“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
– Maya Angelou
Being Black Abroad or Travelling While Black, is never just that. It can be a spectacle in it’s own right! Just like travelling [alone] as a woman there are some unique experiences that many Black people face when wandering the globe.
So I have compiled a list of the things I and some of my fellow Black friends have experienced whilst travelling abroad. Some are trivial, some expose the negative stereotyping and anti-Black sentiment that is indeed throughout the world, whilst some are mere nuances that are unique to #BeingBlackAbroad:
- When other people constantly remind you that you’re Black. Receiving constant comments about your hair, physique, features and skin tone. People actually touching your hair and skin without your consent. #CanIExistInPeace?
- When people call you Beyoncé or [insert random Black celebrity that looks nothing like you].
- When people feel the need to come up to you and affirm that they really do like Black people.
- When you notice the injustice, mistreatment, marginalisation, invisibility and institutional racism of the Black locals in the country you visit, but people tell you not to worry about it because you have the ‘right kind’ of passport so it won’t affect you. #PassportPrivilege
- When you pay those local prices because you blend in with the locals (this only happens to me in Latin America and Africa). #Winning! #NoSoyUnaGringa
- When locals (usually Black and Indigenous people) can speak frankly to you about racism, classism and other forms of oppression to you because you have a shared struggle in the context of global White Supremacy.
- When you are treated like a star or being made a fuss over!
- When you acknowledge your fellow diasporan brethren with a nod, smile, or ‘hello’ because you’re proud to see other Black people travel to parts of the world that people thought we don’t reach. (But the reality is we are EVERYWHERE!) #ISeeYou
- When you’re mistaken for a prostitute or drug dealer.
- When people think the only reason you can afford to travel (frequently) is because you have a sugar daddy.
- When your whole existence is an act of defiance (walking around unashamedly with the dark glowing skin where skin whitening products and ads are ubiquitous). Or you are the centre of attention. #MelaninPopping!
- When you can finally put your country of origin on the map and educate a few people. #WhereAreYouReallyFrom?
Whilst not everything here is positive I have never seen it as a deterrent to continue travelling. Exploring the world is an intrinsic part of what it means to be human, and whilst not everyone may have come into much contact with other races, cultures and tribes that doesn’t mean we should shun at the opportunity to do so. Travelling as a Black + Woman (often solo) has presented challenges, conjured up conversations and created many opportunities for me to interact with locals and other travellers in a different way. So for that I’m thankful and will continue to flaunt my melanin around the world.
What unique situations do you experience because of your race, gender or any other visible attribute that makes you stand out?