Go where you are welcome
I write this while in Kampala, Uganda country number 6 in my journey to meet all of the people of Africa’s 55 nations. This is a plan that has been 3 years in the making. Why would I exclusively travel the African continent you might ask. Mostly and largely because I have experienced a great deal of racism while travelling the world. From unexplained delays at airports to being denied a place to live, blatant profiling and even threat of violence. These things happened across very different countries; Monaco, India, Turkey, France and Germany. In some of these countries, it was particularly difficult to deal with when it was people with authority perpetuating these, especially those that are inclined to use violence.
Many African travellers will narrate their own stories of blatant racist practices in institutions, societies, places of business and intimate settings. And whenever you speak up for yourself you are immediately the stereotypical angry black person.
Since 2017, I resolved to travel only on the African continent after travelling and living in close to 16 countries in Asia and Europe. I made the decision after growing frustrated that anywhere in the world I visited I was never just a traveller or tourist. I was always the black guy and that meant certain stereotypes fueled mistreatment and prejudgement. Ranging from annoying stereotypical questions of Africa to threats of violence from authorities. The hardest part I have to say was not the racist actions themselves, it was the ambivalence and the way non-African/Black people would question the racist events as if to disprove racism in their own society.
These experiences made me realise that I had never really been aware of this melanin-rich skin until I was out of the African continent. Even in Racially charged South Africa I find camaraderie among my South African brothers and sisters. Travelling around the continent so far has been a valuable proof of concept. From Zimbabwe to Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, there is a sense of “you are welcome” that I get on this continent. Though I am a “foreigner” in these African lands, the genuine smiles of these African brothers and sisters I meet made me realise they see me first as a human being. I guess it’s the universality of the spirit of Botho, seeing a person as a person before you see them as a headline or a movie character.
For me, the true injustice in racism in all its forms is that it robs any individual of the right to be themselves but rather ascribes vague stereotypes to people who number close to 2 billion across the world. From Brazill to the Caribbean the United States and across Europe. Africans across the world have horror stories that are never heard because every single time we raise our voices, we are accused of using the race card. How can people who have never experienced life in a melenated body lecture us on what constitutes racism? How can you say it has nothing to do with you? When your inaction is a major part of the problem. How can you say “Ohhh! Jesse Smolette faked a racist attack” as a defence for racist behaviour in your community perpetrated by your mother, father, sister, brother or son? Hell half the time it’s a random person that looks like you that you are more inclined to defend than the melanated body sitting across from you.
I will be chronicling the stories of blatant racism that have lead me to this point where I only travel to places where I feel welcome. Places where the melanin in my skin is not used to determine if I deserve to rent an apartment or enter a bar. I will also share stories of people who have recognised and speak up against the injustice in their own societies here on the African continent, across Asia and Europe. I realise now that the worst thing about these racist incidents is that we have been successfully shamed into not speaking up because it will make other people uncomfortable. In the USA it’s European Americans, in India it’s the BJP supporters in South Africa its other Africans with business interests with European settlers. For me personally, it is just being tired of saying something that is well documented, well researched and widely reported treated like “Oh! Yeah, another African playing the victim” or the” race card” Whatever the f%$# that means.