Previous Next

Carnaval de Barranquilla, Colombia. Photo by Otto Nassar

Ernest “Fly Brother” White II points out things a lot of travelers might never imagine as being part of their regular “travel experience.”

AS A BLACK AMERICAN MALE living for the past seven years in Latin America, I’ve had more than my share of the craziness that comes with Traveling While Black. And I know other travelers of color – be they Asian, Latino, or Martian – can feel me on the foolishness.

1. The hassle of being considered a potential terrorist, drug smuggler, and/or illegal immigrant by US customs and immigration officers.

You know how you get off a long flight, exhausted but glad to be home. And as soon as you get to the immigration booth, the officer starts giving you the third degree about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. Then the customs officer – and, depending on your point-of-entry, often someone just as brown as you are, with the hint of a foreign accent – starts asking you the same questions you were asked at immigration, then selects you for a “random” secondary screening. Three random secondary screenings in a row tend to make you question the randomness of the screenings.

2. The annoyance of “positive” stereotypes.

“You blacks have dance in the blood.” “If I could be anything else, I would be a black American because you guys can really screw.” “I just love blacks.”

Objectification and hyper-sexualization? We can do math, too!

3. The shock of seeing grotesque caricatures that have been banned in the United States for decades.

Blackface tar babies, mammies, pickaninnies, sambos, spear-chuckers – all can be seen as characters in folkloric festivals and for sale as dolls and trinkets at souvenir shops in Latin America. Of course, I’m imposing my own North American overly-PC cultural values on someone else’s culture when I grimace in disgust at this plantation-era coonery and get told to lighten up. No wonder the USA is the only major post-colonial society to have a black president. Or media mogul. Or Secretary of State. Or…

4. The indignation at being mistaken for a security guard, maid, drug dealer, or prostitute.

I’ve been sent back around to service elevators, been approached about how much a gram of cocaine costs, been approached about how much I would charge for the whole night, been asked if I would let some guys friends into VIP. I’ve had female friends who’ve been asked if the dogs they were walking were their employer’s, how much they would charge for the whole night, and blocked at their hotel lobby by overzealous security guards (who were just as brown-skinned – see #5).

5. The frustration of being ignored/hassled until it’s realized that you’re foreign, too.

I’ve been out at restaurants and nightclubs with white friends who were the exclusive center of attention, until the groupies finally noticed, “oh…you’re not Brazilian/Colombian/from here?” I don’t begrudge my white pals their fifteen minutes – it’s nice to bathe in the adulation garnered by being “exotic,” and my friends tend to be cool peeps – but you only see me when you hear English come out of my mouth? Boo.

And I hate to use my language as a weapon, but sometimes, I gotta let homies know to stand down, especially nightclub bouncers and the security staff at nice hotels.

6. The exasperation of having your background, nationality, and/or ‘Western-ness’ questioned.

Abroad, people seem to think that you can’t be a “real American” if you aren’t white: “But you don’t ‘look’ American. Really, where is your family from?” They won’t take what you say you are at face value (granted, for their own socio-historical reasons): “But you’re not black, you’re, like, caramel.”

On the other side, many people in North America and Europe seem to have a hard time grasping the concept that “Western” and “white” are not synonymous, and that Latin America is, in fact, Western. Yes, a great many Westerners are white, and the identifying characteristics of a Western country – i.e. Judeo-Christian spiritual leanings and an espousal of Greco-Roman political ideals – stem mainly from Europe. But why is Brazil not considered Western when it’s the world’s largest Catholic country? Is Peru not a democracy? And are people of color from the US any less Western because they aren’t white (hello, Asia)?

7. The rancor of having your qualifications and abilities ignored in light of your application photo.

“His CV is very good, but I’m not so sure about his picture.” This was told to a friend and colleague of mine – a white American guy – by the director at the Colombo-Americano bicultural center in Bogotá regarding my application for a teaching position. Apparently, mine didn’t represent the face of English.

Neither does this guy’s.

8. The sting of hearing, being called, or reading “nigger” in an academic paper.

Hip-hop and Hollywood movies are extremely popular outside of the USA. As such, the n-word has found its way into people’s lexicons, regardless of how little English they speak. In the Dominican Republic, some friends and I were greeted with “Hey, niggers” by a friendly, rap-loving teenager who had recognized us as American and thought that was an appropriate greeting.

