Meet Samantina Zénon, Haitian-American actress, lifestyle influencer, and talkshow host of The African Millennials web series. Here Samantina opens up with us about how she responds to covert racism and how she practices selfcare.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a Haitian actress, lifestyle influencer and a talkshow host on the African Millennials. My film and theatre credit Ghost Source Zero, Riddled, The Bleeder, Zooman and the Sign, Ragtime the Musical and many more. I have also done advertising for Digicel and Sc Johnson. I have collaborated with numerous brands including BareMinerals, TomboyX, Lancôme, 29Rooms, Evian Spray and many more. I currently reside in NY and my hobbies includes blogging, swimming and traveling.
2. Microaggressions and overt racism are way too normalized in our society. How do you respond to it?
I think if the person is being ignorant to you face to face, you have the right to check them in a stern manner, without getting angry. I feel like getting in your emotion is what they expect from black people, and you should not waste your energy on closed minded and ignorant people. Arguing or trying to prove a point to them is a waste of time. Say your peace and keep it moving.
3. How do you practice self-care in these situations?
The way I practice self-care is by accepting my blackness. I did not choose to be black, I was born black and I will die black. I enjoy giving ignorant people the death stare. I attended NYFW this year for the first time and the woman who was running the show from Rivere agency made me feel uncomfortable. I was seating in somebody’s seat, she showed up with a nasty attitude told me to get up out of the seat because, it was someone else’s seat. The seat stayed empty until the show was about to start. Instead of having me move back to the seat since I was in the 2nd roll, she went and found a white girl and had her set right in front of me. I attended 12 shows after that and, I saw every time. I gave her the look, and I could tell she was uncomfortable. She tried to be nice at another show by complementing my name, but I was already over her nonsense and did not care to say thank you.
When people are nasty to you, give them the look and don’t say much, they will feel your energy.
4. How do you decide when to ignore it or respond back?
When it comes to responding or ignore racists, it really depend on the situation. If it’s on social media, that’s somebody looking for attention. But if it’s in person and someone makes an ignorant comment, I will tell them how I feel about it. I feel like we are very much in control of ourselves and giving an ignorant person power over you is the rest you can do. A few years ago, I was at a baseball game and I was speaking to this white guy who seems to be in his mid 60s. We conversed, he told me he was visiting NY because one of his aunt or cousin was at the hospital and she had cancer. He seemed like a nice person and we spoke for about 15 minutes then he left. About 5 minutes later he comes back and hands me a rap CD that he bought from some rapper at Bryant Park (42nd St) and he said, “I figured you would like it.”
I replied, “I actually don’t listen to much rap music. Since you bought it, you should listen to it, because you might actually like. Music is universal after all.”
And he replied, “you are right, i am going to go blast it in my hotel room.” I said, “do you boo boo.”
I am not sure if he was aware of his action, but I handled it without causing a scene or being offensive.
5. How do you envision a more safe and welcoming society for people of color?
The one way I can envision a safe place and welcome place for people of color is by sticking together and really fighting together for changes. All the activists that came before us, made changes by being fearless together. Unfortunately, in today’s society many people are only concerned about their own self and they are so quick to point finger at other black person as the problem or the problem child. I personally have no respect for any black person that looks down on other black people. I don’t care if you are from Africa or America, as black people we share the same struggle.