Place of Privilege: Young, Black and in An Unexpected Place of Privilege
Mark Robinson, Raymond Smaltz, III
Place of Privilege, LLC (2021)
Reviewed by: Lily Andrews for Reader Views (07/2021)
“Place of Privilege” is a brilliantly written memoir by Mark Robinson and Raymond Smaltz, III. It is a unique memoir as it has two authors and is a narrative of two journeys braided together by a shared experience in a most unusual environment, The Dalton School in New York City, which is one of the most prestigious, elite prep schools in the nation, recognized globally for its visionary, progressive educational philosophy.
The authors begin by delving deeper into federal education policy, America’s civil rights, and racial segregation history in America and particularly the state of New York. They then recount their different backgrounds in detail and what led to the decision by their parents to take them to Dalton School. Initially, Dalton school did not admit Black students but later changed the policy during an interesting time in America. This was during a period characterized by conflicts of color, age differences, the haves and have not’s, and assassinations which led to riots and fear countrywide.
Raymond and Robinson compare the Black students’ experiences to that of ancient Greece and Egypt and how those who failed to conform to the environment were beaten, defeated, and wounded. The private school paradox of exclusion and inclusion became like the riddle of the Sphinx.
“A Place of Privilege” shares their experiences from when they attended the Dalton School. Each had his own experience as they were never close for the five years they were in the school. According to Raymond, they were like two ships who kept passing each other during the day, weighing anchors at various social ports along the way, but never seem to find a common pier to engage each other. This is a story of how these experiences shaped them.
This is no doubt a good story for readers to follow to its end. The sentences are neatly structured which ease readers into the setting of the story. The intriguing read gives short accounts of other students of color who went to school at Dalton which adds weight to the information the authors are trying to pass to readers. I loved how the two authors divided the chapters to tell their stories and that no narration overrode the other, giving readers an in-depth look at the discrimination against students of color and how most learned to conform.
I undoubtedly rate “Place of Privilege” 5 stars because of the descriptive nature of writing that the authors have used. Moreover, the beauty of a memoir is the ability of the author or authors to connect with readers by being real and open with their experiences without holding back. This book, I believe, has done just that adding to the reasons am giving the book a high leap.