In Colombia, as a university English professor, I encountered the word several times in academic papers written by students who didn’t have the historical context to know better. I read it in an official tourist guide, describing Afro-Colombian traditions and dance. I was asked by a woman there once, while responding to an oft-repeated query of my origins (see #6), why I “wanted to be a black nigger.” She knew better. And no, overseas, there really wasn’t a distinction between “nigger” and “nigga,” since the former is often pronounced like the latter depending on the local language, and the latter is rarely – if ever – written, unlike the former. But then this dropped.

*For non-black defenders of the term’s use, let me point out that not all black people are responsible for the word’s usage in music and film, so boo to the whole “well you guys use it” argument. To paraphrase John Ridley: when you get to go through slavery and Jim Crow, you get to use the word.

All that being said, I’ll never stop traveling.

Culture Guides

 

About The Author

Ernest "Fly Brother" White II

FlyBrother, aka Ernest White II, is a writer, photographer, educator, and aimless intellectual originally from Jacksonville, Florida. A proud FAMU Rattler, he has lived in Tallahassee, Washington, Santo Domingo, Miami, Barranquilla, Bogotá, and Brasília. He suffers from acute Brazilitis and terminal vagabond neurosis.

More By This Author

  • http://www.tourabsurd.com/ Katrina

    Just submitted to StumbleUpon.  Here’s what I wrote with the submission:

    “I guess the good part of this is that Americans aren’t the only dipsh** travelers. : /

    I love that this is just factual and analytical, not a knee-jerk reaction. I rant and rave occasionally, but it can be easier to absorb the facts when not having to sift through the emotions. “Stark reminder” territory here.”

    Well written, concise, and the point.  Enjoyed the read, if not what it revealed.  Thanks for being a voice of reason.

  • Murph24

    man, sounds like were really missing out…

  • Morenagirl

    You just summarized my whole experience briefly living in Latin America. The funny thing is, even with all the baggage, it was still the time of my life.

  • http://jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    I really loved this, Ernest. I can certainly relate to #5 and #6. I have wanted to write for so long about my experiences as a brown traveler, but haven’t had the balls and have feared not being able to express myself eloquently like you have. Thanks for shining some light on a phenomenon that hardly any will experience, let alone think about. Thank you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530432164 Kristi Keller

      Jasmine I’ve chickened out of writing racially motivated stuff too because I lack a lot of tact and I think I’d be taken the wrong way. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530432164 Kristi Keller

    Can a white person comment on here because I always have a lot to say lol.  And I’d like to start by saying that instead of arguing I should just write my own post on traveling as a white person who experiences at least 6 of your 8 because of the color of my skin and where I come from.  However, if I EVER posted any of this stuff from my point of view it wouldn’t go over this well.  I doubt I’d have scores of supporters rallying behind me!

    But anyways I really liked reading this.  It was written with intelligence and shared by a blogger whom I respect so I read it.  If you dare me to write the white version I’ll link back to this post to see how the masses compare versions.  Could be interesting.  ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mario0arana Mario Arana

    As a non-white traveler I identify with your experiences.  Once I almost missed my connection due to the extensive questioning by an immigration officer in Madrid. I had to run to the gate where my 2 white friends were waiting for me. They were worried but we all laughed when, catching my breath, I said “Yeah, that’s what you get when you are not white.”  I believe our calling as non-white travelers is to gently share our perspective and experiences with locals and other travelers/friends to hopefully erase at least some of those stereotypes. I am glad Matador has published your article. Happy travels!

  • http://twitter.com/very_busy_girl Natalia Lukaniuk

    Come to Eastern Europe, here non-white people are really exotic and are mostly treated with nothing but curiosity and rapture :) Eastern Europe is quite free from racism as there has never been ground  for it to evoke here.  Well, you might be a little inconvenient with being stared at quite often though.

    • http://creatrixtiara.com/ Creatrix Tiara

      Being treated as exotic with curiosity and rapture isn’t always so appealing either – we’re not zoo creatures.

      • Sick of You

        Nobody notices you, Creatrix, until you open your big fat mouth.  Just stop being so in-your-face and people won’t even see you.  Now go away.

  • http://miller-david.com david miller

    would really like to read some narratives written out of point number 5 – being treated as invisible by ‘foreigners’ because you also appear ‘foreign’ and not an authentic gringo or whatever. seems hilarious and sad.

    • http://creatrixtiara.com/ Creatrix Tiara

      Yeah, I got a weird version of that in SF – people kept assuming I was a local Mexican and I felt bad because I was as far away from it as possible!

