Hi, my name is Rolby Seneus and I am black. To be honest I am Haitian, but I do not very often get to share that with people. All they see is black.
I wake up everyday as a black man and am reminded of it every time I am asked or receive looks questioning if I live in the predominantly white building in which I reside. I am reminded of it every time I walk past a white woman in the predominantly white neighborhood I reside as she clutches her purse, dog or significant other. I am reminded of it when I step onto the train as white women hold their purses close and white men stare as if the sight of a black man dressed for a desk job is a foreign concept. I am reminded of it when I walk down the block to work as school children are coming up with their parents as they yank them closely and avoid eye contact despite me smiling and saying good morning. I am reminded when only the black crossing guard waves back every morning. I am reminded every time I meet with a client and I am forced to say “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” not as a sign of southern hospitality, but simply because I know if I am not extra polite I will have a complaint filed against me no matter how well I perform. I am reminded again as I make my way home and enter a busy train during rush hour where many are squeezing in, but if I squeeze in the side stares and gazes begin. Or on the contrary if I am “too close” despite being there first, I am in violation of their personal space. And that is just one Monday out of the entire year.
See, while some wake up knowing they have the freedom to pursue happiness, I wake up knowing that if I am not careful, I may not make it home to my fiancée. I may not ever be able to buy my parents their dream car, pay off their mortgage, or finally send them on a well deserved vacation. I may not ever be able to create a scholarship fund to help give back to my hometown in hopes of helping get students through school and close the gap.
Today I wake up empowered, knowing that I can finally share my story without being the black guy in the office always trying to make everything about race. Or being the angry black person who thinks everything is racist. Confirming that those I knew never cared about me and would never get going when things got tough. I feel released that it was not me who kept seeing the worst in people, but instead that I truly was shaking hands and breaking bread with some of the worst people. I wake up knowing that I have my voice back and that it is ok to stand up for myself.
It is one thing to hear what is being said, but another to listen. I am happy to wake up and see the black out on social media and everyone who is ignorant educating themselves on some of the injustice that black people have faced for years in America. But I want to see who still stands when the smoke clears. When the country reopens and it is no longer trending on social media, which executives will stand up and make sure that people of color are no longer oppressed and get the promotions and raises they worked their tail off for? How many white women will no longer clutch their purse or stare up and down in disgust as a black man walks past? How many white people will no longer judge us by the way we dress or make a slick comment about our hair? I am not looking for injustice to trend, I’m looking for it to end.