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The Sad Truth About Racism In Every Country

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Barcelona, Spain | TheBlogAbroad.com
Barcelona, Spain

There’s a question I get 10x more than any other one when it comes to my blog, and it involves traveling while black — one of the biggest crimes of America indicators that we are nowhere near a post-racial society.

By the way, if you’ve never had to question whether a certain country might treat your race or skin color differently than everyone else, that is the definition of privilege. Nothing to feel guilty about — just be aware of how it exists in the realm of travel.

Due to recent politics stemming from November and he-who-shall-not-be-named (AKA LARYNGITIS LUCIFER), I watched my blog traffic triple and my YouTube channel generate up to 50,000 views in a single day. It was insane!

So I started paying closer attention to the search terms that were bringing people to my little corner of the interwebs, and here’s what I found…

Lisbon, Portugal | TheBlogAbroad.com
Lisbon, Portugal

If you search “black friendly countries” on Google, it’ll yield approximately 48 million results. And out of that 48 MILLION, you’ll see my wee, little blog at #1, and then my YouTube channel at #3. Freakin’ unbelievable.

And to give you an idea of the general concern black people deal with before booking flights anywhere, here are the top 10 search phrases that have brought people to my blog as of late:

“countries that welcome black americans”
“best countries for black people to visit”
“african-american friendly countries”
“best countries for blacks to live”
“countries that are nice to black people”
“safest countries for black people”
“best places for black expats”
“least racist countries for blacks”
“places where US blacks are welcome”
“countries that love black people”

Thousands of black people are searching this daily and finding my blog. It blows my mind. But there are some major points I don’t think they take into account.

Traveling while black can be a conundrum and your experience doesn't always reflect the country's ethics. Click To Tweet

A hot topic in many black travel communities stems around how we can avoid experiencing racist encounters while we travel, especially if the reason we’re traveling is to get away from it at home.

And while I’m always very vocal about recommending countries and destinations as black-friendly, putting my stamp of approval on some places over others, here’s the honest-to-God truth.

Every country is racist against blacks.

But let me explain. You see, racism exists on a spectrum, and it’s not as black and white (lol, hey puns), as we try to put it.

Isolated events like my horrific experience in Prague, or being solicited multiple times as a prostitute in Spain and Italy because of the black female stigma, doesn’t mean the entirety of those countries should be written off.

Racism exists in varying levels while traveling, and you just have to choose how much of it you can handle. Click To Tweet
Marrakesh, Morocco | TheBlogAbroad.com
Marrakesh, Morocco

When not in majority-black countries, you shouldn’t expect racist treatment, but you also shouldn’t be surprised if it happens, whether on a micro or macro level.

This isn’t to excuse racism at all (pssh, hail naw), this is to help you remember that you spent your hard-earned money to have an amazing experience in a foreign country. So don’t let the bigotry and ignorance of a few ruin that for you.

You’re there to have fun and experience something different, so try not to let the experience be about how you were treated, and more about what you saw, and things that were in your control.

Because you can’t control other people’s hatred or bigotry, but you CAN control how you respond to it. But not literally, just ignore and keep it moving.

Florence, Italy | TheBlogAbroad.com
Florence, Italy

Since there’s always a surplus of negative portrayals of black people in the global media, there will always be a lingering ignorance around our existence.

We’re violent.
We’re ghetto.
We’re uncivilized.

This narrative has hit mainstream media in some shape or form in every corner of the world. And when you don’t have a black population in a country, their news, media, and movies are the only thing they can turn to for guidance.

So I do and don’t blame other countries for their racist perceptions.

Some are too old to know or learn better. And some are convinced based on their own experiences.

It is what it is.

Petra, Jordan | TheBlogAbroad.com
Petra, Jordan

And while it’s unfair that we have this burden of tiptoeing around people’s ignorance, knowing we’re not only representing ourselves, but the entire African diaspora no matter where we are, many of us have taken on that role with pride. See this amazing example by my friend Charles who’s teaching abroad in Bulgaria.

Our experiences shape our perspectives, and if these majority-white or majority-Asian countries can only base their opinions off of what’s been spoonfed to them by the media, then we need to take their actions with a grain of salt.

A%$holes have no race, religion, or gender, and you will find them in every corner of the world during your travels (though I’d argue there was a mass migration of this breed to the U.S during elections).

And unless you notice a trend in negative behavior overall, try not to let their treatment towards you shape your opinion of the entire country.

