Traveling While Black Part II

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.

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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?

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6 thoughts on “Traveling While Black Part II

  1. I lived in the UK for 2 years and I traveled extensively during that time and still do now. Although there were tons of Africans in the UK and Germany there weren’t many African Americans so when people heard me speak they always bombarded me with questions about my background and racial history. Some Africans and Afro-Caribbeans even tried guessing where in Africa my family originated ( I have no idea where). I never got offended I just took it as a part of being black and abroad.

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    1. Thanks for sharing! I always get many questions about my background and the like also. I feel like we as African Americans should be more open to share our histories and backgrounds with curious people. I think ignorance is the main reason why people are racist.

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      1. You’re absolutely right. When I travel I’m very open minded because I know I may be the first African American some people may have even seen in person.

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  2. I hear you.

    I studied abroad in Lithuania traveling to N. Ireland, Russia, Latvia, and Estonia and I had relatively the same experience in each country with the exclusion of N. Ireland. With such a low black population in Eastern Europe, I knew there would be a number of stares and even the occasional photo taking (without my permission). Walking to the grocery store was even an event I had to prep myself for from cars stopping in the middle of traffic to look at me, from men touching me, and kids staring at me and following me in mass groups. It was interesting at first, but by the end I was drained. It is strange because everyone in the group felt welcomed/accustomed to the culture and country, but not me. I was open minded, but there was also a strong language barrier.

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  3. For many non-white Americans living in the US, this is also a common theme. “Where are you from?” is followed up by, “No, I mean where are you actually from?” Did you find Turkish locals to also be more at ease with asking other personal questions about you than say an American would?

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  4. Yes, Turkish locals were eager to ask many personal questions and make comments that Americans don’t usually say. I actually didn’t mind the questions because my goal was to facilitate more of an understanding between us. That understanding led to better relationships.
    Interestingly enough, the Turks felt more comfortable with me than with my blonde-haired and fair-skinned partner. I was invited to more private homes and generally spoken to more when she was not with me or out of town.

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