Are my brothers okay?
Are my parents okay?
Are my cousins okay?
Are my friends okay?
I run through a roll call, a list in my head of my loved ones and check in. It’s something I usually do, but even more so now.
I knew that I was different growing up, different than a lot of kids in a lot of ways. Being a first generation Haitian American, I grew up knowing that I needed to work twice as hard to be successful and was taught that it was the only way to success. I was also taught the importance of treating everyone with respect, being friendly, and doing your best.
When I personally experienced racism for the first time, I was incredibly shaken up. I couldn’t identify that what was taking place was racism at first.
The older I get, the more and more I understand why my parents didn’t allow my brothers and I to go outside. Growing up, we were inside playing video games, reading, watching tv and rarely going outside to “hang out with friends”. My parents were always concerned about our safety and felt safest, felt most secure when we were all under the same roof. I see the same look of relief and smile come over their faces when my adult brothers and I are all at home to visit.
I see my brothers as loving, gentle, nerdy, musical geniuses. To the world, they’re just black men, a potential threat. Our skin is seen as a threat. And yet we operate in the world with a welcoming smile.
We enter spaces where we’re more than likely to be the only black person or one of a few and have to take on the weight of feeling as though we speak for all of them, and we also have to walk the line of fitting in so we don’t stand out too much.
I understand why my mom can’t sleep. I understand why my dad the gentle giant he is, tells us that we need to be cool, breathe and be nice. The older I get, the more enraged and tired I get.