'I'm Gonna Rise Above What I Was Doing'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.


A photo posted by Tavaris Sanders (@ttutaz) on

This photo-filled personal essay from Tavaris Sanders, chronicling his journey from a gang-ridden Chicago hood to a small, liberal arts college in Connecticut, is a must read for anyone following the debate over campus protests—a debate in which nuanced narratives like his easily get lost in exaggeration and agenda. Sanders struggles to fit in his freshman year and considers dropping out, but his story ends on an upswing. And the photos throughout the essay are really evocative. Here’s the most notable caption, on the tension between his two worlds:

This is my cousin. That’s his best friend. This is my brother. He has a peculiar style — slash-white-boy-slash-hood-nigger at the same time. He’s my foster brother, like, the other half of my heart. This is like blood to me, 100 percent. I don’t even consider him my foster brother. He knows everything I do, he know how I feel. We always do everything together. If he could come to college with me, I would be so happy, like, I would never drop out.

(Hat tip: Gillian)