Chinesischer Turm | Englischer Garten | TheBlogAbroad.com
Munich, Germany

I admit to being a bit fragile when I first started exploring countries further east, with smaller populations of black people.

I first traveled and studied abroad in the UK, one of the biggest melting pots in the world. I went on to visit other countries where seeing black people wasn’t a rare occurrence — France, Germany, and Morocco.

It was when I started visiting places like the south of Spain or the Czech Republic when I found myself annoyed by the attention, the stares, and the unwelcoming vibe some locals gave off.

It was something I had to learn to deal with internally, because it would completely ruin travel for me if I took every racist encounter as the standard, rather than the exception.

Toledo, Spain | TheBlogAbroad.com
Toledo, Spain

So much goes into perfecting a travel experience, and some places black travelers have completely written off as the most racist destination in the world, I end up going and having the time of my life.

Black people, understand you will be meeting different kinds of people and having a whole different set of circumstances that factor into how your experience will be.

If someone tells you to avoid a place for being racist to blacks, the best way to know for sure, is to just go for yourself, because every non-black country has people who are racist to some degree.

It’s all a matter of whether the universe does its part in keeping these people in hiding until you leave.

I’ll end with a video I made over a year ago which has since gone viral, and it sparked heavy debate over a couple of the countries which I recommended as black-friendly, while many others vehemently disagreed.

It just goes to show you that the degrees to which racism are displayed towards a black person will vary. And while it’s helpful to have first-hand endorsements from fellow black travelers, you can’t take every person’s experience as the rule.

The Sad Truth About Racism In Every Country | TheBlogAbroad.com
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  • WanderingRedHead

    Another great insightful post! I enjoy reading things like this because it’s important for us who don’t have these problems do be aware of our privilege. I applaud you and other black travelers’ for getting out there despite all these obstacles! And your numbers since the elections…wow….does this mean you have to (gasp) thank the fascist cheeto? LOL

    • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I’m cracking up at your last statement. What a frightening and depressing revelation. I will sacrifice my left thumb before I thank the Carrot Crook.

  • This is such an insightful post – as someone who, like you said, is quite privileged, I barely ever think about my skin color when I visit other countries. Thank you for sharing it, and as per being so deep & real & still hilarious.

  • Alicia

    I love your note on the privilege of traveling while white. It completely sucks that so many people of color have to worry about whether they will feel safe and welcome when traveling abroad. Also, I’m white so this is easy for me to say, but I want to support your point above that people should be brave and explore new places even if it might not be 100% comfortable.

    In that vein I hope you’ll give the Czech Republic another try sometime. It’s undeniable that racism is a problem here but the majority of people are kind and welcoming. I know several people of color (including my Mexican boyfriend) living here who are happy, feel safe, and don’t suffer day to day injustices on the street. My boyfriend for example gets stares sometimes and gets asked some blunt questions but overall people are just really curious and excited to meet him. Likewise I know black women living here who have had isolated issues but overall really love it here. I think you got terribly unlucky with the encounters you had on your trip in Prague in such a short time span. Not to discount your experience at all. I just hope that others won’t be frightened away from visiting because the Czech Republic is a beautiful country with so much to offer!

    • Definitely! I mentioned at the end of my post about Prague how I’ll one day visit again! There’s so many moving parts that dictate an overall experience somewhere, so let’s hope better weather, brighter clothes, or the aligning of stars to come together and bring all the sweetest Czechs to cross my path when I return, haha. JK, but kinda serious.

  • Nyawira Ochola

    There is a second layer to travelling while black and that is when you don’t hold a first world passport. Having a passport from ‘Africa’ (youknow, the country) also means you are carrying drugs and you may be subjected to an even more intrusive check, sometimes in a room with men.

    • THIS! So true and something you could probably speak way more in-depth about from a first-person narrative. Thanks for mentioning that, because I’m very aware of my privilege in that regard. XOXO

  • I really think we need to start talking about these issues, (so I applaud you for being so open and honest about how you feel, from your personal experiences) and really engage and exchange ideas and personal stories about privilege and racism, as well as create supportive communities for people to feel like their experiences can be shared/discussed. I believe that people who have experienced instances of racism and bigotry shouldn’t always remain quiet. But I do also think that some key phrases stuck out to me in your article: “majority-Asian countries” “every non-black country”. What exactly is a “Non-black country”? What’s a “majority Asian country”? We have to be careful. It’s one thing to say that you experienced stares and bad treatment in a place, but I’m not so sure you should say that a country in ASIA is a majority Asian Country and fault them for that. History has dictated for centuries that many Asian countries be more closed off to foreigners (because they wanted to protect and preserve their cultures/people) especially from White European invasion and exploitation. Now, I think you traveling to Asian countries can be the start of DIALOGUE with locals in those countries where you feel they look at Blacks differently, and I think we all know that as time goes on, the demographics will change in Asia and parts of Europe that are still predominantly white, and beyond too. It’s what we hope anyway. That eventually no will stand out and be gawked at just for the color of their skin. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say. Us women travelers have to support each other so keep it up!

