Life on the Color Line

Published: 2021-07-25 21:05:06
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Category: Life

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Life on the Color Line Life on the Color Line is a memoir by Gregory Howard Williams talking about his life and what it was like to grow up in Muncie, Indiana as a white colored boy. It starts off in Virginia where the Williams family owns and lives in an Open House Cafe for all the war soldiers and veterans black and white alike. Since they were “on the color line” of Virginia bordering between white and black neighborhoods, Greg’s father Buster was able to house both colors in the bar and keep them separated even though it was technically against the law to serve blacks and whites under the same roof.
Buster was half black and half white but in order to protect his reputation passed as an Italian, making the boys think they too were part Italian. It wasn’t until the brutal divorce of their parents that Greg and his brother Mike discovered that they were actually half Black. At such a young age, Greg and Mike had to accept that the comfort they once experienced living as white boys in a white neighborhood would change as they moved to the ghetto in Muncie. Having never met their colored family members before, Greg and Mike were dropped off at their Aunt Bessie’s house as their alcoholic father attempted to find a job to support them.
The boys quickly had to learn the rules of what was acceptable for them and what wasn’t now that they were considered colored boys. Even though the school was technically integrated the boys struggled and had to decide where they fit in. Both the colored and the white students rejected the boys at first because neither race could accept that Greg and Mike were white colored boys. Buster let his children know that both the whites and the blacks would want to fight them and they would just have to fight back and stand strong against everybody.
Growing up, the boys continuously got in fights with both races until some members of the black community finally accepted that they were one of them. When the boys were forced to go live with their alcohol dependent grandmother, things turned worse for them because they hardly had anything to eat. Their father came back empty handed and spent nights and days drinking and gambling with their grandmother and other members of the community that had a bottle of wine to offer. Since all Buster wanted was a quick scheme to get rich and ouldn’t hold a real job, the boys often had to fend for themselves and learn how to be “hustlers. ” Growing up, Greg often had to act as a father to both his father and his little brother luckily with the help of a church woman named Miss Dora. Knowing he wanted out of the Muncie life, Greg did everything possible to achieve his dreams and hardly let his good judgement falter. Even though Greg was a top student and athlete he often didn’t get recognized for his hard work and was continuously let down by the school system.
Examples of this can be viewed during his early years when he should’ve received an award that only “white” children got at the school and in highschool when he was made second string to a white quarterback in football after he clearly displayed that he was the better quarterback. The few teachers that did notice his intelligence gave Greg hope and courage that he could do something with his life while others put him down and dismissed his dreams of being a lawyer. Many other teachers and counselors also used their authority to make sure Greg knew white women were off limits to him even though he himself looked white on the outside.
Since it was made clear that white women were off limits, Greg attempted to date black women but he soon realized that that made others uncomfortable as well. Throughout his life Greg faced many injustices such as these and was always torn about whether he was black or white seeing it as two different parts of him. It wasn’t until he got older that Greg realized he was both and that it made him who he is. Without the kindness of Miss Dora and Greg’s determination to work hard and be a lawyer, Muncie would have probably taken him victim.
Towards the end of the book, Greg is able to graduate from highschool and go to college but in order to pay for school he applies for a job at the sheriffs department. Greg becomes conflicted about whether or not to take the job because it looked like they just wanted to use him as an example of a black man having some authority. It’s then that my favorite quote that I feel sums the book up is mentioned by cousin Jewitt, “Nobody in Muncie ever gave you any breaks just because you looked white” (272). Life On the Color Line is a book about struggling through the hardships of life as well as overcoming prejudice in order to achieve your dreams.

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