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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Traveling While Black Part 1

C O M I N G B L A C K T O A S I A? Brother, You Have NO idea! 
A curious and observant nomad dispels some myths, allays some fears and corrects some misperceptions of what "traveling while Black" in Asia really means. Tales of Black Privilege in China (and Beyond)

From my Jamaican in China Blog (available in the free ebook "Guess Who's Coming to Dim Sum: The Jamaican in China Chronicles." Download free here:

For months, I've been hinting, promoting and promising a "Black Privilege in China" post on this blog. Well, it's finally time! It's time someone spoke out. This is a secret that has been kept for much too long.
I'm going to speak in a frank and open way about a subject that many are afraid to discuss; a topic about which many are misguided, and of which many are simply unaware for many reasons including bias, ignorance or misinformation.
Yes, this chapter is about "traveling while Black" in Asia.
This chapter is for the enlightenment of all who are curious, but is specifically for the benefit of my Black brothers, fathers, sons, uncles and friends--particularly those living in the US—who have thought about traveling to other lands for fun, freedom, finances, fantasy or to chase a personal dream.
By sharing a few of the things I've experienced firsthand, seen happen to others, or been told by men and women overseas, I hope to open a new vista, encourage a new understanding, mold a new self-perception, and at the very least, offer what I find is a fascinating topic of conversation. Feel free to share this with everyone you know.

1. When it comes to travel guides, make sure you know who's talking!
Much of the information that exists about traveling abroad is not written by or for Blacks. Before you take anything you read or watch as universal truth, remember that travel writers, particularly if they are American, will be seeing the world through a limited lens.

2. The world is not as negatively hung up about race as is the US.
Those of us steeped in the U.S. brand of white racism, believe it is a universal affliction of all whites. It is not. Even European whites have commented how caught up on race people in the U.S. seem. Beyond "The Great Wall of America," free from the brainwashing of US mainstream media, many people have at least a neutral impression of Blacks. At the same time, Black athletes, celebrities, singers, rappers and political figures have created an overwhelmingly positive mystique around Blackness that has affected the world. Thank Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt, Malcolm X, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, and most of the NBA & NFL players, etc. for paving the way for you!

2. Women and culture abroad are vastly different.
Gender roles, femininity, masculinity, dating, and the availability and demand for men differ vastly. Unlike in the states, gender roles are not adversarial. Women and men are comfortable acknowledging the innate differences between the sexes.

4. You are perceived as the epitome of masculinity.
Masculinity, virility, prowess, and cool have historically been defined by Blackness. Women respond instinctively to this. There's a tall, dark and handsome man in most women's fantasies. Will that man be you? When it comes to sex, the physical differences between Black men and "others" is known in every corner of the world. Whether you embody the myth or not, the curiosity is there!

5. Don't perpetuate the stereotype.
As long as you don't confirm or perpetuate the stereotype that many people have of Americans in general, you can write your own ticket and create a unique experience unencumbered by the biases you leave behind (that is, of course, if you are American)/

6. Come Black to Asia with a better understanding.
If you're coming Black to Asia, there are a few things you might want to be aware of as it relates to your ancestors' presence in the region.

Why I Wrote This Chapter
I was born in Jamaica, West Indies. I spent most of my life in the US--specifically the borough of Queens in New York City. I lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, for a few years, and visited a few states (Texas, Massachusetts, California, Florida, Minnesota, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Connecticut and Ohio). I've also visited Canada and Mexico.
I finally "escaped" to live on the Pacific island of Saipan, from where I now travel to various parts of Asia. I've learned a lot in my few short years of "nomadpreneuring" (a term I coined to describe my personal lifestyle strategy for creating income, prosperity, freedom and mobility). Much of my "research" for this chapter has been culled from several years of living on Saipan, visits to Guam, several trips and months living in China, as well as jaunts to Laos, Singapore and The Philippines, as well as a whole slew of observations and conversations everywhere I go! The more I traveled, the more I listened, the more I heard, the more I learned, the more I realized that life abroad was decidedly and markedly different from what I had been accustomed to. Specifically, I met other Black men who had been living a very different, and very enviable lifestyle.
The fact is, as you read of my exploits in China, know that such experiences aren't unique. In fact, by comparison to those of other, more seasoned travelers I've met, they're really quite tame. Those travelers' experiences and exploits would make mine look like boring walks through a park! However, it seems those seasoned travelers are too busy living their dreams to stop, sit and write about them. So, that's where I come in!
The idea for sharing my (and other Black men's) experiences has been brewing for quite some time. Every now and then, I would read or hear a statement that would add more fuel to the fire under that brewing pot of an idea, prompting me to write.
The more I read, the more I realized that the general public's perceptions and beliefs about what it's like to be Black in Asia were a bit limited, to say the least. Let me give you a few examples.

