Review: The Prep School Negro

Joe DiSipio

As I walked into the Duffy Center to see the screening of Andre Robert Lee’s The Prep School Negro on Tuesday, February 19, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The provocative title and sensitivity of the subject turned many people off, but I was excited to see how Andre Robert Lee perceived the prep school environment through the eyes of a so-called outsider.

I expected a detailed argument for how and why prep schools fail to aid their African American students. I expected a rant on why segragation lives on and conspiracy of to why white America consciously produces an environment unwelcome to people of color. In reality all anyone who was in the Duffy Center that Tuesday night saw was a story of a boy who went to a private school and learned a lot about himself along the way through hardship and triumph.

Our country is filled with many stories like Andre’s – ones in which young, gifted, but under-privileged people are given a chance to attend prestigious schools. Many argue that these people gain a “better” life. The Prep School Negro dives into the murkiness that surrounds these situations. By explaining one man’s journey, Lee attempts to offer something to relate to to others struggling as he did. And struggling is the right word because when young and gifted black children are offered a chance to “escape”, their world is ripped in two.

In the school world, Andre was treated almost as a guest or an outsider. At home in his neighborhood, he was treated as a traitor. Many young black people continue to experience similar situations today. Mr. Lee expressed feelings of self-loathing, embarrassment, and cultural apathy. He became unsure of who he was because he was told two different ways to live. Andre experienced what he called “psychological homelessness”, in your mind feeling as if you belong nowhere. Because of conflicting worlds, he felt as if he had nowhere to go.  When your mother is paid by the piece of string she puts into each pair of shorts at the factory and you go to school with some of the wealthiest people in the world, you are torn. Should you stick with your family or follow the plan to succeed the “white” way? This is one of the many questions Andre had to ask himself. Mr. Lee doesn’t try to do anything but relay his own story in hope that we find a little bit of our own story. We all must accept that the world isn’t perfect, but there is a way to fix the problem of The Prep School Negro.

As the narrative continues to delve into Andre’s personal life, one realizes that the prejudice and exclusion may be a problem, but the best solution is truth. Mr. Lee strongly stressed a message to tell the truth. He urged everyone in attendance to realize that in order to become the cohesive society we dream of, we must be truthful. We must accept all people because we want to be accepted. And we must admit when we need help. When we are truthful, what we must do – in any situation – becomes clear. When we honestly recognize our differences and accept them, we are able to grow closer together.

I really enjoyed seeing the film on February 19th because it really forced me to think about the world and the environment around me. It was especially rewarding to actually meet and participate in a dialogue with the brilliant director and producer Andre Robert Lee. I encourage anyone to see The Prep School Negro purely for its value to the important discussion of race.