- Olysse Elkins
What it's like...
I have spent the last week trying to figure out the right words to say. I'm still not sure how to convey what I want to say. When it comes to social issues, my words don’t come out nearly as eloquently as I’d like them to. But I feel compelled to speak as a black female and as a business owner so allow me to be transparent for a bit.
My life completely flipped upside down a week ago between purchasing my first home, a death in my family, and everything that’s transpired since George Floyd’s death. Quite frankly, social media has been extremely overwhelming. This isn’t about me, but this is a time to speak on what it’s like living in a world that’s set up against you.
I live in a town of very few black people, I work for a company where I am the only black female in our corporate headquarters. Let that sink in.. out of thousands, I am the ONLY. My first memory of being racism was in first grade. I was a very smart kid, and LOVED reading. So much so, that in 1st and 2nd grade I went to the grade ahead of me for reading. It was at the book fair and I had my eyes on a Mary Kate and Ashley chapter book. That day, there was a substitute librarian and when it was time for my class to shop - I went straight for that book. The teacher came over and took it out of my hand, told me that book was too advanced for me, and let the girl next to me buy it, who was white. For the longest time, I couldn't understand how I was the only one in my class who was going to the 2nd grade class for reading yet I wasn't allowed to buy that book... then it dawned on me a few years later. Regardless, I was still a kid. I will never in my life forget that.
Every day I wake up and wonder if today will be the day that my race is used against me or if someone will say something racially offensive. I wonder if something is going to happen and me reacting will be "typical". I also can't help but wonder if being black has stopped clients from booking me. I don’t dwell on this because that’s not my problem, but it's never not a thought in my mind. I have also had people make comments because, if you take a quick scroll down my page, you’ll see that my clients are primarily white. I have dealt with this my entire life so I take it with a grain of salt and move on - all that matters to me is that I’m seen for my skill and not the color of my skin.
I always have nerves before a wedding and, being 100% honest, most of them are wondering if anyone in the bridal party will say something about me being black or not knowing how to work on a skin tone other than my own. With everything being brought to light, it made me realize that not everyone has to have those thoughts. To sum up being black (for me), I live everyday not knowing if someone is rude to me because they’re just an asshole or if it’s because I’m black.
If you made it this far, thank you. I appreciate every single one of you for being here. I appreciate everyone standing up for black people and realizing we, unfortunately, live very different in America not by choice. I hope that we have all been able to learn from everything that has transpired and I encourage you to keep reading and to keep learning. I hope that this is a step in the right direction.