This year has not been an easy one for any of us. With the pressures of being quarantined, fearful of future security and living in intense environments, black people have had the added burden of having to witness the continuation of the abuse and death of a black brother under police custody.
This has been a massive period of self- reflection. During this time, I have had a moment to really dig into the subject and tensions surrounding the experiences of racism and racial curiosity abroad.
“Traveling(and living) while black means being hyper-aware of your existence and how it shapes your experience within the world. I’m also aware that other people are aware and it’s the exact reason that I have no choice but to be.”
Grab a drink, let's get into it.
The grand spectacle
The common experiences black people have abroad are the stares, the unsolicited touching and photographs. At times you can feel like the main attraction while you're visiting the main attractions of each country.This can be both a challenging and frustrating experience as you try to enjoy your holiday.
However, let's think of it this way.
When travelling abroad you are usually travelling to experience a culture that intrigues you and to learn from it. We often forget that international travel is a luxury. Brits, in 2018 more Britons travelled internationally at 8.6%, than any other nationality. This small percentage tells us that unfortunately international travel is still quite a rarity. A lot of people have not experienced life outside of their own country, let alone continent.
Thinking of how blessed and fortunate you are may just be enough to put a smile on your face in trying times...
And trust me, there will be many :'-)
This experience also reminds me of a really beautiful scene in She’s gotta have it where Nola Darling stands in awe, starring at a beautiful afro- latina who brings to life a mural on the wall in front of her of the Yoruba deity Oshun. Darling stares at the woman because of how beautiful, powerful and magnificent she is in this moment. She steals the spotlight, time slows to appreciate her glistening, golden brown skin which pops with the sunshine yellow of her clothing.
Black people you are the prototype.
Black women, they pay thousands for your hips, for your lips and for your practically immortal skin and beauty. What if they’re starring at you because you are beautiful?
Black men they spend years training to even get close to beating you at sport.Your soul, strength and fighting spirit is unmatched. What if they’re starring at you because they’re in awe?
Blatant racism abroad
I have to be realistic. Whist most of my travels have been racism- free, I would be lying if I said that I have not experienced it or that it is not common for black people.
I’ll tell you a story.
20th November 2016, it’s the end of my first semester at UCSB and i’m celebrating the end of exams with my partner at the time. He takes me on a date, however, this is no regular date. My partner managed to bag us VIP tickets to a monumental UCLA v USC college football game. USC lands an outstanding touchdown that silences the almost 100,000 seat stadium. This was one for the books. We end the night at one of the best sea food restaurants in Santa Monica.
It’s around 7 pm and he drops me off at the bottom of my road. I’m walking on the pavement with a skip in my step and butterflies in my stomach. All of that changes in a split second. I spot three drunk white men walking in the middle of the road. One of the men point to me and shout “Trump for president, you f’ing N****r.” I froze startled, embarrassed and confused. Everyone turned and stared at me. A black man walks up to the 6 foot something white men and tell them that this is not ok. I went home and cried in anger.
I didn’t want to lose my place at the university I had worked so hard to get into by getting into a fight. As a woman, I knew I had no chance against the three of them. I expressed my grievances to my housemates all of white and brown ancestry. This split second taints my perfect day.
I wake up the next day, it's a new day. Me, my housemates and friends are at a dayger getting black out drunk with one of the best views of the sea you will ever see.
Fast forward a few months, i’m in Mexico, its spring break. I’m living my BEST life making out with a NYPD officer in the middle of the dance floor of some club with a mascot cow hanging from the ceiling. Fast forward another month and its DELTOPIA! Me and my friends of all
races are toasting to what would be an everlasting friendship.
Angie, living her best life in Mexico
These are some of the moments which have contributed to making this the best year of my life. In the grand scheme of things this one negative experience had no power over the trajectory of my overall experience.
I feel you, I hold your hand and I stand with you, racism abroad is not easy to deal with. However, “For every minute of anger, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.” Don't let them infiltrate your zen, don’t let them have any influence in your story. Straighten the crowns on your heads and walk with pride as the kings and queens you were born to be.
The world is your oyster, take charge.
Full disclosure - There have been many times that I have experienced overt, covert, intentional and unintentional forms of racism. This can have a massive impact on us and it is important to note that if you do feel uncomfortable, threatened or just plain fed up of an environment it is crucial to leave for both your physical safety and mental health.