Incident Summary

This short, three-stanza poem describes a brief encounter with a lasting effect. The speaker of the poem is a child riding on public transportation during a trip to Baltimore. He is overjoyed to be in the city. He looks around. taking in all the details when he notices a “Baltimorean” his same age (eight) and size (small). The speaker smiles at this other little boy, but he just sticks out his tongue and calls him by the racist slur “'Nigger.'” In this way, the poem ends with the speaker admitting that despite staying in Baltimore for many months, his earlier “glee” disappeared due to this encounter. He was made to feel painfully aware of the reality of racism, and this overshadowed every other aspect of his visit to Baltimore. In fact, this painful “incident” changed the speaker’s life, because it taught him to be hyper-aware of how others see him.