Being black while going to a private school is like being an exotic animal at the zoo. You’re a spectacle for the people there, because they rarely see black people. Because of your race’s rarity in these areas, stereotypes are given and expectations are laid out for you that you don’t understand or simply disagree with. For some, coming to these schools provide a challenge like no other:Increased workloads, more tests, etc. However, the most difficult part isn’t the class work, but rather what happens outside of class. If you’re not good at the sport assigned to you stereotype, it’s even harder to fit in than if you had. If you don’t act like your stereotype it’s hard to even be socially accepted. My only example can be my personal one, from when I went to private school.
I’d been going to private school since lower school, but none had been like the middle school I ended up transferring to. The school was called Chestnut Hill Academy, or CHA and it was built like a college campus. Possibly the most memorable event i’d had at CHA was when I was waiting for my father to pick me up. A boy, A.J came up to me and I glanced over, unsure of what he was going to say. He was kind of popular, being a varsity player in every sport he played and even played on the high school team for baseball in middle school. “Do you like, wash your hair?” He asked. I was appalled and responded “Well yeah, it’s hair...do you?”, hoping he was joking but knowing he wasn’t. “Well I heard you couldn’t like wash your hair for years to get dreads. How do you wash it?”, he responded. “I use shampoo like you.”. We went back and forth like this for awhile until I got tired of answering his questions and tried to cut the conversation short. Apparently I wasn’t quick enough, because now he felt comfortable to give me a nickname. “Mophead. Yeah, that’s what you are, a mophead!”. If i’d been a little older, this wouldn’t have affected me at all, but at the tender age of 12, it felt like a punch in the gut. What right did this random boy have, to prod at my culture and completely disrespect what I wore around as my pride and joy? I was a hotheaded kid, and had already thought of a response to his branding, but my father pulled up so I left without a word. This wasn’t the only time stuff like this happened, and I’d even had a teacher with dreadlocks like mine who was asked the same questions. He was stronger than me though, and knew how draw the line between joking and strictness. He soon became my advisor, and through him I learned to numb myself to the stereotypical, borderline racist comments spewing from teacher and student mouths alike.
This book, A Hope In The Unseen is a story about a young African American boy who miraculously gets into an Ivy League college and follows his story from the process beforehand to his college life after getting in. The first time the author talks about Cedric Jennings as a student is in the beginning of the book, as an introduction of sorts. “Cedric Jennings is not, by nature, a loner, but he finds himself evermore isolated, walking a gauntlet through the halls, sitting unaccompanied in class, and spending hours in this room.”(page 5)
I chose this quote because it spoke to the lifestyle the protagonist had received when he decided to try to be his best self. This scene is still in public school, but you can tell that based on the way he’s described, he’s an outsider. It is made clear later in the book that it’s because the other kids are afraid he thinks he’s better than them, and because of that they try not to associate with him or if a they do, insult his intelligence. However, when he gets to Brown University, a different, but equally as isolating encounter awaits the protagonist
When I went to SCH, it was fairly eye opening for me about finding myself. I noticed that overall, black people going to white schools has always been a life changing moment, and not always for the better. Going to these schools puts you in between two worlds, and you can never fit perfectly in either. At home, people begin to think you’re bourgeois, or simply trying to be better than them, while at private school, people think you’re a spectacle. One to be poked, prodded, tested, but not to make friends with. There will be the rare occasion where there are people who you’ll be friends with, but it’s not always the case. I was fortunate to be one of the people who did make friends at my school. However, In A Hope In The Unseen, Cedric struggled to make any friends and went through his entire high school years with only the support of his mother and his faith in church. Through the corroboration of these two sources, I believe that the only true way to find and hold onto your identity as a black student in a private school or even just being the best student you can be is to find what makes you happy and then the rest will follow (friends, jobs, camps, etc.).That, in a nutshell, is a peek inside of the world of a preppy black student.