James Weldon Johnson's first-person narrator in his fictional interpretation, "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man," a skeptical, point-of-view about skin color. The narrator, decides to pass for white after numerous variations between assuming his status as a black man who wants to stand for the rights of black people and adopting the identity of a white man. In fact, identity, for this character, was never stable, since he lived the first years of his life not knowing he was classified as black, then he lived as a black man for a period of time, and after some years he decided to adopt a white identity, which may seem a new identity at first, but is a return to the beginning of his life, when he used to believe he was a white boy. Although it is interpreted as aiming at unity, Johnson's text fully explores the complexities of the African-American experience.
During the first years of his life, the narrator was never treated as a black boy and never suffered prejudice. However, he was forced to assume a new identity when he was told that he was not white, since his mother was a black woman. Here, it is interesting to notice that, in the United States, ancestry plays a bigger role than appearance when it comes to define one's race, because if it were for his appearance only, the narrator probably live his entire life as a white man. Definitely, the easiness in which he passes for white was already visible in his early years, mostly because of the ivory whiteness of his skin, the softness and glossiness of his dark hair. Therefore, the Ex-Colored Man would hardly be treated as a black boy, if it were not for him and for people around him being told that he is not white. After this moment of revelation and before he decides to pass for white, the narrator acquires a new vision of the situation of black people in the United States. He learns that black people are situated in the world within a condition that is different from everybody else.