Today’s New York Times includes the article “Admitted But Left Out”, found here, which chronicles how minority students at various NYC private schools feel isolated and alienated among their wealthy white classmates. Students in various schools describe how they felt uncomfortably out of place when their white classmates talked of weekends in the Hamptons and exotic vacations. They complain about feeling like a guest at someone’s house: “you can stay and look, but you don’t belong”. DJ Banton, who came to Manhattan’s Trinity School from her Brooklyn middle school through the Prep for Prep program, complained that the differences in money and experiences made the gulf between herself and her private school classmates often too wide to bridge. “The only people who could relate to what I was feeling were minorities, or they were poor,” Ms. Banton, now studying at the University of Southern California, said. “It became linked in my mind — rich, white; minority, poor.”
Anyone unfamiliar with NYC private schools reading this NY Times piece is likely to make the same link as Ms. Banton, and likely to assume that every minority private school student feels similarly uncomfortable in these schools. While the students quoted in this piece are genuine in their descriptions of their discomfort, this article makes no effort to present any alternative viewpoints. In this exhaustive discussion of the minority student experience at elite private schools, the Times couldn’t find one minority student who managed to feel comfortable among his or her white peers. Even the one recent alum quoted in this article who had fond memories of his private school experience felt “excluded by whites”. No students were included who by virtue of their friendships and/or their common experiences with some of their white classmates felt as if they belonged in their schools. (Nor could they find any white students who felt similarly economically isolated from their wealthy classmates.) These minority students exist. Some of them are our children.
No question that these schools need to focus on making sure that minority students are comfortable in their schools–our children deserve to feel as if they belong there. And it is important that we parents stay vigilant to ensure that unchecked insensitivity doesn’t harm our children. But this article doesn’t even attempt to present a fuller picture of minority student life at these schools. There is a brief mention of the impact of economics (versus race) on these students’ perspectives, but the article overwhelmingly views this issue solely through the prism of race. Even if this were a completely accurate picture, the article includes no suggestions as to what schools can do other than create films to “start the conversation”, as if this is a new issue. There is no mention of how other schools (e.g., boarding schools) have been dealing with this issue from a racial and economic perspective for decades. Eye-rolling abounds when one considers how much more interesting, informative and helpful this article could have been had the Times dug just a little deeper.
GCP readers, what do you think??