"You've got to learn, Paul, and you've got to learn now, you don't ever hit a white man. Ever … You best be remembering, Paul, you're not white, much as you might look it." "Well, that's not my fault, is it? That's yours and my mama's."

Paul and his father exchange these portentous remarks in the fourth chapter, "Betrayal." This exchange marks a turning point for Paul—originally he believed that his father considered him and Robert as equals, and afterward he realizes that his family considers him a black man, especially in public. In his retorts, Paul first clings to the fiction that he and Robert are the same, asserting that if Robert is a man, he is also, since the boys are the same age and have similar education, skills, and temperament. When his father shatters this illusion, Paul frantically names the people he blames for his complicated racial heritage: his mother and his father. His father, after all, saw fit to have a sexual relationship with a black woman, knowing that any children resulting from the union would have to bear the special burdens of a mixed racial heritage. Paul resents both his parents for lacking the restraint and foresight to prevent such children from being born. Later in the chapter, we discover that Paul is deeply confused and conflicted by his mother's role in the relationship. He longs to pardon her but is angry at her for participating in a sexual relationship with her white master. In this exchange, however, Paul implies that he understands that his mother had little or no choice about the relationship.