25 Signs You Were A Minority Attending A NYC Private School


Yesterday, I shared a Thought Catalog piece entitled “33 Signs You Went To Private School In New York City”. I found many of the things listed familiar, and later that night, I realized why – the list was written by a girl who graduated a year previous at my high school. Although the list of things she compiled was familiar, none of it was actually relatable because I wasn’t a privileged white kid who grew up with money. Many of my peers were the ones who did all the things in the list, and my memories are of myself watching these kids revel in their privilege without them being conscious of it. To them, country houses and luxury Manhattan digs were normal, not a phenomenon.
In lieu of this, I’ve compiled my own list of signs; however, this time, I hope that a lot of my friends and high school peers will find my list to be directly relatable because they are derived from our experiences in the world of privilege. Granted, everyone’s experience is subjective, but I’m sure there are at least two or three things that will make you as a reader say “YES GIRL!” or “Wow, throwback!” at least one time.

(1) You had no less than a 40-45 minute commute not by Supertrans, but by MTA bus or the subway to get to your school on the Upper East Side, or in a part of the borough nicer than the one you resided in.

(2) Everyone (including you, at times) referred to Manhattan as “The City” without acknowledging there are four other boroughs that are part of that description.

(3) One of the first things you did once arriving at your school was count the number of people in your classes of similar shade as you…

(4) …then approached them and promptly asked “are you a Prep kid?”

(5) Having five-star meals prepared by school chefs, an extensive fruit and salad bar, ice cream, and home-cooked breakfast made you feel like you were at a hotel every day.

(6) Your white friends would ask you about the latest hip-hop track and popular rappers, and if you would teach them the latest hip-hop dance craze (re: 2005 southern rap dances).

(7) Except for that one episode of Hey Arnold you didn’t know about bar/bat mitzvahs until your arrival in seventh grade…

(8) …only to subsequently attend roughly 10-20 of those things over the course of your middle school career.

(9) You spent most of your days on the Upper West Side with your friends in their lavish, marble-floored apartments saying to yourself “so this is what it’s like to have money.”

(10) DAIS and SDLC are two unforgettable acronyms…

(11) …whose personal impact and parties/events were twice as memorable.

(12) Joan and Ken Marable (better known as Mr. and Mrs. Marable) were the real-life Cosbys.

(13) The term “inter-school” didn’t refer to sports competition between schools, but the network of minority kids in private schools to which you belonged.

(14) Going to house parties on weekends at your classmates’ Manhattan apartments was like stepping into a scene straight out of a high school movie, underage drinking, drugs, and all.

(15) Sitting with the other kids of color at lunch was primetime chat for inter-school gossip and drama, but also served as a refuge to discuss certain things you couldn’t with your white friends, like cultural happenings and the like.

(16) Having Tina Fey as your graduation speaker, seeing Kathleen Turner at PTA meetings, or touring Kevin Bacon around your school’s campus seemed normal until you went back to your neighborhood and your friends were distantly star-struck.

(17) Speaking proper English inevitably led to someone in your neighborhood saying “You sound like a white person” or accusing you of “Trying to be/sound white.”

(18) When most of your grade was enjoying a week of fun in the sun and debauchery in the Bahamas spring break senior year, you were braving the harsh New York City spring with your group of friends…

(19) …because when you asked your parents to foot the $1,000 travel cost, they looked at you as if you were mentally unhinged.

(20) You were the first girl in your neighborhood to wear UGG and Juicy Couture, before it became “hood chic.”

(21) You were the only guy in your grade at school with every notable Jordan or signature Nike sneaker worth having.

(22) College choices weren’t as simple as “picking your favorite school,” but also which school would give you the best financial aid package as well as education.

(23) Not washing your hair daily and/or wearing protective styles confused your white female friends, even after subsequent explanation or reasoning.

(24) Using coded language between your private school set of friends and your neighborhood set of friends seemed more like a job at times than it was a convenience, and being with both groups felt like stepping into two different worlds.

(25) You realize that your experiences as a person of color in the world of privilege (both good and bad) are ones that have molded you into the well-rounded, well-educated, walking success story that you are today.