      • Sick of You

        And then you open your loud mouth and everyone knows you are not Mexican, but some bi-polar loser who demands attention constantly, claiming to be “poor” and “oppressed.”  Get over yourself.  

        P.S. – Ever notice that it is only the ugly people who get naked in public?  The good-looking ones keep their clothes on.   

  • JasonWire

    get yours fly brother. true road warrior.

  • Allan Rodgers

    Articles like this have no place on this site, we are aware the world isn’t perfect. “White people” aren’t exactly welcomed in Africa either, my friend. If traveling is really that unpleasent for you, don’t do it.

    • http://beachbumchronicles.blogspot.com/ Frenchie

      Where i n”Africa” was your whiteness unwelcome….go ahead. i’ll wait.

    • Bourget09

      Why can’t one share their unique travel experience, which just so happens to be similar to entire a groups of people, to the greater public? Just because it is not your own experience  and you may disagree with what is being said, why does this article not deserve a place on this website? 

    • ursanegro

      yeah, i smell poo-poo in this comment. and i’ve lived in zimbabwe and currently live in south africa. so, um, yeah, where aren’t you lot especially welcome?

      • Sandrapsg

        You lot?!

    • http://creatrixtiara.com/ Creatrix Tiara

      Articles like these are what we need more of. Look up white privilege sometime.

    • esprit-follet

      SERIOUSLY?

    • Kathryn

      I am very happy to see a post like this. Far too often travel is talked about only through the eyes and experiences of White people. It’s from reading other people’s experiences like this that I learned if you’re Black, be careful of trying to go to a club in the Netherlands. If you’re brown and perceived as of Romani heritage, you’re going to have a difficult time in Spain. If you’re of Middle Eastern descent, be prepared to have all of your stuff smashed by customs when you come back to the States. I want to hear more about these experiences because they are far too often ignored or dismissed as bitching by someone. Travel is a wonderful thing, but there are some things that I never knew to anticipate when traveling that articles like this warn me of in advance. For that I am very grateful. Maybe if reading this was so unpleasant for you, you could have exited the page and not left a privileged, dismissive, probably self-proclaimed”color blind” comment?

    • Brittaney C.

      It is a bit audacious for you to assume that there are no readers who would find this article worth reading, don’t you think? It was probably one of the most stimulating articles that I’ve read on this site, and I was happy to see a travel story that didn’t revolve around warm, fuzzy feelings of “getting to know another culture.” Let’s face it; traveling in many ways is a rewarding and fulfilling experience. But there are also less gratifying components to visiting or living in another part of the world, as referenced here in ‘The 4 Stages of Culture Shock’: http://matadornetwork.com/bnt/the-4-stages-of-culture-shock-and-how-to-beat-them/ Dare you say that this article doesn’t belong on Matador, either? Or do you just reserve your editorial discretion for pieces that may make you uncomfortable because they discuss racial discrimination? 

      Perhaps you should take a cue from your own advice about abstaining from things you don’t like. If you’re not receptive to learning about what traveling may look or feel like from another person’s perspective, then don’t read it. 

    • Ursa Lee

      Well actually traveling as a black female to Northern Africa with a white friend, they were treated better so that just throws what you said into the trash. 

    • http://driftersblog.com/ JR Riel

      I don’t understand why articles like this wouldn’t be welcomed here at Matador. In fact, this is one the reasons why I love coming here to this site, you are free to share your viewpoint and speak your mind. I personally can’t get enough of articles that share differing viewpoints/experiences/etc.

      • Mr G27

        I think that was just one person’s comment, personally I think it was a good article and it don’t just repeat the Pollyanna view that every trip to every corner of the world is always a positive experience. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=578422564 Jane Nina Buchanan

    Lots of shite in that article . 1. As a WHITE business lone female traveller to Kingston I am CONSTANTLY pulled over as I fit the drug mule profile they tell me. Held in rooms the lot. And as u know I don’t even smoke herb. 2. As a lone white female traveller I am constantly caricatured as being a sex tourist looking for a renta dread. I avoid going to areas like Negril with my Kingstonian mates or even friends from UK with dreads as there is always the looks and catcalls on the beach. 3. As a white tourist people think you want coke/drugs/hair braiding. There is also the expectation that fear-of-a-black planet runs through the veins of every whitey and therefore street hustlers can try intimidate you, it gets draining. And try having a Liverpudlian accent and going round a posh shop in London every store detective WILL follow you. Right now i think it’s worse to look arabic than anything cos of that xenophobia. But we can ALL find our cross to bear if we want to find it an make it our chip on our shoulder. It can be draining people ignorance/stereotype but the more we pay mind to it the more we give life to it. Let them keep me in a room each time I go to JA – they won’t find anything in my luggage but my swag of dirty knickers and instant porridge!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530432164 Kristi Keller

      Thank you.

