Tony Johnson is a studious young man planning to soon graduate from much more than high school. Although his zip code places him in a Bronx tenement pre 'rise of Obama', his sights are set far beyond the trappings of a humble upbringing. Collegiate dreams combined with falling in love with a white classmate put him strongly at odds with his father. He incurs Lionel Johnson's wrath for the sins of ambition and daring to be with Janet Mitchell. Seeing unrealized goals reincarnated in the eyes of his eldest son remind Lionel of what once could have been, and of what went wrong.
His own upbringing in a segregated town established a bitter, prejudiced outlook that is the only legacy he has to pass down to his children. When his job and role as primary breadwinner are lost, Lionel's authority erodes and he drowns disappointment one drink at a time. This affords Tony an opportunity to assert independence rather than allowing history to repeat itself and his fate to be set by chance and circumstance. Throughout the course of a tumultuous year, Tony comes to learn that the world is not as black and white as he and his father's opposing mindsets would suggest.