The Prep School Negro

Prep school survivor (and I say this only slightly tongue and cheek as one myself), Andre Robert Lee, who attended the prestigious Germantown Friends School, has recently created and released a documentary about his experience as a student of color at a Phildaelphia-area prep school. The documentary is called The Prep School Negro.

It’s definitely worth checking out – and I think a long time coming. While certainly some of the language (ghetto) and positioning raise an eyebrow for me, I am waiting eagerly to be able to see the documentary. I do believe that students of color’s experience at elite predominantly white institutions, challenges what Lee calls the “racial naivete” of our country.

There is a wildly inaccurate belief that somehow if we all go to school together that issues of race and class are erased. In part, that is the hope and essence of the principals put forth in the landmark Brown case, however, in practice, so very often, the educational system’s biases, whether around race, gender, class, or sexuality impact a student’s experience. Not addressing the very real presence of not only institutional bias, but also the very real existence of bias amidst teachers, students, and parents alike. In truth, part of the experience of being the only student of color at a nearly all-white institution can be amazingly isolating. Assimilation and access is a double-edged sword.

Andre Robert Lee did has been doing interviews about his documentary as well.

Ah….code switching. This is taking me down memory lane, remembering trying to go a week without anyone trying to touch my hair. White dresses and red roses. Wow. Right down memory lane.

The womyn doing the interview “on the stoop,” makes me uncomfortable. I do not appreciate her remark that “you should be paying us for watching since this is therapy for you.” I think that’s a senseless and problematic remark – and I don’t really care that she has an African-American child, that doesn’t reduce her culpability for exeercising white privilege throughout the interview.

My eyebrow raises, if this is going to be a film that suggests that children of color have to be “saved” by the better lives that private school offers – or suggests that all students of color who attend independent schools are from low-income families. Many children of color who attend independent schools, also have parents who are doctors or lawyers – so I truly hope that the film has nuance and doesn’t instead open up a new can of worms.


One Response to “The Prep School Negro”

  1. i’m a prep school survivor, too. 🙂
    i can’t wait to see this documentary.

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