Confessions of an Outsider in Elite Black America
As a scholarship student at a fancy private school, I gained entry to a world few Americans see: rich, privileged and black. I decided I wanted no part of it.
Illustrations by Daniel Fishel | Edited by Genelle Levy
My cousin swept onstage in a cloud of white, not so much walking as floating. She was resplendent in a gown of white satin, starched petticoats, hips gently swaying. Her Rubenesque form overshadowed the slender darkness of her escort, elegant in his tux and tails. The announcer read her name as she glided forward. Her escort, son of Dr. and Mrs. Someone-or-other, moved toward her in a coordinated dance, extending his arm in a way that made her seem like an extension of him. Her skirt belled out as she dipped into a perfectly executed curtsy that no doubt took months to perfect.
She looks like a dinner napkin. My inner critic snorted. I began a one-woman tirade, railing against and mocking the cotillion, its participants, and the “talented tenth” mentality it espoused. The swirling skirts, sweeping waltzes, and rhythmic stepping of one of black society’s oldest traditions had reduced me from a confident 30-year-old to a sniveling te…