1. Shortly after I started living in the Pacific region and as I started to see more of Asia, I happened to be on the phone with a friend. After a while listening to my adventures, he asked: "How's the racism there?"
That's such a sad and revealing question, when you think about it, isn't it? He didn't ask "Is there racism?" He didn't ask "What's it like being Black there?" He asked, "How's the racism?" implying that it was a foregone conclusion it was something he would have to contend with if he, too, were to travel abroad. With expectations like that, I can understand why some of my Black friends are reluctant to travel, as they wouldn't want to experience a brand of racism they are not accustomed to. They might be thinking "Heck, if I'm going to be discriminated against, at least I can understand white American racism better than Asian racism. Maybe I'll just stay here."
That's one reason I wanted to include this chapter.
2. Another motivating reason was that I would occasionally read forum posts by white males traveling abroad who had the same limited perspective, and who would offer their opinions on what the dating scene for Blacks might be in a country they were visiting, and I would think to myself, "You, sir, are completely misguided. I hope no one Black is reading this and taking your views as truth." As my own experiences accumulated, I became more convinced that if more Black men knew what actually awaited them once they escaped from America, then surely the lines at the airport would extend out the building for miles! I needed to write about this.

3. Even more recently, I visited a site called Great site! The posts on the forum echoed practically every conversation I've ever had with expatriates (Black and white) who left their lives in the states to find their (dating) happiness abroad. I realized, though, that there was still a unique perspective that was missing from the discussions. I needed to write about this!

4. Actually, now that I think about it, my awareness of the void in public awareness of the Black traveling experience abroad started way before I actually left New York for Saipan. It started when I was searching in a bookstore in New York for information on what life would be like in the Pacific region. The books on Micronesia-- where Saipan is located--were few, and the authors were primarily white males and females. Had it not been for a Black male friend of mine who had actually been to this region--and who had enjoyed a fabulous experience--I would have had a very biased account of how things would be. In fact, when he first told me about Saipan, my friend's exact words were "It's a Black man's heaven!"
And by the way, the "heaven" he spoke of is not just about dating possibilities. There's a reception, a friendliness, a welcome that Black men and women experience--particularly in Micronesia, and in China from my experience--that extends to even day to day activities like shopping, dining, paying bills, even dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (imagine that!), driving or just strolling down the street that gives a sense of privilege and will put to shame what we've accepted as the norm--particularly if you live in New York as I did.
In fact, shortly after settling overseas, I returned to New York for a visit and, the contrast in realities was so stark that I was "inspired" to write an article entitled "New York. The Good, the Bad, the Unnecessary Roughness" which was published in the Saipan Tribune.*

Yes, the omissions, misconceptions and the stark contrast between life "here" and life "there," were piling up and further increased my motivation to "share what I know."
Finally, I could ignore the call no longer. So, I wrote this chapter in the hopes that by the time you finish reading, you'll have a quite different, compelling and motivating understanding of what exists beyond life in the states.
I wrote this to confront and correct misinformation, to dispel some myths about racism abroad, to fill in the blanks with a perspective that's not often chronicled, to speak to a demographic that is underrepresented, and to empower those in that demographic to live outside of any perceived limitations and have some fun at the same time, by sharing with you the truth, my brothers, that traveling while Black is far from a disadvantage in many parts of the world, and particularly in parts of Asia in which I've traveled.

NEXT: Why I waited so long to write this post. Can't wait? Check out 


  1. Very good post. I am African American and I know exactly what you are talking about though I never been to China or where you been. Can't wait for your next post.

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