by Chrystal Schivell

Kobina Aidoo’s documentary, shown at NIOT’s April 4th Continuing Conversations, illustrated the myriad ways in which black people living in America describe themselves. This wonderful variety is what I call “cubbyholes” in my essay, “Beware the Black Box,” and is similar to the way white people are described. But America’s history of slavery and continued encounters with racism force us back into our black and white boxes.

The “Black Racial Identity Development Model,” which we read earlier this year, explains that in the immersion/emersion stage “everything of value in life must be Black or relevant to Blackness.” I interpret this to mean that in the face of racism, it is natural for black Americans to turn to the black box for support. I would agree, but I would also ask “What is in the black box? What does ‘everything
of value in life must be Black’” mean?

When one of my Trenton High students failed to get into a college-prep summer program, he slammed into my classroom and accused me of trying to make him white. Was college, for him, only in the white box?

I hope you will read my essay and come May 2nd to help open the box…if there is one. To read the essay, click here

Chrystal Schivell