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Scared of traveling while Black? Really?

January 2, 2012

I love reading emails from you. I love knowing where you are in the world, what you do there, etc. I also like answering questions and helping people with their travel plans. The question that I’ve decided to STOP answering runs along the line :

Being Black American, how you were treated in Korea? Europe? 

I received this question, yet again, just a few days ago and I am honestly tired of answering and have decided to not answer it anymore. It’s not the repetitiveness of the question that bothers me it’s the fact that there are still people in this world who are apprehensive about experiencing a culture different from their own because they’re Black. Really? Each and every time I’ve responded I say first and foremost that no matter what color or ethnicity you happen to be, the only thing that matters is how you carry yourself.

My thinking is this, if you carry yourself with respect than others will treat you with respect no matter where you are in the world? This applies to everyone.

If you’re Black American and reading this right now, you have no reason to fear traveling.

The only thing to fear is fear itself.

Don’t let fear keep you from exploring new horizons, from making new friends to being an
American ambassador without the security clearance and title.:) Why shouldn’t you be able to not only embrace another culture but have that culture learn from and embrace yours? Yes, you may have people stare at you or ask you funny questions like “do Black people tan?” but so what? How great is that opportunity to talk about your customs and culture back home to someone who may never have the chance to visit your part of the world. Most of the time, from my experience you will be welcomed with open arms and treated at times better than you’re treated back home (outside of family, of course)  In the end you’ll learn more about yourself and your culture and leave your mark on a people that will have a newfound interest and respect for you, your country and culture. How wonderful is that?

Be a trailblazer, an American representative! You may even make history!

Travel more in 2012. My next stop will be Morocco. What’s yours?

Happy Trails to you all who long to travel!

Update

Unfortunately I’ve received some “interesting” comments that I have chosen not to publish here due to the fact that there are some people who just don’t know how to disagree respectfully. A lot of people had a huge problem with my statement about carrying yourself with respect. That was quite surprising to me.

I encourage ALL  people, especially Americans to travel more, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, whatever. I can only speak of my experience abroad, not yours. I would hope that if any of us who may have had a negative experience abroad and think that negativity was directed towards your skin color that you would not let that taint your whole experience in a foreign country or worse, deter you from traveling at all. Sometimes you just meet people who do or say ignorant things, that’s universal. I love to travel and will continue to travel. See the world as much as you can. It’s beautiful. I’m truly grateful to have seen as much as I have and I pray to see even more.

My whole message was : If you want to travel don’t let anything hold you back.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2012 10:11 PM

    I’m African-American and a world traveler (LOVE IT!) and I think for the most part, you’re right. But I had some truly awful experiences in Poland. And it had absolutely nothing to do with how I carried myself. It was particularly sad, because my husband is Polish and I was really looking forward to experiencing his home and his culture. So, I think people’s concerns aren’t entirely off the mark. Usually when I ask other black travelers about how they were received in a country, it’s not about fear, but about becoming aware of a particular climate BEFORE I venture into it, so that I’m somewhat prepared and not just blindsided by ignorant people’s silliness.

  2. January 2, 2012 11:39 PM

    Hello and thank you for responding.
    You make a valid point and I get where you’re coming from. At the same time, I’m usually more concerned about my safety as a woman and as an American if I’m going to a place that’s been known to be hostile to these two groups, being Black, not so much. I’ve had blonde, blue-eyed girlfriends get accosted on the metro with lewd remarks and physical advances. I had one crazed man (he really was mentally unstable) have a moment of clarity and say as he rushed by me “you’re beautiful but for a Black woman your don’t have a big a#$” That could’ve happened in the United States. Sticks and stones, you know the rest. It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond to what happens to you that shapes who you are as a person.

  3. January 3, 2012 7:55 PM

    This is an eye-opening post. I didn’t know this concern was so commonplace. I thought gender would be more of an issue than race in regards to world travel. After reading your and K’s comment, I feel lucky that my experiences have been largely positive and that the rare bit of rudeness I have encountered could be attributed to the individual rather than at the cultural level. Either way, I would still continue to travel. There’s too much to explore!

