I was excited and interested in going to this panel discussion, because as a Black female my family is concerned about where I will go abroad. They ask me a lot of questions that I can’t possibly answer. “Will you be safe in this country?” “Will you be targeted more or less because you are a Black woman?” “Are you going to be the only person of color in this country?”
Sometimes its overwhelming. I’m already nervous about traveling abroad, and them asking me questions that I can’t answer honestly (since I’ve never been abroad) makes me even more nervous. Because I hate having to think about my race and gender as a potential handicap. I don’t want it to dictate where I get to study abroad, what I get to do, and whether I get to go at all. Its not fair. I hate that my identity as an African American woman (a very obvious identity, unlike religion or sexual orientation) could be sort of crippling. I’m always going to be worried that I’ll have an experience similar to my cousin, who went to Germany to live with a host family, who assumed she was a criminal because she was black and refused to have her in their home. But, as hard as it is for some people to believe, that’s a reality that I have to factor into my destination.
I am aware that its very plausible that I could go somewhere and be mistreated because they “don’t like” Black people, or where Black women are fetishized. So going to this panel excited me. It was an interesting Q and A, but no one was able to truly and accurately answer any questions I had. I hate to seem like I’m complaining, but I can’t ignore the facts. Of all the minorities that people don’t want in their country, Black people are the most feared and detested worldwide (Middle Eastern people are the closest second). There were no African Americans on the panel, which I know may have something to with there not being enough African Americans who have travelled abroad, or none that were available.
The panel was pretty diverse though. There were two ethnic minorities represented by the panel, one girl who represented marked sexual orientations, and one girl who was unmarked in every way in the West, but became the minority when she travelled to Africa.
Some of the questions that my family and that I have, I know can only be answered by finding someone in the African American community who has studied abroad. And I know that some questions can only be answered by me going abroad and having my own experiences. I’m still very excited about going to France in summer of 2017, but I’m definitely still apprehensive. Honestly, I just want to be able to go abroad and have a meaningful, educational experience. Everything else, will be the best that I can make it.