A Black Girl’s Manual to Attending a New England Boarding School -The Toast

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Congratulations on your acceptance to our institution! Though we were founded in 1830, we only began admitting students of colour in 1960 — and to be perfectly honest, that first one was an accident. While certain rules apply across the board, this manual contains detailed information that will assist you both during and after your time with us. Best of luck, and welcome!

  1. On this campus there is one very specific way to be Black. It is difficult to articulate exactly what we mean by this, but you might simply describe it as being “stereotypically” Black. If you’re not sure how to interpret this, please take your cues not from your Black peers, not from your family, community, or friends from home, but from the white students around you. They will be extremely helpful in letting you know what is expected of Black students on campus. They will remind you with words and sideways glances that you should sit there in the dining hall (at the Black table), you should only hang out with that group of friends (the Black ones), you should participate in this extracurricular activity (the Step Team, which you should help to establish immediately if there isn’t one), and you should only compete in that sport (Track and Field, of course).
  1. Though you will very likely end up with a white dorm-mate (the school is only “23% diverse,” after all), we cannot overemphasise how important it is to remember that your friend group should mainly consist of those who are not white. White students are allowed to form friendships based on shared interests, compatible personalities, and other basic standards that must be met in order for two humans to spend any amount of time together. Black students will be expected to primarily form friendships with other Black students (and those Latin@s who can’t or choose not to pass as white) through the challenges of Shared Minority Struggles. You might also try sitting at the Korean Table in the dining hall, though their perceived whiteness will vary from school to school. (Note that while the “Korean Table” is referred to as such, it will generally hold students from a multitude of Asian countries. You’re under no obligation to differentiate — white students certainly won’t.)
  1. The school is not responsible for items lost or stolen post-graduation. We do understand that you will have spent four years living in a high school country club where you feel safe leaving your laptop unattended, knowing it will be there when you return. However, it is up to you to develop the savvy necessary to know not to leave your MacBook sitting on a table in a Times Square Starbucks while using the bathroom. Your high school education is worth $200,000; the severely warped development of common sense we also provide is priceless.
  1. You will be required to play one team sport or participate in one theatre production per semester. As noted above, we recommend that you choose track and field for the spring. You may be tempted to choose cross country during the fall semester, but we ask that you choose soccer instead. During the winter semester we will provide you with a guidebook which explains the minutia of ice hockey so you can become fluent enough to participate in school-wide conversations about the most popular sport on campus. You should, however, join the basketball team.
  1. The school will provide transportation to and from your required sporting events, the area mall on weekends, and school dances at schools with larger Black and Latin@ populations than ours. We will, on occasion, also bus in other Black and Latin@ students for dances on our own campus because, as you will often hear your white classmates say, those are the “best” dances. (You won’t realise how strange it is that we have to do this until your first Comparative American Studies class in college.)
  1. Dating between students is allowed, but if you are not attracted to one of the nine other Black students in your graduating class and they are not attracted to you in return, please be prepared to wait until college to experience a fruitful dating life. We take no responsibility for the arrested development of self-esteem or sexuality this might cause.
  1. Be yourself with your friends, and someone else with your white classmates. It will be assumed by your classmates that you have been admitted to our school via affirmative action and/or financial aid of some sort. You’ll find that it’s generally easier to silently go along with these assumptions. Correcting your classmates simply causes more confusion on their part. This is not their fault — it’s difficult for anyone to attempt to alter their entire worldview for the first time in their lives. Silent agreement will save you the headache of explaining the truth multiple times.
The author in her Harry Potter uniform, back in her high school dorm. The author in her boarding school dorm, wearing a Hogwarts uniform, of course.
  1. You will be admitted to and graduate from a top college. While we would prefer an Ivy League school, we will also accept one of the Seven Sisters, a Little Ivy, UCLA, Stanford, or — if you must choose an HBCU — Howard, Spelman, or Morehouse. If you are from a lower- to middle-income family, or from anywhere other than a wealthy white suburb near a major city, we will provide little to no preparation on how to survive and thrive in the Ivies we’d prefer that you attend.
  1. You are now spoiled in countless ways. Nothing will ever live up to the charmed life you will live for four years at this country club of a high school. Keep that in mind as you choose how you intend to spend the rest of your post-country club life. You will probably feel the need to reject everything preppy, New England, elite, and white once you finally graduate, but be aware of the sacrifices you’ll make when you choose to go to that liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere whose largest donor isn’t Roger Ailes. Your access to state-of-the-art weight rooms, art studios, and libraries will be over — indeed, you’ll find most of the facilities in your new school to be subpar, and your college friends will quickly tire of hearing you wonder why everything is so much worse than it was at your high school.
  1. Know that most people will be confused when you launch into a rant about how complicated and difficult your time in high school was. “So you wouldn’t send your kids there?” your friends will always ask. Your answer is obvious: “Do you think I’ve been giving them money every year out of the kindness of my heart? Of course I’m sending my kids there! I may have only had three friends my own age, but I met those three friends in the film screenwriting class I was allowed to take instead of suffering through another year of state-mandated algebra.” Ten years from now when you’re living comfortably in the glory of your successful career (which we will happily take credit for), you’ll understand that the benefits of going to school here help to dull the pain. You’ll want the same success for your own children, and we — possessing an endowment larger than the GDP of several countries — will be here to provide it to them.
  1. Aside from the American dollar, a college degree is the piece of paper we’ll teach you to value most in life– whether or not you can afford or want one. When you get together later in life with the Black and Latin@ friends you’ve made here, be prepared to discover that a number of them will not have finished college. The reasons will vary: Maybe they were pressured into an Ivy that wasn’t right for them. Maybe the Ivy they were admitted into was right for them, but unaffordable in the long run. Perhaps a family crisis forced them to leave school and move back closer to home to help out. Proportionally, given how few of you there are to begin with, more students of color will have left college without graduating than your former white peers. We will, periodically, have much to sympathetically say about this problem, while offering few solutions.
  1. Once you enter college, we’ll begin inviting you to reunion weekends, young alumni parties, teacher retirements, and summer barbeques on Nantucket. We’ll expect yearly donations, but that is very little to ask in return for four years of education. If you’d prefer to just forget your time with us, we recommend not completing college or attending a school that reflects poorly on us — for instance, attending or dropping out of a community college will ensure that you will never hear from us again. However, if you drop out of college before going on to create a popular app or running a successful startup, don’t worry about getting back in touch: we’ll find you.
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