Jeff Gerber lives in an average suburban neighborhood with his seemingly liberal housewife Althea, who tolerates her husband's character flaws out of love. Every morning when Jeff wakes up, he spends some time under a tanning machine, hits the speedbag, drinks a health drink, and races the bus to work on foot.
Jeff presents himself as happy-go-lucky and quite a joker, but others tend to see him as obnoxious and boorish. Althea, who watches the race riots every night on TV with great interest, chastises Jeff for not having sympathy for the problems of black Americans.
One morning, Jeff wakes up to find that his pigment has changed. He tries to fall back asleep, thinking that it is a dream, but to no avail. He tries taking a shower to wash the "black" off him, but finds it does not work, when Althea walks into the bathroom, and screams. He explains to her that the "Negro in the bathroom" is him.
At first, Jeff believes this to be the result of spending too much time under the tanning machine. He spends almost the entire day at home, afraid to go out of the house, only going out once to venture into the "colored part of town" in order to find a pharmacy to buy "the stuff they use in order to make themselves look white." His attempts to change his skin color fail.
The next day, he is persuaded to get up and go to work. Things start out well at first, until Jeff is accused of robbery while running alongside the bus to work. The policeman assumes that, since he is a black man, he must have stolen something. During his lunch break, he makes an appointment with his doctor who cannot explain Jeff's condition either. After several calls, the doctor suggests that Jeff might be more comfortable with a black doctor.
Returning home, he finds Althea afraid to answer the phone. He does not understand why until he receives a call from a man who uses racial slurs. At work the next day, a secretary who had previously ignored him makes several advances toward him, finding him more attractive as a black man. Jeff's boss suggests that they could drum up extra business with a "Negro" salesman and reassigns him to deal only with black customers.
At home one evening, he finds the people who had made the threatening phone calls are neighbors who offer him $50,000 for his home due to fear of property depreciation. Jeff manages to raise the price to $100,000. Althea sends the children to live with a relative and later leaves her husband. Jeff sleeps with the secretary but is repulsed by her objectification of him afterwards. Finally accepting that he is black, Jeff resigns his regular job, buys an apartment building, and starts his own insurance company. The last scene shows him practicing martial arts with a group of black menial workers.
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