The Hidden Hurdle

Talented black students find that one of the most insidious obstacles to achievement comes from a surprising source: their own peers

When it comes to achieving in school, Za'kettha Blaylock knows that even dreaming of success can mean living a nightmare. She would, above all things, like to work hard, go to college and become a doctor. But to many other black 14-year-old girls in her corner of Oakland, these ideas are anathema. The telephone rings in her family's modest apartment, and the anonymous voice murmurs daggers. "We're gonna kill you," the caller says. Za'kettha knows the threat comes from a gang of black girls, one that specializes not in drugs or street fights but in terrorizing bright black students. "They think...