(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas” is told in first person by Clint, an African American boy in a predominantly white elementary school in Waco, Texas, who must deal with his own racism before he can see his African American classmates as fully human. The first line of the story indicates Clint’s active dislike for one of his African American classmates, Marvin Pruitt. His reasons for this dislike are too clear: Marvin epitomizes certain negative stereotypes of African American males. Marvin is dark-skinned, smells bad, is two grades behind, and is hostile. Clint largely ignores a second African American classmate, Ah-so, a heavyset girl, who is also behind in school, but obviously not stupid; she simply refuses to speak.

Their sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Wickham, makes little effort to hide her racism. She ignores Marvin, who sleeps away most of the day, she narrows her eyes in disapproval whenever Clint answers a question correctly, and she badgers Ah-so with questions even though this girl steadfastly refuses to speak. Mrs. Wickham frequently regales her students with harmless racist jokes. Clint even laughs at her jokes.

The white children, when not outright hostile, show little understanding of their own racist attitudes. One boy assumes that Clint should feel ashamed of Marvin because they share the same skin color. Clint does feel ashamed: ashamed of Marvin and ashamed of himself for feeling the way that he does about...

(The entire section is 552 words.)