Yes, this is a thing.
Yes it is a bittersweet experience, but I will always be proud and love the color of my skin.
Traveling with brown skin is interesting because you never know what to expect. For those of you who don’t understand me, let me put it into perspective.
Say you want to book a trip, you have the money and found the perfect flight. So what’s stopping you? If you are me, the answer is research. When I say research I’m not referring to things to do or places to see. I mean as a darkskin, natural hair wearing, African American woman of Jamaican descent. How will I be treated and perceived? The answer to this question plays a large factor. No, I am not saying that if I find out that a country is not accepting of me because of my race then I will not go. What I am saying is that I need to know what to be prepared for and what precautions to take. Of course, regardless of what research I complete, racist or sexist people will always manage to slip through the cracks and throw their ignorance in my face.
Unfortunately as a woman of color I have encountered people like this one to many times. For obvious reasons as I tell my stories, I will purposely leave out the name of the country because I do want to discourage anyone from visiting that specific area. Regardless of what happened to me, the country is still beautiful and filled with culture and love. I don’t want one experience to shape your judgement.
#1 So I remember this time where I rushed from a nightclub to my apartment back to my friends house. It was around 2am or something, and yes I was alone (sorry mom if you’re reading this). So I requested an Uber to pick me up from my apartment to drive me to my friends house so I can say my goodbyes. (To put things into perspective, my flight was in a few hours.) Everything was going great until the driver tried to make conversation. Asking me “How does it feel to work at this late hour? How long do nights like these last? Do you not have a man to take care of you so you don’t have to do what you’re doing?” My mouth literally dropped. Of course I didn’t have a chance to change my outfit before Uber picked me up. The outfit wasn’t revealing or anything, even if it was it doesn’t give him the right to ask such questions. And why would I need a man to take care of me? As if I’m incapable of getting a job myself? (2017 #Womanist) At that point I had two options to tell him what I actually did that night and where I was going OR just say thank you and leave. I took option B and got out the car.
Being a POC is kind of like a never ending struggle. Because I constantly have the same two choices when confronted with people like my Uber drive. Option 1: Educated them about my culture and make them realize how ignorant and stupid they sound. Option 2: Dismiss it by not even responding and go on about my day. Some days I’m in the mood to educate, but sometimes I really just want to relax and ignore the fact that you are disrespecting me and my culture. Because I spent all this money on a trip to take a break from my daily dose of reality (and racism). Your ignorant comments bring me back to reality which is what I don’t need.
#2 I remember another time my friends (all black) and I went to grab breakfast. Little did we know that we were not getting served. We sat down and were given menus by this man with a nasty attitude. When he comes back to take our order, everything we wanted was “out of stock”? He told us the only thing available was water?! The best thing about this situation was the (white people) around us were enjoying their food and staring at us. My only question to that server was why did you let us sit down to begin with? Because you couldn’t think of a valid reason to deny us entry in the first place? It’s obvious you didn’t meet the bouncer in my next story.
#3 I will never forget when I was denied entry to a bar. This story is great because one of my friends was white and an actual citizen of the country and he was in the front. We all got into the bar fine and our white friend started looking for a table. Little did he know that of the workers stopped us right after we entered and asked for IDs. When the worker (aka wanna be bouncer?) saw my New York ID he said it is invalid and I need an ID from their country. . . which made NO SENSE. He said the purpose of the ID check is for age and my ID clearly identified that I was past their drinking age. While this interaction is happening, EVERYONE in the bar is staring at me. I immediately grabbed my ID and ran out. I would say I have never felt so embarrassed before, but I have. (I have met jerks like this “bouncer” before. )
I can honestly write so much about this topic. (which I probably will in future posts to come.) For example, traveling with natural black hair, GURLLLLLL that’s a whole post itself. You know you can’t find Shea Moisture everywhere. (even though I probably shouldn’t be using them after that ridiculous #Hairhate commercial.) Or how it is to be an African American abroad. Because some people can’t wrap their minds around what an African American is. People have the audacity to say that is not a thing and I’m stupid to think that was an identity. (As if being a POC in America doesn’t come with enough baggage.)
Needles to say when I travel I do have certain thoughts in the back of my head:
- What if I’m the only black person there?
- Will a cab pick me up?
- Does he actually want to get to know me or is he sexualizing me because of the color of my skin?
- Will I get into that club?
- I hope I’m not treated differently.
- What if someone touches my hair?
- I hope I don’t run out of eco styler.
- If they stare at me I might lose my mind.
You would think that going to predominately white schools my whole life (that experience is enough for it’s own blog, I would call it Inkspot) would make this all easier for me. GUESS AGAIN!
And I’m not trying to say that every country hates black people, because I am VERY THANKFUL for those people who I have met over the years. They have welcomed me to their country and looked passed the color of my skin. These people have made my trips everything and more. What I’m trying to say is I wish more people were like this. Yes I know cultures are different and some people have never even seen a black person in real life.(not even being dramatic, google it). But this all really needs to change.
Needless to say being a black person who travels is an interesting experience that will never discourage me from exploring a new country.
For those who can relate or even understand please leave comments! I would love to hear your thoughts.