    • Oneika_the_Traveller

      Yes, Jane, but the problem is that it happens to you in JA and England. It happens to be EVERYWHERE, and on a regular basis as a Black (or coloured) female who travels far and wide.

      • Who is more oppressed?

        Oneika – how do you know that it is your Blackness that gets you hassled and not the fact that you are female?  I am a white female and I fear traveling alone because I will be mercilessly hassled, treated like a prostitute, possibly raped. 

      • Dani Marais

        Really?  That IS interesting.  Have you been EVERYWHERE?  I think the problem with this article, which is very informative as an editorial piece, is that it makes huge generalisations, and doesn’t own that they are exactly that.  The comments thread would prove that even white people can have bad experiences as travelers, because, on a global scale, on a purely aesthetic front, white skin is not in the majority, even if it continues to hold prestige value as being in the economic majority.  Interestingly enough, “othering” is a human quality, not a white one.

    • http://quirkytravelguy.com Scott – Quirky Travel Guy

      I think the problem with this article is the title – Things white people “will never know.” As your response indicates, plenty of white people experience these same hassles. Had the title of the piece been less inflammatory, I think most everyone would agree with the main points.

    • http://creatrixtiara.com/ Creatrix Tiara

      A lot of that comes down to misogyny – but guess what? As a brown person, I get that *all the time*, even – and especially – in white-majority countries. We can’t escape scrutiny anywhere, and we don’t have the safety or privilege of being seen as “upper class” enough.

      • Who is more oppressed?

        Oh, how do you know it’s because you are brown?  It’s because you are a woman.  All women get the same crap unless they are accompanied by a man. 

        • http://creatrixtiara.com/ Creatrix Tiara

          Because it’s accompanied by some remark or reaction to my race specifically.

        • http://creatrixtiara.com/ Creatrix Tiara

          I know it has something to do with my race because it is usually accompanied with some comment about how exotic I am.

          And let’s not play Oppression Olympics here.

  • Oneika_the_Traveller

    *stands up and does a slow clap* I love this, Fly Brother and it is so on point. Great job.

  • ursanegro

    let the church say AMEN. 

    i rarely get into this particular mode. but, eish, the amount of blues that i get for being thought to be “nigerian” in this country is nothing nice. [okay, even nigerians think i'm nigerian. but this country -- south africa -- is the only place i've lived where it's been such an active, everyday negative. and i've lived in the UK and france.]

  • Guest

    “No wonder the USA is the only major post-colonial society to have a black president. Or media mogul. Or Secretary of State. Or… “  Ever heard of Nelson Mandela??

    • ursanegro

      the key word in this sentence is “major”. south africa: not major, as much as it wants to think it is. 

      • Guest

        ursanegro:  please define “major”.  South Africa has a population the ranks right behind France, Britain and Italy.  Nigeria has the 7th largest population and a black leader so “major” must not be based on population.  South Africa has a GDP similar Austria, Denmark and Argentina.  But if it’s based on GDP maybe I should write how India, Japan and China haven’t had a white leader.

        I can understand where the writer is coming from but many of his complaints are similar to those that all travellers are exposed to.  Being white I’ve been offered drugs, women, rolexes non stop through many of my travels.  I’ve been ignored at restaurants in Europe.  Just roll with it.  Stop thinking everything is about color and just enjoy seeing and experiencing different cultures. 

        After travelling a fair amount I come to realize the US isn’t the only major country out there, as much as you want to think it is.

        • Mzashley92

          There is a BIG difference between being OFFERED drugs and prostitutes than being MISTAKEN for pimps whores and drug dealers. Jfc

          • Guest

            Not really a big difference.  In the end you just say no and continue on your way.  Try being white and travelling with your asian american girlfriend in Southeast Asia.  She is viewed as  a whore and you are viewed as a sex traveller.  We can all find similar scenarios, it’s a product of travelling outside of your own little world.  It’s how you chose to deal with it where there can be a big difference.

            In the end, each race and gender can always find reasons why they believe they are being discriminated against.  If you are strong enough to not let it faze you, you can look past 95% of the cultural differences/misinterpretations.

