Traveling While Black: Jamaica and Bahamas

So I know what you’re thinking, this mini posting series is all about race and international travel, what could I possibly have to say about my experiences with race when going to countries predominately populated by other black people? A couple things actually. I don’t know if other groups feel this connection when traveling but when I go to other black countries there is a pull that I get. At first I thought it was just the people being kind hosts and treating us the way they would anyone else. I suppose some of it is. But I’ve had a few experiences where I tend to believe my friends and I get a little special attention when we travel to brown/black countries because we look like them.

It’s the same joke about when you see another black person walking down the street or the hall you give them a nod or “hi” and if you didn’t, you were rude. I first encountered this logic in college where it was over 90% white so the few blacks there felt like we must have a special connection. If we walked across campus it was an unspoken custom that you say “hi” and if you didn’t, you were talked about and it was passed around that “that person wasn’t friendly to other black people”.  (see this scene from “blackish” displaying this sentiment )

So I’d like to believe, I got the hook up from time to time. We made friends easily from the locals who then gave us the “inside” of what to do, where to go, what to watch out for. Now I’m not saying non black tourist didn’t get this same attention, some did but they got to that closer level by a different route…

On the flip side,  I think I was more generous that usual because of that racial connection. I bought crap I didn’t need and tipped high because I wanted to help a struggling people (yes these places are beautiful but not all of the people are living that life and are working hard).

It can be a hassle at certain times because then there is an expectation from some that because we are black we should help them (see a future post on Italy on a certain international incident about this topic). As soon as you helped one person out, you’d walk down and see another person you’d want to purchase from and then feel a little guilty (well I did) because you couldn’t. I end up spending much more money than I plan to when I go to brown/black countries because I want to do as much as I can to give to the locals.  These people aren’t beggars, they are hard working and full of spirit and kindness (to all groups) and it’s a connection I love to receive when I visit.


  1. I’ve had very similar feelings when in the West Indies. I could write a book on the Cayman Islands compared to Jamaica or Aruba and St. Lucia. It is nothing more than birds of a feather… Maybe.


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