A little background: Toomer was born in 1894 and when he was 15, his mother died and he went to go live with his grandparents in Washington D.C. However, they had just relocated from a middle-class white neighborhood, where he spent his boyhood, to a black part of town. It was then that issue of race was brought home to him personally for the first time in his life. He adapted quickly but his reaction was to hold the U.S. responsible for living up to its image as a melting pot, so from that point on, he viewed himself as neither black or white, only referring to his race as an American.

To those fixed on white,
White is white,
To those fixed on black,
It is the same,
And red is red,
Yellow, yellow-
Surely there are such sights
In the many colored world,
Or in the mind.
The strange thing is that
These people never see themselves
Or you, or me.

Are they not in their minds?
Are we not in the world?
This is a curious blindness
For those that are color blind.
What queer beliefs
That men who believe in sights
Disbelieve in seers.

O people, if you but used
Your other eyes
You would see beings.