            “some friends and I were greeted with “Hey, niggers” by a friendly, rap-loving teenager who had recognized us as American and thought that was an appropriate greeting.”

            This kid did not have any malice in his heart against black people so why complain about it.  Move on.  Most people have good hearts and aren’t raised with the politically correct/afraid to offend anyone media of the USA.  Enjoy travel for what it is… a unique experience to see different people and cultures.

             

          • Guest

            I am a white female living in South Korea, where I’ve been asked on more than two occasions if I’m Russian, with the double assumed insinuation that I must be there as a pro.

        • ursanegro

          um, i’ve lived in south africa for the last seven years. it’s “tolerated” on the global stage and really? companies set up shop here because it’s largely malaria-free. [shit, that's one of the reasons that i live here.]

        • ursanegro

          major, on a global usefulness front. south africa, as a world player, is useless. i know this and i live here.

          [there's an argument that this uselessness is one of the reasons *why* i live here, as well. there's a lot to be said about living in a country with no real enemies.]

          • Dani Marais

            http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Should-South-Africans-be-optimistic-20111226 - lots of cool info on here.  We may not be  in the G8, but we’re a big deal on the largest continent, and being a stabilising factor in volatile Africa means we’re  a world player whether or not we have the GDP to prove it or not; and we’re a big deal in a number of other arenas globally.  This interesting article not only gives loads of reasons why we could be a global player if we wanted to, but also points out some of the reasons why we’re not – which are less about intention or capability, than about greed, selfishness, and mismanagement.  

  • http://creatrixtiara.com/ Creatrix Tiara

    OMG THANK YOU. I get different issues, being South Asian, but they all seem to be on the variant of “where is your accent from” and “oh are you Indigenous/Aboriginal” (because there’s only 2 types of people in Australia apparently) or “your English is so good!”. I have this weird ability to pass as both foreign and local at the same time. And the PASSPORT ISSUES OY VEY.

  • Worthington

    Thank you for sharing this.  I have wondered about such things.  I was enjoying hearing about a African American’s adventures teaching English in China and realize now the undercurrent of what he was saying.  He was an exotic bird.

  • http://twitter.com/veronicacerrer Veronica Cerrer

    #6: Irish pub in Brisbane, St. Paddy’s Day ’09. Some guy grabbed my hand and asked for my name and where I’m from. I said, “Canada.” Boy genius replied, “Canada? But you have black hair.” Funny or sad? I still can’t decide.

  • Mrg27

    In my discussions with others on the topic of discrimination around the world I have encountered Germans who were called Nazis, Blacks who were refused service in African countries, Latin Americans who were mistaken for Arabs in Europe, an American who confessed that he told strangers that he was Canadian, a Brazilian/Japanese who was thrown out of a store in Japan, and my personal experience of a French Canadian taking umbrage because I dared to order a sandwich in English while I was visiting Québec.  And the list goes on, and on.

    Having traveled through 25 countries in four continents I have come to the conclusion that there are still a lot of ignorant provincial people in the world, despite the fact that nowadays, more than ever before in the history of mankind, it is relative easy to pay a few hundred dollars and be on the other side of the globe within hours.   Being of brown skin I have encountered my share of bigotry, here in the US, and abroad, but there is always hope that through improved communication (such as the Internet) we can all understand each other better and radiate some light into the dark corners of this planet¾our home. 

    • Daphne

      Great post Mgr27. I wish I knew you — better yet:  I hope to meet you as a fellow traveler!!

      • MrG27

        Thank you for you comment,  I really appreciate it!

  • http://saffakidlife.blogspot.com jenna

    hey ernest

    props for writing about this, definitely not an easy topic to address without igniting some ire.

    i can’t claim to have experienced the extent of your frustration, but being white, and from south africa, has definitely made me question global perceptions of race, being confronted with it daily, and definitely while travelling.

    interestingly, it was in america that i also got the most flak, “where are your grandparents from?” and all those questions that you mentioned. basically, “why do you look the way you do? you can’t look that way and be who you say you are at the same time!” 

    it makes me think that even in this globalised world there is still so much misperception, and misunderstanding, even with access to more and more information, online etc.

    but i guess it’s the reliability and ideologies behind the information that is the issue, something that maybe will never change- which i guess is why travelling is, and probably always will be, an interesting challenge.

  • Al

    Great writing sir!

