Why Racism Should Never Stop You From Traveling

Disclaimer: You may or may not agree with the statement below but...

 

Most Africans do not consider themselves 'black'.

 

Growing up, no one calls you black at the playground or in class. 'Being black' is such a non-factor that we do not consider it. So, when we experience our 'blackness' through someone else's eyes, we are caught off guard. 

The first time I was referred to as 'black' I was visiting USA for the first time. I felt confused and wondered why someone reduced me to a color. 

 

In my innocence, I looked at my skin and saw a weird brown shade. Then, I looked at my 'white' friend's skin and saw a weird lighter brown shade. The term didn't make sense.

 

During my visit, I was shown where the 'black people' lived. Never mind that my 'black' aunt lived in a more than decent house in a so-called 'white neighborhood'.

 

My experience in America was pleasant except, for the first time in my life, a color was used to describe me. It became apparent that I could be treated differently just because of my skin tone.

 

The first time I actually experienced racism, I was in one of the "Top 10 most livable cities in the world", according to the Economist and other publishers.

 

Geneva, Switzerland. 

 

During my study abroad program, my friend and I booked train tickets to the beautiful land of chocolate eager for the weekend ahead. Little did we know that the excitement would be short-lived.

 

At the immigration office, we were stopped because we were the only 'black' people around. We were pulled aside to a secluded area for an interrogation. We were thoroughly and brutally checked by the immigration officers, even when we produced all relevant documents.

 

Our passports were also temporarily taken from us for 'scanning'. We were treated like potential criminals, That experience changed me.

 

I didn't understand why someone would be treated differently solely based on the amount of melanin in their skin. I had read and listened to stories about racism, but I had never experienced it myself. My worldview changed.

 

I started assuming that everyone who met me, as long as they didn't know me, they hated me.

 

In an effort to make sense of my experience, I read about slavery and black people lamenting. In the process, I isolated myself from my friends. I felt lost and depressed.

 

I became 'an aggrieved black woman'. Whatever that meant! That feeling lasted even after I came back home to Africa.

 

Until one day, I decided to stop! I'd had enough of the negative feelings.

 

I asked myself...did you only experience racism while in Switzerland or in Europe generally? Was everyone you met discriminating?

 

The answer was, no! I had an amazing time in Europe.

 

Then why was I letting a one-time event make me feel like I was living in 1805 during the slave trade period? Why was I feeling sorry for myself, blaming race on everything that went wrong?

 

I needed to remind myself of all the good in my life, to keep the positive energy flowing. That's what we all ought to do to crash racism.

 

Yes, there are bad people in this world. And no, the saying that 'you either beat them or join them' does not apply here. You have to be better than them. You have to see good, to be good.

 

You need to continuously remind yourself that you do not have a problem, that person treating you differently does.

 

Whenever I remember the negative part of my experience, I quickly remind myself about the highlights of my experience in Europe;

 

The Polish girl I met in a museum. She offered to show my friend and I around Paris, and also offered to teach me how to ride a bicycle. How sweet!

 

My French teacher who was so offended when people confused Africa for a country.

 

The time my German friend offered to introduce me to her parents because she thought I was nice to her.

 

My South Korean friend who thought that I looked like Tiana from the 'Princess and the Frog'. (That is the best compliment I have received...ever) :-)

 

These are the moments that count. Choose your happy moments and hold onto them. They will get you through it all!

 

When someone looks at you a certain way or treats you a certain way, you need to understand that it's not your concern. Do not pay them any attention. They do not know you, so why judge you?

 

I know that it is heart-breaking to see hate on someone's face when you don't deserve it. Let me tell you this. It's not just black people who experience racism. So, just because you have a bad experience does not mean that you should become hateful to others.

 

To all my tourist friends out there, I hope you never experience racism. But if you do, remember, you are more than your skin tone. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. 

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