Nathan’s blackness got in the way of his education and success. At a young age, whether he knew it or not, he had the world all figured out. He knew that white people had more fun and therefore wanted to look just like them. He did everything, from trying to cover his skin with pale paste-like clay hoping that the color would take to his own, whenever his family went out to eat he would sit still and quietly in hopes that he would not “[show his] color,” or “[act] like a nigger” (MMWH, p. 11), he even tried to obtain “good hair” by packing grease onto his hair only to have his curly naps defy his hard efforts.
He began to understand that these attempts were futile when he started working with his stepfather and brothers at Sterling Point. At first he was excited to make some spending money, gazing at the different sceneries he passed while on the drive to Sterling Point. His brothers, by this time, had already had their innocence and passion beat down internally by their prideful race. Unlike Nathan, they resented going to work with their stepfather and became numb to the scenic views that they passed along the way. Nathan soon conformed to their attitude after witnessing his stepfather be belittled by three white boys who didn’t acknowledge his presence. According to Nathan,
“Any other time, my stepfather would’ve gotten on the children’s case for forgetting their manners. But this day, he...flashed the three boys a fixed smile, and kept working.” (MMWH, p. 15)
Nathan observed his stepfather the following weeks being looked down upon by whites, as if he was a field slave and as if they were a “downtrodden sharecropper” (MMWH, p. 16). It is here that Nathan comes to the realization that there is another world out there besides his own, a world that he doesn’t belong to and never will.
“There were two distinct worlds...[the] white one was full of the possibilities of life. The dark one was just that -- dark and limited.” (MMWH, p. 17)
It is here that he begins to understand that the color of your skin does matter, for if you had pale skin, no matter what you did, you could get away with anything.
Even still, Nathan strived to be just like his white peers. Even after his acceptance of the fact that he would never be treated as a white individual, he continued trying to deny his race by attending a white junior high school. It is here, where Nathan believes that he carries more academic promise than that of his brothers and he was proud of the thought that he would be attending a better school because he was the smart one in the family. However, this fantasy of him being special quickly ended after experiencing the hatred for blacks that the white students were so unashamed of expressing. Every chance at him living a better life in the future ended when he let his feelings, his pride, and his race overpower the importance of his education.
There were only a handful of blacks that went to this school, all believing that they’d get a better education here than going to their neighborhood black school. With the thought of receiving a better education, Nathan and many other blacks, dealt with the scrutiny and the racist hatred that was handed to them everyday, not only by the white students, but by the white teachers as well. According to Nathan, “[he] savored every minute of [his]...