Roger Porter (Washington), a young and somewhat naive black man, is the long-lost son of Walter Whitney (Segal), a successful businessman living in the exclusive, predominantly white community of San Marino, California. Walter, who is secretly Jewish, lives a frustrating life in his gated community as he constantly has to beg his shrewish wife for sex, plus he has to put up with his obnoxious step-daughter’s antics. Roger turns up at Walter’s office, revealing that he is the result of Walter’s long-ago relationship with a black woman, who is now dead. For purposes of professional advancement in the business, Walter had left Roger’s mother. The only person who knew about Roger’s mother was his anti-Semitic father-in-law (Warden), who is also his boss. Walter’s father-in-law had warned him that if he continued his relationship with Roger’s mother he would see to it that Walter would never prosper in his career, so Walter forcefully broke it off.
Attempting to make it up to Roger, Walter tells his wife Vivian (Saint James) that he wants to have Roger live with them for the summer as a foster son. She accepts, but soon regrets the decision after she finds out about Roger’s real relationship with Walter. She kicks Walter out. Her father fires him, taking his car and credit cards. His lawyer and erstwhile best friend says that he will be representing Vivian in the divorce, but gives him a referral to another lawyer, who is African-American. The new lawyer tells him that all his money is in accounts in only Vivian’s name, so all he has left is the money in his wallet, $68. Walter checks into a sleazy motel with Roger and tries to make ends meet by shoveling manure in a stable. Roger hocks Walter’s golf clubs to finance them to move into a rundown apartment in Watts. Meanwhile, Walter’s father-in-law watches Walter’s every move to make sure Walter receives no help from the world he knew, so that Walter will return to his old world WITHOUT Roger.
Walter’s wife Vivian and his father in law visit him in the apartment, telling Walter they miss him. He then has to choose between either acceptance that Roger is his son, or alienation of Roger to salvage his own position in society. He chooses the latter, but his conscience bothers him to the extreme where he then decides to sacrifice everything again to return to Roger, dismissing his father-in-law’s threats that this time he will make Walter really suffer.
After meeting Roger again, Walter’s new lawyer reveals that Roger isn’t a high school dropout, but is actually a college student, premed at Walter’s old alma mater. He takes Walter to where Roger is at the side of the road working on his car, and first Walter tells him that he wants to go and work for an old acquaintance to live nearby him, but eventually decides to go and stay with Roger’s aunt Clara and be a full part of his life. As the movie ends, Walter, proud of his son, rides along in Roger’s jalopy, deciding to finally give him the time they never had before.