Author: Anthony Abraham Jack

For Students Who Grew Up Poor, An Elite Campus Can Seem Like a Sea of Wealth and Snobbery

“Where are the other poor black kids?” This is the first question I remember asking myself, a chubby freshman with my hair in cornrows, while walking across the Amherst College campus. I was in the center of the main quad, standing outside Johnson Chapel. The lawn was freshly mowed. It looked pristine, a shimmering deep green. The Massachusetts evening, slightly chilly for a Miami transplant such as myself, was filled with excitement as the incoming freshmen meandered around, nervously greeting one another. Conversations bubbled all around me. Wasting little time, my new peers enlisted me in a rite of passage that, fifteen years later, I now call “convocation conversations”—those quick, casual introductory chats that happen en route to meals and classes, where students conveniently work in verbal versions of their resumes and narrate their summer itineraries for any and all to hear. These strangers—my new classmates—swapped stories of summer fun. Multiweek trips abroad. Fancy parties at summer homes. Courtside seats at professional basketball games. Invitations to private premieres of movies that, as far as I knew, …