This story starts as far back as 1999 while I was studying in Berlin, where I was approached by an elderly couple, who 1) wanted to take my picture, and 2) wanted to ask me hair care advice for their recently adopted African grandchild.
Now, I am all for helping anyone out if it is within my power. Thus, I acquiesced to their request. Let’s fast-forward to my travels around Italy. From the time I put my foot down on the sidewalk of an Italian city, I have been regularly asked to have my picture taken, sometimes by people who are visibly tourists and sometimes by Italians. It doesn’t matter where: walking around the Vatican (check), coming out of the Colosseo metro station (check), window shopping in Florence (check).
Of course, this kind of thing is flattering on one level–who doesn’t like to have someone ask to take their picture? And I am human enough to say that I find it mildly entertaining, i.e. after the initial shock. On the other hand, it is rather disturbing to me to come to the understanding that some people have such little exposure to others who are visibly different that they feel the need to record it–I am quite certain that there are random pictures out their in the world of me looking sightly (or very) awkward…
Anyway, what say you who are like me? Has anyone else had these kinds of experiences, regardless of your race/ethnicity? If so, what do you make of it?
Vivian Nwakah, host of the blog Lonely Tripping, writes about her travels and her experiences. In one of her posts, she discussed the lack of positive portrayal of Black people in the media. More so, how the prevalence of this type of negative media has a potentially direct impact on the experiences of Black travellers. In relating an experience with a young Turkish man, she stated,
“Now in his defense he has never left his village in Turkey and he has probably never met a black person before. He only has the media and negative portrayals of black people to go on.
That being said, when you leave a big city and start to travel the world you should expect and be prepared to deal with misconceptions about your race, gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, and nationality. The most important thing to know is that if a person you meet is not open to learn about you and your culture; the only recourse you have is to continue to carry yourself with class and dignity.”
I agree with her sentiments whole-heartedly.
Until Next Time!
- Dealing with racism and preconceptions while traveling (lonelytripping.com)
- TWBF: No, thank you. I am not a prostitute… (Part 3) (diedreblake.wordpress.com)