How does culture come into play in Life on the Color Line?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that culture occupies a major role and comes into play in a strong manner in Williams' narrative.  Williams' himself does not change in his understanding about his own identity.  When he comes to understand that he will no longer be seen as White, but rather as a person of color, his own sense of self in terms of who he is and what he feels does not change.  Yet, what does change is how cultural understandings about race will impact his life.  He comes to understand that cultural understandings about race and ethnicity play a large role in how one is seen by society and, thus, how one comes to see himself.  Williams recognizes that there is a social construction that accompanies being seen as a person of color that is not as present when one is viewed as White.  This is a result of the cultural change from being seen as White in Virginia and being seen as a person of color in Indiana.  In this, there is a definite emphasis on how culture helps to define the individual in terms of race and ethnicity.  It is cultural understanding and cultural edicts along the lines of race and ethnicity that impact how such issues are seen and experienced.  The struggle that Williams understands regarding the challenges of race is one that is emphasized through cultural understanding of it.


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