LIKE a city unto itself, Stuyvesant High School, in Lower Manhattan, is broken into neighborhoods, official and otherwise. The math department is on the 4th of its 10 floors; biology is on the 7th. Seniors congregate by the curved mint wall off the second-floor atrium, next to lockers that are such prime real estate that students trade them for $100 or more. Sophomores are relegated to the sixth floor.
In Stuyvesant slang, the hangouts are known as “bars.” Some years ago, the black students took over the radiators outside the fifth-floor cafeteria, and the place soon came to be known as the “chocolate bar,” lending it an air of legitimacy in the school’s labyrinth of cliques and turfs.
It did not last long. This year, Asian freshmen displaced the black students in a strength-in-numbers coup in which whispers of indignation were the sole expression of resistance. There was no point arguing, said Rudi-Ann Miller, a 17-year-old senior who came to New York from Jamaica and likes to style her hair in a bun, slick and straight, like the ballerina she once dreamed of becoming.