China Travel Blog: The Black Traveler

During my lifetime (so far and I pray in the future) I have been blessed with the opportunities to travel to different cities and countries. My parents say I have a itch and can’t stay in one place. They’re right. Nonetheless in all the places I traveled I never thought about traveling as a person of color until my recent trip to China. All the previous places I’ve traveled to, have been exposed to and have people with a dark skin tone like myself within their communities. However in China, I realized that not every community has had interactions with black people before, if ever. Many times, I was stopped by people to take pictures with them, pointed at, stared at, touched (sometimes without permission), sometimes even followed. Some interactions were pleasant, others not so much. My other white companions did not receive the same treatment, not at the obsessive level I and other black visitors experienced. It made me realize that my black skin signifies something around the world. I may not have realized it before but there will be places where I travel to where my presence will generate a reaction. I will never be just another tourist visiting a place. My presence will be questioned, will marvel people, will turn some off, will be noticed… I can’t be invisible. In China when incidents like this would happen, I didn’t know what to make of them (I did get upset when one woman grabbed me without my permission and kept following me) but I was not annoyed by the incidents. I was mostly concerned about the ignorance and lack of exposure to black representation, knowledge, or people. I didn’t blame the individuals, I didn’t know who was at fault but it made me realized that there’s a different kind of wonder, or maybe prejudice surrounding my blackness. I mean black skin is beautiful, full of melanin and brightness I would want to (at a respectable distance) admire it too…

Regardless it does make me wonder what other places will I travel to that have never been exposed to black people? Will this ignorance/lack of knowledge lead to discriminatory actions? Unfortunately it wouldn’t surprise me if the answer is yes.

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