  • Emily

    I can see where you’re coming from, but there are definitely at least some of these that do not exclusively apply to non-whites. I have personally experienced 1 and 4 plenty of times while travelling, and I think the claim that no one who is white has ever experienced any of these negative things while travelling is incredible ignorant and narrow-minded (probably the exact same thing you accuse ‘racist’ white people of being).

  • Who is more oppressed?

    Try being FEMALE.  You are not the only oppressed person on the planet.  And I can guarantee that you are much less oppressed than any woman, anywhere.

    • http://twitter.com/nicolenewblack nicoleisthenewblack

      I’m sorry I didn’t know the author was in a competition for the most oppressed. 
      ::sigh::

    • steff

      It matters? Oppression is oppression. It’s wrong. and I’m speaking as a female who’s faced her share of sexism.

    • Ms Meli

      What about a Black female? Does that make the “more oppressed” grade? Please…get it together.

    • Es

      Uh, are you serious? What do you think black females deal with? There is a whole other set of issues, like our HAIR! Do you have any idea how many times someone has yanked my hair in public and was surprised to discover it wasn’t a weave? Yeah, I bet you don’t deal with THAT. 

    • http://futurediplo.blogspot.com/ futurediplomat

      Sit down.

    • Poopdog888

       Shut the hell up.

      Anyway, I disagree about one and two; otherwise, a better list than most women would write.  Good list

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_L3SAK5EFCVLNSFPCJ75N2MZLMU Farsighted Girl

    Great points Fly Bro. Hopefully this post will promote more awareness and not defensiveness.

  • Caro

    You are teaching English, not American history, they don’t have to know the historical context of the word “nigger” in the US, why don’t you instead learn the historical and cultural context of the word in the country you are in?

    • Brittaney C.

      I both agree and disagree with your comment, Caro. I am a black female, and I used to teach English in Santiago, Chile. I had similar experiences with students using the word “nigger” in the classroom, and I always let them know that it is unacceptable. But first, I would use the incidents to start a conversation about what my students actually knew about that word and its historical context in the country where I come from. Sometimes they were aware, and sometimes it was just a word they heard in a rap song. 

      Ultimately, as an English teacher, your job is to teach students how to communicate in a language that is often used in global commerce and interactions with people from many different parts of the world. I think any teacher, or even a friend helping another friend learn English, would be remiss in not addressing the weight of that word and acknowledging that it means different things to different people. At any rate, culture no longer exists in a vacuum; we happen to be living a time when it is becoming easier to interact with people from different parts of the world both through the Internet and in person. So I think they DO need to know the cultural context of the word in every way possible.

  • http://gomadnomad.com Stephen

    White boys with big beards get harassed by US customs too.

  • Bethanyrhull

    I’m white and live in Asia, so I agree I will never know much about your experience.  However, I will say that one of the things I miss the most about the U.S. is the multiculturalism and having friends from many different places and backgrounds. It always makes me feel really happy and at home when I see non-white faces abroad. I’m sending lots of respect and appreciation your way.

  • http://twitter.com/edventuremama Jennifer Miller

    Great article. The take home message: People are people (regardless of race, gender or creed) and when we start seeing one another as fellow humans walking the same path so many of the really horrible things we flagellate ourselves and others with will melt away. 

    As some of the other comments point out, there are many oppressed people groups, many who are discriminated against (including white westerners in some contexts… we lived in a Muslim country for four months) many who suffer at the hands of ignorance and apathy, or outright bigotry & hatred. But it’s NOT a contest. Instead of comparing “who has it worst” in the travel world or anywhere else, shouldn’t we be seeking to end it?

    The only way I know how to end any social evil is to begin with myself. My own heart. My own thought process before I even open my mouth. Once we control our inner monologue, we control our external. Once we control our externals, and others do the same, the world changes, one person at a time.

    This really is a good and thought provoking piece. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    • Mr G27

      You reminded me of Michael Jackson’s song:
      I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer  If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place  Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change  

  • Paul

    Try having an accent in US…any accent…especially Russian. After the first two words Americans will ask you these three questions ( in this exact order ):
    “Where are you from ?”
    “What part of Russia are you from ?”
    “How long have you been here ?”

    …an optional: ” Are you in Russian mafia?”

    NO, they are not being curious. Curious is somebody who actually wants to learn more about you , your country, culture…These questions are another  form of racism.

