Being Black Abroad

Being Black Abroad means going up an escalator in a busy Bangkok mall with your white fiance as two Thai Lady-Men are going down the opposite side; they exclaim and giggle, “Black is beautiful honey but white is gorgeous!”

Being Black Abroad means going for a run and watching 3 siblings in the distance — the youngest brother crosses the street immediately; the middle sister tries to follow him but the oldest sister pulls her to her side and laughs in your direction as the middle sister shakes her head and wiggles away to cross the street. It means smiling as you approach the “brave” sister — she continues to stare and smiles. You smile and say, “hi, hello, how are you?” She continues to look at you and laughs. You turn and look over your shoulder and she’s still watching.

Being Black Abroad means waving at all the children and grandmas who stare at you as you ride down the street in a tuk tuk. “Hi! Hello!” Perfecting your Miss America wave.

Being Black Abroad means walking down the street and passing a man who stares at you the entire time he walks by; who proceeds to call back to his construction buddies (world-wide stereotype? really?) in Khmer, who all look up at the same time, staring and laughing, the entire time you walk by.

Being Black Abroad means asking the sales lady in L’Occitane if the “brighter skin” face products are actually going to affect your skin color. She smiles politely and says no.

Being Black Abroad means watching groups of women as they stare and laugh at you; imagining what they’re saying but never really knowing.

Being Black Abroad means you get really really excited when you see another brother or sister with some melanin! “Hi! Hello! Can we be friends?!”

Being Black Abroad means giving the black male “head nod” as a sign of respect to the locals. (It’s not just for black people y’all!)

Being Black Abroad means the woman who cleans the kitchen stares at you while you cook. Come to find out it’s cause she thinks you’re pretty. (Oh stop, but don’t stop!)

Being Black Abroad means feeling an extreme sense of gratitude when you find a rat-tail comb in a random beauty shop so you can efficiently take out your braids! (Thank you Jesus!)

Being Black Abroad means representing an entire people, when you weren’t aware you were an ambassador; it means hoping your interactions with the curious have been positive.

Being Black Abroad requires confidence, understanding, and love.