The Sole Black Girl?

Are blacks and descendants of Africans the only people who wonder if there will be people who look like them when they are traveling? I haven’t stopped to ask any of my non-black friends, but it is often the mental question of the day for Blacks.

I remember when I was preparing to travel to Ireland. While reading about the country, I also researched the makeup of the population. It was truly my intent to enjoy myself and submerge myself in the country, but my parents would be remise if I didn’t take the time to determine how the country views Blacks. Perhaps this ideology stemmed from their upbringing in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. Regardless of where I travel, I have always placed researching racial relations as a bullet on my to-do list.

During my two weeks in Ireland last May, I traveled literally from one end of the country to the other, visiting about 15 different cities and dozens of educational and cultural sites. During that time, I saw 5 people who looked like me. All of them were also tourists. My experience in Ireland was wonderful but it was unusual to go to a club and have young adults approach me because they want to touch my hair. Some politely asked if they could touch it, others you could tell were mustering up the courage to frolic in it- much like a little baby petting a cat for the first time (sometimes being cautiously gentle and at other times pulling too hard). I felt like a one-man petting zoo. Where I am from, you do not walk up to folks and start petting their hair. I was not offended, just caught off guard.

While in Indonesia, I really don’t expect to see people who look like me, other than the few traveling with me, but I am curious about how I will be perceived. I guess I will find out soon enough.

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7 thoughts on “The Sole Black Girl?

  1. Lol! It’s a perfectly logical and necessary thing to consider in my opinion for any Black traveler. Whenever I go to visit or live in a new country I research this. It’s better to be aware and prepared than shocked and irritated. Enjoy your Asia experience!!

    • Thanks Jennifer. Glad to know that I’m not the only who does this. Lol I’m curious to know if other races have this thought process or if they only research how the country views Americans in general.

  2. Jacqueline, this is Laurie Tanner. Yes, as a “white” person, I have wondered about traveling in India. I am pretty sure there will be people who look like me, but I also think that most will not; my main question is: will I be able to perceive what they are thinking? Think about this: in my classroom and sometimes with other faculty I am often surrounded by people who don’t look like me. Now I have become accustomed to that fact, but I still struggle at times with differing perceptions. Race here is still such a delicate, raw and complex topic. I want to be a part of the healing process so I choose to teach where I teach, but it isn’t easy.

    • Thanks Lauren for sharing your viewpoint. It seems like whenever we are interacting with people of different cultures or even people of different economic backgrounds we should be conscious of those things. I guess we are doing the right thing. Exposure is the key.

  3. Jacgueline, this is a wonderful reflection and I appreciate you for writing it. I love to travel to places where people don’t look like me; I think this is much of why I’d rather visit Asia and Africa than other places. I had actually wondered how Indonesians would have viewed a member of my TGC group last summer if she or he had been of sub-Saharan African decent. But alas we had none in our group. I hope to read more about your trip to Indonesia, especially with how you are able to draw upon the experience through this lens. Blessings to you!!

  4. One of my colleagues recently read this post and asked how do I believe I have been perceived by the Indonesians. I am glad to say that I don’t feel any different here than I would in any part of the US. So far in Jakarta, I have not felt like I stick out like a sore thumb. Instead I feel like any other person who lives here. I believe it has a lot do to with the country having over 300 ethnic groups. There is an overwhelming sense of unity and I am glad I feel a part of it.

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