Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Many of Reginald McKnight’s stories deal with the theme of internalized racism. McKnight, like the narrator of “The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas,” grew up in a military family that moved often. No doubt, he draws from his personal experiences of being one of only a handful of African American children in predominately white schools. His protagonists are often isolated in an environment in which their ethnicity is highlighted and they are denied the support of an African American community.

Living in a predominately white culture, Clint absorbs the racism of many of his white peers. This internalized racism makes Clint eager to distance himself from his African American classmates. His greatest fear is that the white children will lump all African American children together; they will not see that Clint is different from the dirty, dark-skinned Marvin or the silent, heavyset Ah-so. His skin color, however, is impossible to escape. Even in seemingly innocent questions about how Clint combs his hair, the white children constantly remind him of his racial difference. Clint is painfully aware of racism in all its guises; he sees through Mrs. Wickham’s preferential treatment and her harmless racist jokes, yet he continues to do his “Tom-thing.” Clint is extra careful to always be neat in his appearance, to perform well in school, and to follow all the rules.

However, Clint’s diligent efforts cannot save him from being...

(The entire section is 473 words.)