    In former USSR, there were 15 republics, hundreds of nationalities/languages. When you meet somebody for the first time, you don’t say : ” You’ve got an accent. Which republic are you from ? ” Everybody was from the same country…Now we have whites, blacks, foreigners…Everybody hates everybody….

    US is the most racist  country in the world…

    I wonder why they don’t ask black folks in US :
     ” Which part of Africa are you from ?”
    “Which tribe do you belong to ?”
    “Which plantation did you grandparents work on when they came to this country ? ”

    • Mr G27

      I feel your pain, I’ve lived in this country for fifty years and I still get asked the same questions, despite the fact that I have only a slight accent.   In one case I actually never said anything because I was waking up from an operation and the effects of the anesthesia, but the nurse just assumed that I did not speak English, so she called in a bilingual Social Worker!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DOYFDZIWJWFHB3FOY25T2VOUTQ Andrea

    I have experienced every single one of these in Latin America. It gets rough out here. Where´s the Spanish translation? lol 

  • Chef330

    Really?  1, 7 & 8 are the only ones on the list that should be of any concern.  The title of this article, the content is pretty unnecessary.  Although you may feel better writing this article and feel better about having other people connect to your story, it all sounds like a bunch of crybaby complaints from someone, who just like everyone, will encounter their fair share of discrimination and mistreatment while traveling.  I would gladly accept any of these over the dangers of traveling alone and being female.  I am a very knowledgable, careful and experienced traveler and have lived abroad in South America for 2 yrs, but was still kidnapped in a taxi and another incident jumped by two young guys and robbed.   I have been denied jobs because I am female, and was even told so to my face (this happens in the good ol’ USA as well).  Also, living in a county (or practically anywhere in the world) guys are constantly harassing women.  Oh, and the glory of being white…oh has its perks…like being solicited by every merchant trying to sell a cheap good at an inflated price to a “wealthy American” (this happens almost anywhere, especially in Asia).  Your article only distilled feelings of resentment in me because your complaints are nothing really to worry about because you are not more likely to be scammed, physically abducted or robbed.  If you can’t deal with it, don’t travel and write articles online complaining about it.

  • graciejimenez

    my co-worker’s step-aunt makes $79/hr on the laptop. She has been unemployed for 7 months but last month her pay was $8988 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Here’s the site m3mi.com/1743

  • http://www.scenewithahart.com/ Fidel

    I get called, “Obama!” in many Asians countries. Mostly by people trying to sell me things or take me for rides in their tuk tuks. I take it all with a grain of salt. Since I haven’t been to any Central or South American countries, I can’t empathize with your experiences there. What I will say is that anyone who views race above character is someone living in the distant past.
    Regardless of race, I think we all have experienced negative people during our travels and it’s simply a good idea to not let it affect what you take from your journey.

  • Ursa Lee

    Hey this article is great! When I talk about my abroad in Europe to my white friends I can’t talk about these things without being overly sensitive but this article made it easy for someone that doesn’t fully understand privilege to get. I shall think of this when I start my Peace Corps Service next year in Costa Rica as a black women. Thanks! 

  • lordvegan

    SOLID!!  i seriously needed that because just last night my white british friend got mistaken for being australian because of his accent, whereas i got mistaken for being peruvian for being brown despite my u.s. english accent.  i´m no doubt brown but from the u.s. and of african ancestory and as i type this i realize that there are people that do look like me in peru.  however, this white woman from germany was just being simple/ignorant in my estimation and did seem perplexed when i told her i was from the u.s.

  • You’re an idiot

    Amazing that while you’re trying to see more of the world, your perspective of it is still far more shallow than those you accuse of being “narrow minded” or ignorant in regard to your self-proclaimed “blackness.” Maybe if you were less black and more traveler, you wouldn’t waste netspace with your idiotic, afrocentric rants about cultures you probably know very little about. Talk about the pot calling the kettle racist.

  • Francis Nguyen

    Thanks for posting your experience! This is a unique perspective I would have never known. 

  • Shaunette Babb

    Great Article. I know that nearly every traveller will experience some form of discrimination, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.
    Most of  the travel programmes, guide books etc. feature white travellers, so white people pretty much know what to expect when they go somewhere. 

    Also there are not quite so many negative prejudices about other races. If anything they may hassle a white man because they thing he has money.

    If  we’re playing “top trumps” then I win. I’m female, black, have dreadlocks and travel on a passport from a small (developing) country.
    Nobody should ever stand behind me in the queue at Immigration. They have to get the atlas out sometimes. It is never quick.

