This is an important topic to me because it was difficult to find these types of narratives before I went abroad. After my first Traveling While Black post, I realized that others share my interest in these types of stories. This needs to be an ongoing discussion. For some, it is traveling while a woman, traveling while American, traveling while………..etc.
Keep in mind that these are stories from my personal experience and my views as an individual. These posts are not ment to be a soapbox. I offer them as information only.
Most of my stories are set in Turkey because I lived there for a year while teaching English a few years back.
One thing I found particularly interesting as it relates to race when traveling abroad is the fact that I had to somehow prove that I was American. At the time it was strange that every time I walked into a new classroom as a visiting teacher, the first question after my introduction was, “You are American?”. This was followed by, “Where are your parent’s from?” and sometimes, “Where are your grandparent’s from?”. The students could not believe that a woman with brown skin could be American. I thought it was a little strange and kind of funny. Then it dawned on me that Hollywood and the media have shaped the world’s perception of what the “typical” American looks like. I have noticed in reading and through experience that people automatically expect a blonde haired and blue-eyed person when looking for an American.
Furthermore, portrayals of African Americans are many times negative. It also doesn’t help that there is a notable absence of colorful skin tones in many of American tv shows, commercials, print ads etc. How is the world supposed to know who we are? We have to get out there and show them! I try to take these experiences as an opportunity to share a positive view of African Americans.
Tip for Traveling While Black……… Do not take the curiosity of people abroad as a personal attack. Take it as a learning experience.
As a discussion, I would really like to hear your unique stories of things that happened to you while traveling. How did you stand out? What did people say about you and how did they treat you? What was your experience in different parts of the world where people don’t look like you?