  4. January 3, 2012 8:16 PM

    Bonjour Mlle. Josephine!
    Happy New Year! That moment I described was a rare occurrence. I think that since I’ve been traveling for many many years (no I wont’ tell you my age:) I’m just used to being around people of all cultures and am happy to share my culture with others. When I moved to Korea, I got more stares because I’m very tall so I definitely stood out, no pun intended. On the rare occasion that I left Seoul and went to a small city, the stares were a little longer but instead of getting mad, I smiled, bowed and said Hello in Korean. The person’s eyes would grow big and they then smiled too. I learned right then and there that you can cross cultural barriers with respect and a smile. Travel on, Miss Josephine! I hope our paths will cross one of these days.

  5. January 4, 2012 5:07 PM

    Whoa, I apparently opened up a real can of worms when I cross-posted this (wonderful) entry on FB. Sorry about that. I didn’t anticipate that kind of rigid backlash. Esp. because my personal interpretation of what you were saying was pretty positive.

  6. Andrea Tee permalink
    January 4, 2012 5:24 PM

    First I want to say this was well-written. Second, I want to say that the beauty of opinion is that everyone has one, whether it’s totally left-field or right on target and people should be allowed to express their opinion on a public forum. I understand some folks’ comments have been deleted but I think readers (as myself) want to see a fair and balanced differing perspectives to this topic.

    I live/work in the Arab Gulf and my experience has been good and so-so….The so-so comes from those that ASSume I am African because of my DARK SKIN, but the minute I open my mouth the mood changes because of my AMERICAN accent. lol and smh This is the reality of being black all over the world. Whether in America or the Middle East.

    I do believe that one should carry themselves with respect, but that is not the sole prepellant to racism. I have run out of fingers and toes to the blatant disrepect and flat out racism I have received stateside and abroad just because I am black and I carry myself with the utmost respect and dignity.

    Though I understand you getting tired of the question, it is very much a valid question to those who “just don’t know” and are curious. It is a shame people allow their color to stop them from travel, but some folks are not as courageous as you and I and they need someone like you and me to let them know “hey it’s o.k. Just do it.”

  7. January 4, 2012 6:23 PM

    Hello Trina,
    Thank you so much for your interest in this top and thank you again that you interpreted my opinion as positive. It came from a positive place. The negative reactions were just too much for me to bring to light on my blog. I don’t tolerate name calling and just plain ole’ nastiness. LOL! I have to laugh because it’s nothing to get up in arms about, you know? It’s my opinion and my perspective, that’s all it is. Rock on, trailblazer!

  8. January 4, 2012 6:34 PM

    Welcome Andrea!
    Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to comment on my blog. I really appreciate you sharing your experience with me and the rest of the readers here. I never said and would never say that to carry oneself with dignity and respect would repel any type of disgraceful behavior and surely not racism. You are right when you say that I, you and others who can travel need to answer questions pertaining to travel, because some of us “just don’t know’. That’s a very valid point and I thank you for making it. However, maybe the fact that I’ve received that question about Korea (a place now so close to my heart) for the umpteenth time, was the last straw. For me, I’d just go online, do a little research and if I liked what I saw, I’d book a ticket and roll out, but that’s just me, me. Thanks again, all the best to you in 2012!

  9. January 5, 2012 2:19 AM

    Great post! I think the best education for these people who fear the world is just to keep on travelling and chronicling your adventures! Black people will be more inclined to follow suit once they see that you are travelling, seeing new things, and having a great time!

  10. January 5, 2012 7:17 AM

    Thank you! You too! My goodness your travels have certainly opened my eyes to see more of Asia. I miss Korea! You’re an amazing young woman and I can hardly wait to see all the things you’ll discover in London. I’ll be there in April. More about that later. Oh the places you’ll go!

  11. January 6, 2012 12:29 AM

    Keep travelling and keep the positivity flowing. There are always some negative travel experiences, but never let the negativity of a few cast a shadow over the grace and beauty in the world. Life is too short for that.

  12. January 6, 2012 9:31 AM

    Exactly. Thank you for visiting my blog. I see that you love Paris as well. All the best for you in 2012.

  13. January 12, 2012 11:40 PM

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your thoughts; straight forward and refreshing. All the best to you in 2012, as well.

  14. January 13, 2012 6:34 AM

    Great hearing from you again and thank you so much.

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