    I write from the perspective of a Latina (mexican American) and although people would consider to me have Lighter Skin (and when I look in the mirror and it’s not summer I don’t have dark skin) there is truly a range of discrimination that I have felt in my life. I don’t fit in with my Mexican Family (the ones in Mexico because I don’t speak perfect Spanish) and I also felt resentment at times from them for having grown up in The United States, like they fault me for that, like I’m somehow less authentically Mexican (though I identify much more with my Mexican heritage and roots).

    • Thank you so much for your comment and all the added context! I hope I clarify where there is some confusion. So countries that don’t have a population with the majority being of African-descent is what I mean by “non-black”.

      No harm intended when I say “majority Asian country” either, just simply saying that the majority of the population is of Asian-descent.

      There’s a few video ads and articles about the way some Asian countries view and treat people who are black, so I think browsing through some of those might give you context as to what I’m talking about.

      Not faulting an entire continent for the way they think, but more so warning against expected treatment when in that area.

      I hope that makes more sense and thanks for sharing your background being of Mexican descent. I know there must’ve been a bit of identity issues growing up. Always so hard finding your place when you grow up with two identities.

  • Puleng

    Try telling the racists that you are South African or African in general and then the extremely ignorant questions start coming up… I get asked if Africans know a famous figure like Chris Brown, Kanye West etc or the whole wild animal questions. In this century!!!

  • I can definitely relate to this. As a Muslim wearing a headscarf, I feel a little unsecured traveling to western countries. But I realized that I need to go there to know what’s really happening. Are they really going to attack me openly just because I have this cloth on my head? I can’t generalize the whole nation as evil just because one person was reported to attack someone like me — just like I don’t wanna be generalized as a violent loving person by the world. By traveling, u r not only educating urself about stereotyping but also the locals… perhaps they will change their mind after they met u!

    • Love your input Amalia and thank you for the added Muslim perspective, because that’s so important. Keep traveling and never let the ignorance of others stop you <3

  • Faraja Tina

    What a great post. I have to admit iam one of the people who had watched your video about 5 black friendly countries, especially with the fact I’m thinking to traveling alone. I would love to go somewhere like Austria or Croatia but the issue of racism is putting me off. I guess because I’ve lived in London most my life, I haven’t experienced the worst kind of racism. But then again, we can’t let others control the way we live our lives based on their ignorance & bigotry.

    • EXACTLY RIGHT! If you accept that some form of racism is a possibility but NOT a standard, then at least you’re equipped to hope for the best and still prepare for the worst. Thanks for watching the video and PLEASE go visit both Austria and Croatia!

      Austria is gorgeous, the people are very polite, and I think you’ll have a great time. Croatia ironically has a bit of a “fascination” with black people, so you’ll get a LOT of attention, but mostly positive!

  • Sky Fisher

    Thank you for writing this. I have never truly spent time thinking about racism on the road – mostly because, as you mentioned, I have the privilege of not needing to worry about. It is something I’ll be more aware of now. And you’re completely right – there was a definite increase in assholes in the US for the election, ugh.

    • HAHA! Love ya, Sky. And thanks so much for reading this and letting it broaden your perspective about the reality of others. It’s challenging, but nothing I can’t handle 😉

  • We love the point you make about “And while it’s unfair that we have this burden of tiptoeing around people’s ignorance, knowing we’re not only representing ourselves, but the entire African diaspora no matter where we are…” It’s true. We shouldn’t have to tiptoe around ignorance, but if we don’t, we risk alienating those that need a slower walk towards their own privilege. It is such a conundrum (love that word by the way). Of all the 17 countries we explored last year, the US was the only country where we had an uncomfortable experience (followed by a rent-a-cop in Walmart). It was the most blatant and direct response to us #travellingwhileblack. However, we know that in every country we step foot in (as a minority), we’re challenging pre-conceived perceptions of racial politics.

    • WOW! So crazy, but not surprising to hear that. It’s our unfortunate reality, but we’re strong enough to not let it hold us back from still exploring the world!

