Should I tell them I’m black?

The first time this topic entered my head I was aged 14/15.  I was going on a language exchange program to Germany and I would be staying with a family out there and my mum asked ‘have you told them you’re black?’

I remember looking at her quizzically like ‘no, why?’ She then proceeded to insist that in order for her to let me go I needed to write to my German penpal that I was black and send a picture.

Fast forward well over a decade and a half later and I was asking myself the very same question that I had not before thought of since my German exchange.  Why? I wanted to book a solo ‘dine with a local’ experience in Budapest; this sadly did not materialise in the end as a lot could not accommodate for just one person for it to be financially viable – one of the downsides of solo travel.

In front of the beautiful Hungarian Parliament Building

So why the question when young? My mum was overprotective but rightly so to be honest.  She basically did not want me to encounter any prejudices whilst away and with no option to remove myself from an ‘uncomfortable’ racist situation and return home promptly. She wouldn’t be there to protect me.  If this family were prejudiced or racist against black people then it could make my stay horrible, awkward and even unsafe for me as a young girl. So I complied, cos I really wanted to go on the trip and I wrote to my penpal the words, ‘Ich bin schwarz.’  and included a picture (Note: I have no idea if then or even now that this was phrased correctly in German – feel free to let me know).

Luckily, my German family were lovely and embracing and were Turkish immigrants and had no issue with my melanin.  They had actually thought I was Japanese from my name (I get this ALOT!), so my name is not always a giveaway of my African ethnicity.

So why the question now? Imagine an awkward date that you want to escape from.  Well magnify this image entering into someone’s house solo who is cooking for you (that’s the concept of ‘Dine with a Local’) and they are racist; is that a safe, sensible scenario to enter into?  So to avoid it, I just thought let me tell them upfront that way if they have an issue (issue is an understatement I know), I don’t have to sit in a hostile environment because I blindsided them.  Now I can hear people saying the world isn’t like that and you shouldn’t think like that and actually I genuinely rarely think like this.  BUT I’m not naive and you shouldn’t be too – there are people who dislike black people or are just uncomfortable in their presence (lest I attack them or something *eye roll*) and that is a fact.  I’m sure this is not even a question that even enters the psyche of white people because the world’s norm seems to be white – but I could be wrong (please share your stories if you have).  I have to protect myself on my travels and if that means stating my race to avoid prejudiced racist behaviour then so be it. Much like a lone female traveller, one is sensible and is vigilant regarding their safety.

Checking you are on the right path can be key to your safety

I discussed this post at length with one of my friends (even about posting it as its sat in my drafts for two years) and I concluded I don’t want this burden of ‘announcing’ your race for protection to be one, my child has to deal with as its quite burdensome at a young age – but am I being fair if I act like it won’t happen to them?  I’ve concluded that should they experience it we will discuss it but I won’t bring it up. 

In the words of my friend, Assumpta, blogger at Me Today, You Tomorrow, who stated this two years ago before the BLM movement really took hold:

‘The way the world is moving, they may not have the experience in quite the same way we did’

I hope I don’t ask myself this question again but I can’t be sure.

Would love to hear your thoughts, feelings and opinions on this – comment below

Forever black and proud,

Admiring the view of Baños in Ecuador after reaching the summit of my solo hike

The 5 to 9 Traveller

xx

 

 


14 thoughts on “Should I tell them I’m black?

  1. I’m so sorry that this is something you have to face and consider when travelling, I know as a white woman this is never something I would have to consider but I also completely understand as a solo female traveler that you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself and be safe. I just hope one day that the prejudice and racist people out there will no longer exist so this question isn’t necessary

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    1. Women have always been at the forefront of understanding the discrimination felt by black people a little better due to the sexism they face. Its a double whammy that I take both into account. Definitely have to factor in being a solo female traveller. Thank you for reading

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  2. Thanks for sharing this. Really I do think its sad that this is even a question you should have to ask but unfortuantly there are some rude people in the world! I understand the situation though, when you were younger and might have got caught in an uncomfortable situation, so I guess it’s best to judge each situation differently. Still…. this shouldnt be an issue in 2020…. i do hope things change x

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  3. Thanks for sharing this. Really I do think its sad that this is even a question you should have to ask but unfortuantly there are some rude people in the world! I understand the situation though, when you were younger and might have got caught in an uncomfortable situation, so I guess it’s best to judge each situation differently. Still…. this shouldnt be an issue in 2020…. i do hope things change x

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  4. Very relatable read Tayo! I’m glad your host family were very welcoming just makes things much easier! I had this exact same experience/thoughts when I was moving to Germany for my placement year and struggled to find accommodation. Each landlord requested pictures of myself and after I would send my picture I never heard back from them. So instead my mum would say “Don’t tell them you’re black”! Crazy right? I mean eventually I found a place but the struggle was really real!

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  5. This is such an insightful post. I’ve been travelling for four years and never once have I had to stop and think about the impact of my race on an experience I’m about to have and it breaks my heart that the world we live in makes it harder for black people to have an equal opportunity. I love that you’re proud of your race and doing what you love. Awesome post.

    Jamie Boucher | Bristolian Abroad

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    1. Honestly I’m grateful its only something I’ve thought of twice but I wish never to have it an issue again in my life. If one is embracing in travelling, hosting, touring etc anything relating to travel they have to be embracing of all as travelling literally is seeing the world and ALL its diversity not just the selected few. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts

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