  • Dani Marais

    I’m a white South African.  Nobody thinks of me as being African.  Everyone always wants to know where my parents or grandparents are from.  When I say, …”erm, South Africa…”  I get incredulous stares, like I’m purposefully being obtuse to their obvious interest who I must be really.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rachael.crawley Rachael Crawley

    Hey, just to let you know, Canada has also had a black Governor-General (she was born in Haiti), although we do have similar values with the US in regard to political correctness and portrayals of race- in fact, probably more particular. Don’t be so US-centric. 

    • Rabbie

       Hi Rachael-

      Caveat- I’m a black Canadian female and I worked in Canada’s parliament.

      I love love love Michaelle Jean. I fully fangirl her whenever I see her. However, even I will admit that her role is largely symbolic. She didn’t run Canada’s government even though she was our head of state. Sorry she’s not in the same league as Obama or Rice.

      I don’t think Ernest was being “US-centric” in this article.

  • Blah0blah

    “On the other side, many people in North America and Europe seem to have a hard time grasping the concept that “Western” and “white” are not synonymous”

    We, white people, dont have a hard time understanding the concept. Don’t try to insult us the white people. We, white people,  have very easy concept. We know for fact that white people are from Europe/US and blacks and arabs are from Africa and Middle east. Blacks and arabs either came to Europe/US as slaves or immigrants. Don’t try to twist it.

    • puretimes

      You seem to have misunderstood what the author wrote. When he states that “Western” and “white” are not synonymous, he’s basically saying that a “Westerner” may be from a different racial background other than “white”.  For example, a Mexican-American is an American of Mexican descent. He is a Westerner. Let’s get another thing clear: white Americans came from Europe as immigrants also.

  • http://www.ericaenriquez.wordpress.com/ Erica Enriquez

    Fuck this is BRILLIANT.  I’m a female Australian with an Asian background and if I wasn’t being ignored I was being spoken to very … very … slowly … whilst in Sth America.  

  • gabby jockers

    I just have one comment about #4, in Lebanon prositutes tend to be white women (Eastern European usually, Russian especially), so any blond girl in Lebanon easily feels that indignation when her taxi driver is getting handsy with her or men are yelling at her constantly from the street. Just keep in mind, non-white people are not the only ones being discriminated against and stereotyped. 

    Not that I’m trying to lesson the point you’re making here, just being deviil’s advocate.

  • Leslie Hall

    Ignorance knows no geographical boundaries. I’m glad you wrote this; it’s important to keep the conversation alive. People who don’t experience discrimination assume it doesn’t exit.

  • bleukrush

    Why is it that whenever an article written by a person of color about his/her experiences in racism, even a lighthearted one like this one, is immediately dismissed by incredulous white people? They like to make it a point to minimize the author’s unique experiences by expressing that it doesn’t only happen to people of color, but to white people too. Or to say that an article like this is inappropriate in a travel-related website. Or to say that if they wrote the article then it would get a backlash.

    • Rabbie

       That’s the nature of the internet. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/E6B5U6FTMFXFTNA747IA2BQGLI Mark B

    Well-written.  People tend to be pretty ignorant.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FXOVENKKEYFVOWTYWUNCXZJEJ4 Pipe

    You need to realize that most people in Latin America are … let´s say “dumb”. Hardly will you ever come across someone who´s been to many countries and has developed some sense of cultural sensivity and can understand how other fellow humans may feel in new situations that happen in alien surroundings. It´s not you. It´s them. The stupid “them”.

    • bleukrush

       I think a better term would be “disadvantage”. As in they cannot afford to travel to other countries. This would be true for most people in the world, specially in developing countries.

    • Lisa

      You are right. One person didn’t know what Africa even was, let alone where it was located on a map. A lot of this discrimination is based on ignorance.

  • Bluepill Wastaken

    Informative article that reveals truth regarding the global nature of the system of racism white supremacy. I do suspect however that white people know full well about the system they created and currently maintain. Racism = White Supremacy. Where can I white person go in the entire world and be demeaned and degraded on the basis of being white? I suspect NOWHERE on the planet.

  • Dave Juelz

    Thanks for this, cause some don’t believe it’s around..

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police discontinued mounted policing in 1936.
LA is bigger, weirder, and has more to gawk at than any place I've been.
Watch it and never be hungover, or out of control again.
What stereotypes form the image of Spain around the world?
Perpetuating culture and tradition takes effort. There are no shortcuts.