What is the lesson of Life on the Color Line?

The lesson of Life on the Color Line is that race is an artificial construct used to confirm and consolidate prejudice. Although Gregory Williams is the same man throughout the book, he is treated differently by different people at different times, depending largely on their own individual prejudices.

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A number of very valuable lessons may be learned from Life on the Color Line by Gregory Williams. But arguably the most valuable of all is that race is purely a social construct, one that is exploited by individuals to confirm their own deepest prejudices.

Williams himself remains the same man throughout the book. And yet perceptions of him, based as they are on the prejudices of different people, do change, depending on specific circumstances.

To his school teachers, Williams is initially regarded as white. As a consequence, they give him every encouragement to succeed. Yet when the details of his school record identify him as "colored," their attitude changes immediately, and no guidance is offered to Williams, a boy most teachers have now written off.

By the same token, Williams receives a lot of grief for dating a girl with darker skin than himself. Caught between two communities—the white and the Black—Williams finds himself at the mercy of deeply ingrained prejudices that only seem to exert more power due to the widespread notion that race is a fixed category that rigidly determines how one should be treated.

Race may be a social construct, but Williams, like all other people in his situation, has no choice but to live in a society steeped in racial prejudice and bigotry.

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