The Black Abroad: Racial Experiences of a Black International Traveler
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"Is it true that Black people are the most hated all around the world?"
"How do people treat you when you travel alone?"
"I heard they don't like Black people over there..."
These are just a few of the things I hear whenever I travel to a new country. There are so many stereotypes and negative connotations about traveling abroad that people don't really know how to distinguish the real from the fake. So I'm going to share my personal experiences of traveling abroad. How I felt, how I was treated and how things ultimately turned out to change my perspective about the world.
Do I have stories where I felt like I was being discriminated against based on my skin color? Absolutely-- but can I prove that was the real reason? Not definitively. However, as a Black person, we often times have this keen sense of awareness due to the heightened racial tension here in America; so naturally we tend to carry this around with us wherever we go. Sometimes it can be a hindrance in our development as it prohibits us from fully growing and being able to experience the beauty that something has to offer us. It also stops our ability to accept that some people actually do love, accept and embrace us in their countries.
As far as my experiences go I've never had a blatantly disrespectful experience outside of America. I've had some uncomfortable moments like being stared at or people trying to sneak and take pictures of me while I'm out, but nothing that made me feel like I was being targeted, discriminated against or in danger. Nearly every country I've gone to the people have embraced me. Literally and figuratively speaking. I've had people come up and hug me, kiss my cheek, rub and touch my skin or my hair, ask for pictures, invite me to their homes to meet their families and all other kinds of surprising things. Perhaps it's just me that have had these type of experiences, but I doubt it. I talk to many travelers and read blogs about other POC having these same types of things happening to them. So it's not at all uncommon that most people like us around the world.
Sometimes the American news can be very bias and our own experiences with the multiple ethnicities here in the states can lead us to believe that we aren't valued or respected anywhere else. I get it, trust me I do. Many of us have experienced the Chinese people at the corner store following us around their establishment in fear that we'll steal something. The same goes for the Arabs and the Indians. We've seen the police brutality first hand and how they treat POC. We know that being in the "wrong neighborhood" automatically makes us a target all due to our skin color. So having the mindset of being afraid or apprehensive to travel to countries where these people originate from is completely valid and understandable. The logic is if they're like that here in America, then certainly they're like that and much worse in their own country. While this can be true on a small scale, we have to realize that there are bad seeds everywhere. There is no where on earth that anyone can go to and not feel some type of bias or discrimination. That's life and there really isn't anything we can do about it; with that being the case, we also can't live in fear or hold an entire race accountable for what 1 person did or how they made us feel. By no means am I saying to turn a blind eye to racism, but what I am saying is that you shouldn't live your life believing that everyone is a racist. That then projects your own bias and prejudice.
Facts are, energy is everything! In most situations you get the vibes you're putting out. I've been to countries where I didn't even speak the language, but made out ok because I didn't allow being uncomfortable to make others uncomfortable. I wasn't walking around looking people up and down, rolling my eyes or being rude for no reason. I didn't have this chip on my shoulder making me feel like somebody owed me something. As a tourist in another country, you are completely at the mercy of the inhabitants of that place. Your attitude can make all the difference between having a pleasant experience and having a complete travel nightmare!
America has taught us to be so defensive that we aren't really open to the idea of being accepted in other places. That type of mental oppression brings a lot of psychological stress and trauma, so much so that many of us have placed our own selves in boxes. We're afraid to leave our states, our neighborhoods and we say things like "why would I go over there with all those [insert random race] people? They don't like us!" And then to justify that sentiment, we'll bring up the 1 or 2 stories that America has fed us about another POC being killed, attacked or jailed there. Did you catch that part? The stories that AMERICA has fed us. In order to keep us mentally oppressed and psychologically traumatized. I've heard people that have NEVER been anywhere tell other people where they shouldn't go based on outdated news sources and propaganda. The news looks a lot different when you watch it from outside of the box. Whenever you want to paint a picture of person (whether positive or negative) you put it on the TV and show the millions of people watching what you want them to see, think and feel about that subject; and if you believe everything you see on TV, then you've been brainwashed to believe the lies.
There are hundreds of thousands of POC living abroad that will tell you the world is not what America paints it to be. Yes, there are some tragedies that happen in other countries, and some may involve Black people, but based on experience and history, the most outrageous atrocities that have happened to Black people, have happened right here in America, the great (Sarcasm). When people ask me "aren't you afraid to travel there?" or "what if something happens to you?" I respond with "can't that happen to me right here at home?" The facts are that racism, brutalities and discrimination are MORE LIKELY to happen to me here at home than it is being abroad. Sucks to say it, but the truth is the truth.
Again, this blog is strictly based off my own personal travel experiences. 22 countries and I've yet to experience anything so detrimental or traumatizing that I stop traveling altogether. But don't take my word for it, talk to some other travelers. Ask them their experiences, read stories about people who have left their country to live in another. Stop relying on the American news or your boxed in friends to paint a picture of how the world is going to be for you. Go experience it for yourself. Don't let the opinions of those that have never been anywhere stop you from going somewhere. If you do, don't be surprised when you start to realize that your life has passed you by and you've never been outside the 4 boroughs of your county. It's ok to climb out the box whenever you feel comfortable and confident to do so. There are people that will encourage and inspire you every step of the way. You can live in fear and die with regrets or you can live out loud and say "you've been there, done that." The choice is yours. The world is not as bad as most may think. There is still some good left in it. If you can't find it, be it! It's that simple.
And that concludes this blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it and perhaps even learned some new things that you might not've known. Fear is the killer of all hopes and dreams. Don't let your fear of the unknown stop you from prospering. Thanks for reading and don't forget to like, share, subscribe and comment! Each one teach one and we'll all be better off.
xoxo- Ashawna Lane