Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Like many of J. California Cooper’s stories, “Color Me Real” is rooted in a small rural community and concerns a poor young black woman who seeks affection and respect from the men in her life. Although Era may suffer, she does retain her courage, determination, and sense of humor. “Color Me Real” is also about self-discovery and race. Not wanting to experience the same kind of exploitation her mother endured, Era “chose to pass for white because it would make her way easier.” During her first marriage, Era wrongly reasons that her white husband, who confesses his addiction to black women, will not mind that she, too, is black.

Although she does not attempt to establish herself as a white woman when she moves to Chicago, she knows that Reggie, her black lawyer husband, thinks that she is his white trophy wife. It is when Reggie and his friends criticize black women that Era gains some insight into racial issues and identifies herself as one of the “sisters.” She tells Reggie, “What makes us so disgusted with you, is that you have to stand on our shoulders, tear us down, make us look like nothing, to make yourself big enough to do what you want to do.” These words are similar to the comments she earlier made to her brother, who beat his black girlfriend at their mother’s wedding: “You tryin to pass for a man!” Era wants to love someone “real” and has her mother’s marriage to Arthur as a model, but it is not until the end...

(The entire section is 410 words.)