By Kym B.
Despite the high number of American passports distributed, few take advantage of touring the world. Breaking out of the comfort zone of American lifestyle is scary.
I have been asked “Why, travel abroad? There are several regional cultures in America, with outstanding vacation destinations – there is no need to travel outside of the U.S.”.
Even though Little Italy in California is different from Chinatown in New York, it does not compare to the streets of Tbilisi or riding a tut-tut in Bangkok.
I am shocked by how we buy goods from India and outsource businesses to Asia but traveling to these same destinations are unheard of.
Even more unnerving is the millions of American-born people of color who travel no further than their Auntie’s house for holiday dinner.
Traveling overseas has taught me that the obsession of racism in America is confined to the waters that separate the States from other countries.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of segregated attitudes that cross borders. However, the difference in color is not as prevalent as the division of classism and socialistic characterization.
I have explored and worked in many countries and gained more understanding that material inequalities are far greater than the racial interpretation of women.
An American woman of color traveling overseas is treated far better than an African-born woman, based off of the idea that Americans are wealthy and/or frivolous in their spending.
Case in point: a local store owner in a European country was not eager to assist us, or any woman tourist that browsed his shop.
A French speaking young woman, of fair skin, asked about a price – he rudely replied. After overhearing the conversation, I was nervous to ask for assistance but really wanted to inquire about a particular sculpture. My first instinct was to revert to my “official overseas language” – I pointed to the object and shrugged my shoulders to imply the question of cost. His reply was an eye roll. I then attempted to ask him in my second universal language – one word and much facial expression to emphasize my question; “how much”? His body stood straighter, dare I say a smile cracked upon his lips and he replied “you are American?” I nodded yes.
From that point, I received first-class treatment and probably a higher price. However the privilege was a double edge sword and was more of an emotional burden when I realized locals who identified with me – woman; black; black woman – was treated with far less humanity and dignity than I.
Many women overseas work menial jobs so the segregation is more towards position and not the stigma of color. What held us apart was the difference in our passports.
The irony of it all is that I received better civil rights abroad than in the States.
Americans have an idealistic perception of different countries. U.S. culture does not emphasize knowledge of the world. When traveling to Africa, I have been asked if I saw animals roaming the streets or tribes chanting around fire pits. When traveling to Asian countries, I have been asked if I visited sweat shops or frequented nail salons. Offensive-but true.
Our limited insight of different cultures has been painted from the pictures that the entertainment world has fed us. While other countries are fully learning all about our local and U.S. principles, Americans traveling overseas will learn about the destination excursion and not how to adapt to the local lifestyle.
In the upcoming months, I will attempt to open your mind to the different destinations that I have frequented as I encourage you to travel the world!
Kym B. is an avid world traveler who owns a clothing design boutique with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter@AlwaysRich777
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