Spring 2024

Ode to the Only Black Kid in the Class

By Clint Smith

You, it seems,
are the manifestation
of several lifetimes
of toil. Brown v. Board
in flesh. Most days
the classroom feels
like an antechamber.
You are deemed expert
on all things Morrison,
King, Malcolm, Rosa.
Hell, weren’t you sitting
on that bus, too?
You are every-
body’s best friend
until you are not.
Hip-hop lyricologist.
Presumed athlete.
Free & Reduced sideshow.
Exception and caricature.
Too black and too white
all at once. If you are
successful it is because
of affirmative action.
If you fail it is because
you were destined to.
You are invisible until
they turn on the Friday
night lights. Here you are
star before they render
you asteroid. Before they
watch you turn to dust.

“Silver and Color” by Laura J. Stein (Vol. 38.2)

Clint Smith is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, which was a #1 New York Times bestseller, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, and selected by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2021. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling poetry collection Above Ground as well as the award-winning poetry collection Counting Descent. He is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

Spring 2024