      “…we’re challenging pre-conceived perceptions of racial politics” is the truest truth of all time. Thank you for reading!

  • As a multiracial traveler, race is something that is constantly on my mind no matter where I go. I wonder what the locals’ reactions to me are going to be all the time. Growing up receiving racial slurs and being put on show for other people’s fascination, it’s not surprising. But I’m glad that there are bloggers like you out there who are shedding light on the issue.

    Three years of living in Spain have taught me that more than anything the people here are curious as opposed to blatantly racist. Their borders had been closed for a long time to foreigners and many people outside of Madrid or Barcelona have just simply never had an interaction with someone different from themselves. That being said, I learned that when it comes to the issue of race and racism, I also have to not be so quick to whip out my claws when people start staring. Because in the end there are so many other facets to their reactions, like their culture, experiences and their country’s history. You are so right in that we can’t control what they say or do or believe but that we can control how we react. And so I am trying constantly to raise my voice and start dialogues with people about this, because otherwise, how will they know that their stares or pulling their eyes at the corners to look like mine are offensive? It’s a tough battle and I definitely have to push through my anger and frustration first, but as travelers, while it totally is a burden because we represent a people, whether racially or even nationally, it’s one of the ways we can help break down these borders.

    Glad I stumbled on your blog! Looking forward to reading more!

  • Indy Yo

    While I appreciate your experience and perspective and am interested to read it, I have a problem with the focus that you put on how your race somehow impacts your every interaction and allows you to characterize an entire city and culture based on your own conception of events.

    Every individual has baggage as they travel through life based on their physical characteristics, whether at home or abroad, which play into the prejudices of others. If you are black in Europe, white in Africa, a beautiful woman in Napoli, an ugly man in Los Angeles, a hillbilly in New York, or a short dude amongst gigantic men in Croatia.

    That’s legit baggage, which I’m sure being black in a mostly white or Asian or Latino country will force you to carry. But my problem is with the people that make every interaction about their race. It’s not always about that, but when you are focused on it, you then it becomes always about that.

    I found your blog because I’m trying to start my own Czech Republic blog and your article on Prague was on the first page. It was about how you hated the city because you perceived your negative interactions to be purely about how people were focusing on your being black, which either meant you were being discriminated against negatively with bad looks or were being sexually objectified by men. Trust me as someone that has lived here for eight years, a lot of people (particularly the older ones you described) are generally negative against pretty much anyone. They come from a long, messed up history and are just sort of angry at the world.

    Now I could take these experiences and compartmentalize them into being about how they hate Americans or I could put it in context and think that they are just bitter people in general with a frown sewn onto their faces. With more experience, you start to get a more well rounded idea of how people are and why they are that way, and believe me these people are just looking for reasons to be pissed off.

    Regarding the sexual objectification, I don’t know why that would be just because you are black. Women are objectified by creeps in every country. Maybe race plays into it, but I somehow doubt that these guys are saints to women of other ethnicities and only objectify black women (btw, I’ve never seen an African street prostitute here, so it’s not likely that someone assumed you were one).

    If you come back to Prague, visit the real neighborhoods out of the center like Vinohrady, Vrsovice, Holesovice and Zizkov and I think you’ll get a better idea of what Prague is like. Here you have young, vibrant, international people everywhere and amazing places to hang out and have fun. The center sucks (aside from how beautiful it is) and locals don’t go there unless they have to.

    I know it’s that much harder being black when traveling through non-black countries because the jerks emerge and it can be about race, but it’s not all about race all the time. If you let it become that then I think you can let it taint your experiences and by extension your life in general. Anyway, good luck and good travels and I hope your next trip to Prague is better (fyi, I hated my first day here, too, but obviously love it now after eight years).

  • Notsay

    Great blog! I found it while searching google for things to be aware of as a tourist in Spain, and since my wife is black and we’ve been meaning to travel there it became twice relevant to me.
    And I’ve read a lot of your other blog posts too, both because you have a positive and friendly attitude and because it gives me an insight into something my wife has to deal with but rather not talk to me about.

    It’s like you say, racism, tribalism and prejudice is common currency in our world. Whether it’s about skin color, ethnicity, social class, national or regional borders or tribal groups. It can be due to inherited cultural values, ignorance, bad experiences or simply because they feel a need to feel chosen and special or superior to others.

    But overall I think you would feel welcome here in Sweden and I hope that you choose to visit us some day! Just make sure you plan well so that you visit during the short time of the year when we have sunshine!