It can be very uneasy going to places where people, who don’t look like you nor communicate like you, react differently when they see you. Likely because they’re not used to seeing a certain type of individual on a daily basis.
As a black man myself I experienced this first hand in Naples with constant stares and close surveillance in high street shops. I’ve also had fellow black travellers endure even more painful experiences. Adebola from mybreakingviews was wrongfully accused of committing a crime when she went Athens. Something she attributed to racism and was even covered by the national press.
For the average black woman travelling abroad they are presented with similar, but also unique challenges that black men may hav the benefit of not having to go through.
I came across TJ on Twitter and read up on her holiday experience in Morocco, a country well known for racial prolifing. I was stunned and annoyed by what happened when she went Morocco. However I felt it was important to get her on here to discuss her experiences as part of a Q&A and give a voice for the realities black women and women of color have when exploring the world.
Q: How did you initially feel about going to Morocco?
TJ: Honestly, I was very wary about travelling to Morocco. I read a few blogs and watched videos from other black female travel creators and no one really said that they were in love with their experience. A few people stated that they actually wouldn’t go back. This concerned me because I really don’t like putting myself in situations where I know I may be treated a certain way because of how I look. My friend said she really wanted to go, so I reluctantly decided I would because I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone and experience something I’ve never experienced before!
Q: What preparations did you exactly make to fit into the Moroccan culture and lifestyle?
TJ: I knew that Morocco was a primarily Muslim country and I would have to dress modestly to assimilate as much as I could into the culture. I quickly realized that most of my wardrobe is not modest! I bought a lot of long, loose-fitting dresses because I wanted to attract as little attention to myself as possible. However, while in Morocco, I realized that I would stick out like a sore thumb no matter what I wore.
Q: Do you think the way black women are portrayed in mainstream media has an influence on attitudes and mindsets of people towards black women/women of color?
TJ: In general, I would say definitely. There are many stereotypes those of which I find are mostly significant to the US culture and media, but I would say the one stereotype that is internationally known is the over-sexualized, “Jezebel” stereotype. When a non-black person takes interest in me, 9 times out of 10 it is approached in a sexual way whether I am home in the US or abroad.
Q: You mentioned a man inappropriately touching you when he asked to take a pic with you lot. Obviously you didn’t let the experience derail your trip but what was going through your mind at the time he inappropriately touched you?
TJ: I was in such a state of shock, I really didn’t know what to do in the moment. I was in his space in an area that he was familiar with, so I didn’t know what to expect if I was to react with anger. I was so disappointed, because in that point of the trip I had started to let my guard down because nothing bad happened on my trip up until that point.
That moment made me feel like I really can’t trust or let my guard down with any of these men around me because they are self-serving and have no respect for us. I know that does not apply to all men, but that’s just how I felt in the moment. It was just a very disheartening moment that I tried to forget. I wanted to continue to enjoy my trip as much as I could, so I put it in the back of my mind.
Q: How did your friends/other travel bloggers react to all the racial prejudice you were experiencing?
TJ: My travel buddy is a lot better than me at ignoring things like this. I am very passionate about subjects on race, so when certain things happened, I would take it to heart. However, I noticed that other people would see things happen and would just move on. That’s all you can do really!
Q: Apart from sexual misconduct and catcalling. What other challenges would you say black female travellers exclusively face that their black male counterparts may or may not have?
TJ: I honestly feel like that’s really the only significant thing that black women will exclusively face over black men. Most of the situations I faced were strictly because of sexism and overall lack of respect for women. Whenever we were in public with a man, we got left alone, to the point that it really showed how much respect the men have for each other. I feel as though black men who travel to Morocco won’t really be faced with as many uncomfortable situations as the women because they are men.
Q: Has your experience in Morocco changed the way you go about your travelling abroad?
TJ: No, it hasn’t. I already know that people are going to have their perceptions about me no matter what, because I am a black woman. All I can do is be myself and respect whatever culture I am stepping into.
Q: What advice would you pass on to black women travelling abroad?
TJ: Travel with an open mind. Understand that you are stepping into a different country with different people with different norms from you. How they live is what they see as right because this is what they have known to be right their whole lives. As an outsider coming in, you have to understand this, agree to disagree, and let it go. You didn’t come there to be a social activist, and that’s okay! Just go and learn about the culture as much as you can. That’s why we travel.
Q: Final question! Going forward do you think black travel influencers and content creators have a role to play in changing the way black people in general are perceived around the world?
TJ: I would say we have a role, however it is not our responsibility. We have a role because we decided we wanted to create and put our content out there through our eyes for the world to see. And with that, the world’s eyes are on us which is always the goal. However, my goal is not to make the world see us in a “better” light because their perception is because of them and their experiences, not me. If they watch our content and change their perception, great. If not, that’s fine too. But we are going to continue being the magic that we are regardless!
People shouldn’t be perceived like aliens from space because of the colour of their skin, their gender or where they’re from. Even if the intentions or stereotypes they have aren’t negative. They shouldn’t prejudge a person on the way they look but rather the type of character they are if they make the effort to get to know them first and foremost. Tourists come to foreign countries as normal people wanting a new enjoyable experience and to be treated the same as everyone else. If they feel welcomed then it’ll promote a good image of then country, particularly in the digital age we’re in.
But experiences like these remind us of the importance of studying other cultures and way of living beforehand and whilst abroad. That’s the empowering thing about travelling. We’re learning how to deal with different kind of people also. Having social media and platforms like blogs will make aspiring travellers more aware and can hopefully give them ways to ensure their experiences are more positive
TJ’s blog link and social handles are below:
Pinterest: TJ Was Here
Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures