They tell you in the guidebooks what to expect if you're gay or if you're a woman. Hell, they need to do it for if you're recognisably black."Americanah" - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
Ain't this the truth! Ain't this the truth!
*Ms Adichi speaks a whole lot of truth in Americanah, by the way.*
So while I am not sure what is going on with my life and what 2015 will hold, I still have to at least think of vacation ideas. It's bad enough being a solo traveller - having to find places where a solo traveller feels safe and secure. It's bad enough being a solo female traveller - having to be extra careful in the choices you make as it relates to hotels, travel etc. But add being black to that - it's just a whole other thing altogether.
Travelling while black is real - the notion that this is an issue, I mean. Shopping trips to Miami and New York - no problem. It's like being at home. London - such a melting pot that it's rare that I actually feel like an alien. Londoners ignore everyone - black, white. But there are some places where I have felt totally out of sorts. The Rome experience to this day, always makes me a bit upset.
|Vacations should be carefree for everyone. |
This is not me, btw
Plain and simple ignorance - Dear Europe - all black people do not live in Africa. Ever heard the word "diaspora"? I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked to say an English word in "my language". For example - old guy in Florence, Italy. Worse yet, when they find out I am not from Africa, then I just HAVE TO BE American, even if my accent does not quite fit the bill. "Ever been to New York?" Yes, I have been to New York but that is the magic of air travel. I am not American. If someone actually knows where Trinidad is after I tell them, I give them a virtual hug because it is almost miraculous! I am truly an oddity which takes me to the next point...
Curiousity - I heard someone refer to the impolite staring as "rarism" as opposed to"racism". In some of these quasi-homogeneous cities, people like me are a rarity. You are like the raisin in the bowl of milk so they stop and stare and you check to make sure you don't have something in your nose or that your fly is not open because the stares are so pervasive and invasive. Worse, in some cities, the black people there tend to be immigrants, and in my experience, they were usually street vendors/scam artists or hooking. Enter well-dressed black woman and it's like "wtf"? You have now confused the people even more with your bourgie blackness. For me it is always a bit bizarre, especially coming from a place where people stare at you cause they like your ass and want to grab it. Noone stares at my hair, or wants to touch it here, but it is a real phenomenon in some of these places - one that is not cute no matter how clueless or genuinely curious the people may be. There should be a guidebook for residents of these cities - Dos and Don'ts of Meeting Black People for the First Time.
They are just naturally unfriendly and surly - The haterade may actually have nothing to do with the colour of your skin. The people sometimes are just plain unmannerly, unfriendly, uncouth and as we say in Trinidad, "just not on you" and have no damn "broughtupsy".Sad to say, London always comes to mind. They are just a special breed of homo sapien - totally divorced from the reality of life all around them, but when you get around the cold exterior, and get them to put down the iPhone, they can be lovely people. In some places though, they are just like this - fullstop.
But don't get me wrong - travelling while black has the real issues of racism. I have had bus drivers ignore me, waitresses take their damn time to serve me and when they did, I got none of the smiles and sweetness the white customers got. I have had border control brace me as though I were some kind of hoodlum, and Customs stop me to search my luggage and when I looked around, everyone else being searched looked like me. My friend had the cops called on her as she was pumping gas at an isolated gas station behind God's back in the US. And let's not forget another friend who was followed to her hotel room by a hotel employee, accosted and told that prostitutes were not allowed in the hotel.
And it does not matter that we are not drug mules or international escorts. It does not matter that I am educated to Master's level, have a very nice job, with paid vacation and international medical coverage, and zero desire to stay past the time on my visa. The fact of the matter is my passport looks strange and worse yet, I look strange cause I am dark skinned, with dark brown eyes and dark hair. Oh, I'm black. Right. Forgot about that.
I had the chance to meet a friend for the first time ever, so there were a lot of good memories from that trip. I have learnt over time to not miss the opportunities in front of me because of any stereotypes or prejudice people may have. That's on them.
That being said, I am not sure where to go this year. My tolerance levels for nonsense are at an all time low, and it would be nice to travel among more people like myself, but still - the world is my oyster so onward! Ideas still welcome, keeping in mind the solo, female bit as well.