In America, race and class are inextricably linked. Whether by chance, or more likely, by purpose, that is the reality that we must live with. Most of the children who attend New York’s Lower Laboratory School for Gifted Education and Straus School, and their parents, know this all too well.
Straus and Lower Lab inhabit the same building in New York’s Upper East Side—P.S. 198—yet the two schools couldn’t be more different. The only thing they share is the building. While they utilize the same halls and bathrooms, the two schools never interact, even during lunch or recess. There’s an even more striking area they don’t share—the front door. Lower Lab, along with its student and teachers, gets to use the front door while the Straus students are forced to go around the side of the building to use the back door.
In Steven Thrasher’s article, “Inside a Divided Upper East Side Public School,” published in New York’s Village Voice, he describes the scene at P.S. 198 by saying, “If you’re a white student and you arrive at the public elementary school building on 95th Street and Third Avenue, you’ll probably walk through the front door. If you’re a black student, you’ll probably come in through the back.”