TRESSIE McMILLAN COTTOM is a professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she teaches introductory courses and seminars on stratification, technology, inequality, and other such topics. She’s a contributing writer at the Atlantic, and her writing has also been published in the Washington Post and the Chronicle of Higher Education, among other sources. You can follow her on Twitter @tressiemcphd and on her blog tressiemc, where this essay was first posted in 2013.