What is the plot of the short story "The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas" by McKnight?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hello! You asked about the plot of the short story "The Kind Of Light That Shines on Texas" by Reginald McKnight. The story is narrated by Clint, one of only three African-American boys in his elementary school in Waco, Texas. His two other African-American classmates are a boy named Marvin Pruitt, whom he dislikes, and a girl named Ah-so, whom he also dislikes. He does not understand why she is called Ah-so when he reasons that there is not the slightest thing Asian about her.

This story is about racism within one's own race. Clint feels guilty about his dislike for Marvin, who exhibits all the stereotypical traits of African-Americans that are caricatured by Caucasians, namely that he smells bad, is a poor student, "hostile, dark-skinned, homely, close-mouthed." Yet, Clint is afraid of him due to his big size. Marvin also has an unsanitary habit; he has the "habit of spitting on his right arm, juicing it down til it would glisten." When Clint looks at Ah-so, she looks like her skin "always shone as if worked by Marvin's palms and fingers." Clint feels that African-Americans like Marvin and Ah-so are the main reason people of his skin color are discriminated against, and he is ashamed to be associated with them in any way. Clint wants to impress upon his teacher that he is different from both Marvin and Ah-so, so that he will not get ignored by her or be given negative attention by her.

Yet Clint is even more afraid of a white boy named Kevin Oakley, who has continually threatened to kill him. One day, Oakley gets the chance he is waiting for: when the school coach allows an innocent game of murderball to become dangerous, Oakley can't wait to hurt Clint. However, Clint manages to land a hard-pumped volleyball on Oakley's nose, and before he knows it, Oakley is flat on his back. Clint knows that retribution will follow, and sure enough, Oakley confronts him in the locker room and tells him that he is going to come for him after school. Clint asks Oakley why he can't just go after Marvin. Later, Clint is ashamed that he said such a thing, but it is too late. He knows that he meant to say it; he just didn't like how he felt after he said it.

The next day, Oakley picks a fight with Clint and Clint taunts him. But before anything else can happen, Marvin pushes Clint aside and beats Oakley up. When Marvin is done, he stares down Clint. A chastened Clint starts to look at both Marvin and Ah-so differently.

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