When Phillip finds himself alone on a raft with Timothy in Theodore Taylor's The Cay, Phillip's first thought is that Timothy is ugly because his "nose was flat and his face was broad" (p. 30). Phillip thinks Timothy looks just like the men from the jungles of Africa he has seen pictures of in books and magazines. Since he is curious about and even intimidated by Timothy's looks, Phillip feels led to ask a prejudiced question:
Your parents were African, Timothy? (p. 40)
This can be considered a prejudiced and even racist question because it assumes that all who look African come from Africa or at least have very close ties to Africa.
In response, Timothy laughs at the question, saying, "Young bahss, you want me to say I true come from Afre-ca?" (p. 40). Timothy continues further to explain he has no memories of and, therefore, no connection to Africa. All he remembers is the Caribbean islands. He has sailed all over the Caribbean islands and even sailed to "Venezuela, Colombo, [and] Panama" (p. 40). He actually has no memory of either of his biological parents and was raised by a woman named Hanna Gumbs. When Phillip further asserts that Timothy is an American because he is from the Virgin Island of St. Thomas, Timothy laughs at that as well because he has never associated himself with America; he has only ever associated himself with the Caribbean islands.
Regardless of Timothy's laughing responses, Phillip continues to secretly hold onto his prejudiced notion that Timothy must be pure African. He especially holds onto the notion when he learns that Timothy does not know his true age; he can only approximate that he is beyond his 60s. In Phillip's mind, any man who would be stupid and uneducated enough not to know his exact age must surely be from Africa.