where once you were members of a privileged class who employed servants and enjoyed a good life you then became a racial outsider dependent on other's perceptions. In your younger years, you found it was easier to be considered white than to be defined as some sort of racial anomaly and your family encouraged this with their ideals of beauty being defined by light-colored skin and blonde hair. Even when you were applying for jobs after graduation from college, it was not your educational background that was noted but your ethnicity. James also went through the pain of realizing he was "different" due to his mixed-race parents and found that while he had a hard time defining his own color, others were not so particular. When his minister was asked why Jesus was portrayed as white, he could not come up with a good answer that would make sense to a young man of mixed ethnicity. This lack of clear racial identity is on thing that seems to have changed little since I wrote my book. Even though it is now more acceptable that two people of different races marry and produce children, a stigma is still applied even by those with extensive education and community contacts.
During my formative years, there were so many avenues closed to a person of color. It was more than disheartening to learn I was not eligible to win an academic achievement prize in the Indiana elementary school based purely on the color of my skin. Back then, "the prize did not go to Negroes. Just like in Louisville, there were things and places for whites only" (Williams, 126). We were not considered to be suitable matches for white women nor were we welcome at sporting events. I was horrified to be screamed at after attending a basketball game, "Niggers go home!" (Williams, 220). Surely in your times, this would not be tolerated!
Even the ability to play basketball, the sport of which today is filled with people of color, was beyond my reach as my coach so aptly demonstrated by cutting me from the varsity team in favor of a white player with less skill. Today, people of mixed race are allowed to hold high-end jobs and receive the same education as others. You were both afforded professional opportunities that were closed to me. Through your writing voices, both of you have managed to become icons for all people now considered bi-racial and American citizens are listening to you. You have managed to reach the rest of America who might also feel the same as you did in regards to an ill-defined identity and slowly break away the barriers separating one race from another.
There is a whole new category of race that now that did not exist when I was growing up. No one referred to my family and I as "bi-racial". One drop of colored blood in a person meant that he was Black and there were no other
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