A friend of a friend, a cool AB with tons of money, is writing a book called Traveling While Black. Not just black, he says, but recognizably black because there’s all kinds of black and no offense but he doesn’t mean those black folk who look Puerto Rican or Brazilian or whatever, he means recognizably black. Because the world treats you differently. So here’s what he says: “I got the idea for the book in Egypt. So I get to Cairo and this Egyptian Arab guy calls me a black barbarian. I’m like, hey, this is supposed to be Africa! So I started thinking about other parts of the world and what it would be like to travel there if you’re black. I’m as black as they get. White folk in the South today would look at me and think there goes a big black buck. They tell you in the guidebooks what to expect if you’re gay or if you’re a woman. Hell, they need to do it for if you’re recognizably black. Let traveling black folk know what the deal is. It’s not like anybody is going to shoot you but it’s great to know where to expect that people will stare at you. In the German Black Forest, it’s pretty hostile staring. In Tokyo and Istanbul, everyone was cool and indifferent. In Shanghai the staring was intense, in Delhi it was nasty. I thought, ‘Hey, aren’t we kind of in this together? You know, people of color and all?’ I’d been reading that Brazil is the race mecca and I go to Rio and nobody looks like me in the nice restaurants and the nice hotels. People act funny when I’m walking to the first-class line at the airport. Kind of nice funny, like you’re making a mistake, you can’t look like that and fly first class. I go to Mexico and they’re staring at me. It’s not hostile at all, but it just makes you know you stick out, kind of like they like you but you’re still King Kong.” And at this point my Professor Hunk says, “Latin America as a whole has a really complicated relationship with blackness, which is overshadowed by that whole ‘we are all mestizo’ story that they tell themselves. Mexico isn’t as bad as places like Guatemala and Peru, where the white privilege is so much more overt, but then those countries have a much more sizable black population.” And then another friend says, “Native blacks are always treated worse than non-native blacks everywhere in the world. My friend who was born and raised in France of Togolese parents pretends to be Anglophone when she goes shopping in Paris, because the shop attendants are nicer to black people who don’t speak French. Just like American Blacks get a lot of respect in African countries.” Thoughts? Please post your own Traveling Tales.
(Americanah, page 410)