“Ode to the Only Black Kid in the Class” poem by Clint Smith


I’m Clint Smith and this is
“Ode to the Only Black Kid in the Class.” 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.

100 Comments

  1. We hope you love the poems we've animated for this series as much as we do! Tell us about your favorite poem and why we should animate it next. We love getting pitches from you guys.
    Check out the whole series here: http://bit.ly/TEDEdTheresAPoemForThat​

  2. I hope I don't make my friends feel like this just because of how they look. I personally don't feel I've made these assumptions but I've never asked what they think.

  3. As the only white person in many of my high school classes I can relate to this… kinda, to bad I didn’t have anything excel in. But, it did open to my eyes on how others would feel being the “only one”.

  4. In this comment section :

    ~50%- love the poem
    ~30% – 20% doesn't like the poem
    ~18,2% ask questions
    ~1,4 says illogical and unrelated bs
    ~0,1 spam

  5. Didn't really get the whole asteroids turning to dust part. Maybe he should've paid closer attention in astronomy class.

  6. Well, in germany oriental kids are the biggest minorty in schools and this is very similar to how we feel in class. (minus the history of slavery and genocide of course)

  7. I ask myself, as a white teacher, what I should do about my own students in this situation. The only acceptable answer I can come up with is nothing. I treat each student the same, regardless of culture and identity.

  8. This was so subtle and yet so powerful. The animation, as always, was absolutely amazing. Thank you Ted-Ed and Clint, you've done a commendable job!

  9. My daughter and I appreciate more than you will ever know. Thank you for putting into word the exact feelings she deals with daily!🙏🏼❤️

  10. People only disliked this because they have a problem with the truth, don't ever expect anyone to understand your pain if they've never been through it

  11. If you succeed it is because of affirmative action, if you fail it is because you are destined to.

    Me: that blew my mind harder than freaking katrina

  12. I didn't even get to shine on Friday nights. My high school preferred to lose with players of a certain ethnic background than win with African American players. I hardly ever got the ball playing running back but ran for over 100 yards each time I got at least 4 carries (essentially getting almost all of my rushing yards in 3 games). And I had to block on kickoff return.

    I was recruited to play cornerback in college, but was granted a shot at running back. I was in the starting rotation at running back as a freshman, on a Division III team that went to the playoffs the season before. And I started at kick returner, where I returned the first 3 kicks past the 40 yard line and teams kicked away from me after that. But I hardly ever got the ball on my sorry high school team.

    And it wasn't just me. That happened to African American students at my high school for years. Some transferred to one of the two city schools that were state powerhouses, and they didn't just start but were stars. But they hardly got the ball on our sorry to mediocre high school teams.

    The parents of one those students and my parents organized parents of other African American students and got the NAACP involved when I was in 7th grade and my sister was a senior (they kept African American students off of the varsity cheerleading squad, too). I think the school system retaliated with a "clerical error" in my grades, so I didn't get recognized for my 4.0 GPA at the end of year awards banquet. In fact, I didn't get invited to the banquet at all, even though I still had a 3.8 GPA with the alleged clerical error.

    And the younger son of the other couple and I were benched the entire 8th grade football season. The coaches said that it would be unfair to let us play because we missed the first "week" of practice before school started. We both had to babysit younger siblings when school was out, and the "week" of practice we missed was actually one day of passing out equipment and two days of light practice without any pads. Like I said, I went on to play college football, and he was the most athletic student in our class. But we didn't even get to play in the few games that they had between teams' backup players. The 9th grade and high school coaches didn't bench anyone for a season for missing 2 or 3 practices.

    Also, the director of the district's gifted program tried to talk my parents out of letting me be in the gifted program in 4th grade. The high school guidance counselor sat on correspondence from elite schools that was sent to me or to another African American student (who already had an older brother at Penn). She went on to Cornell and became a medical doctor, anyway. And the Cornell head football coach said that he had to have a very uncomfortable conversation with my high school coach, in which he had to essentially insist that my coach set up a meeting with me as my coach just kept pushing one of my teammates who happened to be "white" (and a good player and a great guy, but the Cornell coach wanted to meet with both of us).

    Now that I'm middle aged, I can't imagine doing any of those things to a child. Those were some pathetic people.

  13. OMG!! I attend a school that is majority white and this is exactly how I feel and how I'm treated. You guys really have a poem for everything.

  14. Lamented transparency. The truth hurts but it also sets us free. The poem was wonderfully written melanated king. 👑💓💯

  15. Uh, it is hard to understand because it contain some words that i dont know and because in my country all pupils are equal, uhm

  16. it's always so telling for nonblack people to see the thumbnail and title, knowing full well who this poem is for, actively click on this video, and then crying about there being no "poem" for them

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