“The world is in awe of your beauty and enchanted with your being.”
-Me, just now (Sphinx Rowe)
Let that sink in, digest it, and let it nourish your soul. Write it in lipstick on your mirror and recite it daily. While I don’t wish to alienate any of my readers, I needed to write this topic. Traveling While Black is an experience, and not the negative one I was led to believe it would be. So I have some lessons for other travelers, especially people of color.
Lesson 1: Stay Away from “Well Meaning White Folk”
For some reason, Well Meaning White Folk(WMWF), feel the need to tell travelers of color, especially Black travelers, that the world will reject them. After being largely helpful with answering questions about Seoul, out of the blue, I was assured that “Koreans are racist” and even though I was American, my dark skin would make things problematic.
Why did this White American male feel the need to tell me these things? Probably because he was hold on to his own prejudices and carrying them with him to South Korean, where he now lives. The truth is, there are issues everywhere, but I was largely welcomed, and accepted! This is true, especially once I spoke bits and pieces of the language, and did even the littlest things in a Korean manner, like giving and receiving with 2 hands. Most of the White Folk in my life were nothing but absolutely positive, but this friend of a friend felt the need to be negative. This prompted me to ask loads of other Black or mixed travelers, and, interestingly, the WMWF seems to be a trend, “Oh, you know they’re gonna be racist towards you over there”, the more I asked, the more I got a response similar, said by their WMWF who are carrying their prejudice with them.
Firstly, as Person of Color, how much do we hate that we are lumped into this often ill-perceived category, continually perpetuated by the media? So, who am I to think that of an entire people or even listen to someone who has the audacity to think that of an entire people? It doesn’t sit well with my soul. It’s his own brokenness, because that’s all prejudice is. Brokenness. Take some time, connect with Source, pray and meditate and love people. Are some people going to believe what they see on TV? Yes, but that’s all the more reason to travel and take your #BlackGirlMagic with you! #BlackGirlMagic has allowed beautiful, diverse, women of color from all different shades and backgrounds to share their truth, and not the negative image largely displayed by media. We get to control our narrative instead of letting others continue to control it for us. WMWF are consciously or subconsciously attempting to stamp this out this power when they tell you “X” place is going to be racist towards you. Don’t believe the hype. Everywhere has it’s issues, problems whatever, but don’t allow that to stop you from traveling. I cannot stress how beautiful I felt there(soooooo many photos taken), dark skin and all! I had a blast!
Moral: I’m thankful, because of Jason, the WMWF, because in that brief moment of weakness, I wrote this post, and I did some research and found the fantastic blogger Jenny, of Western Girl Eastern Boy, whom I actually ended up meeting and dancing the night away in Hongdae. We talked about race, dating, and her encounters with WMWF and foreigners. So, because of that foolishness, I ended up connecting with a beautiful soul in 서울. #LookAtJesus
Lesson 2: Tell Your Story, The World Needs to Hear It
This continues with Lesson 1. You are a vibrant story and culture wrapped up in to skin that drenched in melanin. And honey, the world needs to hear it, see it, touch it, and if you’re feeling frisky, taste it. Firstly, your culture is so everywhere. Hip-Hop, rap, soul, R&B, rock and roll, lip injections, chocolate tanning, braids, locs, style… the Black cultural diaspora is real. We are global citizens, and need to embrace that. It’s really easy for Americans to get stuck, to believe that everyone should speak English, and to not interact with any locals, even when they do travel abroad. Don’t be that way. Listen to their stories, wander off the beaten path, and share your stories. It is incredible to experience the culture exchange that can happen (which I will get into on another post! ). People responded so positively when I did things the Korean way, spoke with a good accent, and just tried. It showed I was respectful of the place I was entering. Also, don’t shame your ancestors, carry yourself well, because you have the divine opportunity to control your narrative.
Moral: Don’t only go to McDonald’s, tourist traps, and only talk to fellow foreigners. If you’re going to be there, be there, experience new things, try new foods, and talk to people, preferably in their language(there are apps for days at this point, blogs, vlogs, you name it, so learn some things to say, and cultural nuances).
Lesson 3: A Simple Smile Can Be Disarming
Frankly, I’m a lot. I know this about myself. I’ve embraced it. My style(but hey, it got me photographed at Seoul Fashion Week…I mean, I wear sequins on a Tuesday), my big hair (#TeamBigHair #TeamNatural), my piercings…I’m…just…a lot. So, going to a place where piercings or tattoos or whatever isn’t as common, or is associated with things that are inherently negative, is something to be mindful of. Whether you are traveling to Seoul, or anywhere else, take the time to be mindful of the culture you are entering. I wasn’t going to take out my piercings, but for the the few people I encountered with judgement in their eyes, I smiled. It worked wonders. I often got a smile back. So, whatever pre-conceived notions may have been held, may just melt away by you being there and being your beautiful self.
Moral: Smile. It can do wonders to break down barriers. Also, smiling while dancing may just lead to one of the best dates you’ve had in a long time!
Travel, meet interesting people, do dope things.
The most incredible thing I learned was the importance of being able to control my narrative and sprinkle my #BlackGirlMagic. You should too, and let me know how it goes! I’ll be posting even more photos on the (Insta)’Gram, so follow me @FashionNeedsJesus. Tons, more to write, I haven’t even gotten to the fashion yet, so #StayTuned!