The realities of travelling while Black: ‘Racism abroad can be life or death’

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Before the pandemic set in, we were living in a world where travelling between countries and continents had become simpler and more accessible than ever before.

Cheap air travel and increasing global connectivity has meant the world has been getting smaller, and frequent travel – even to far-flung destinations – has become the norm.

But this increasing freedom isn’t equal for everyone, and Black people have additional pressures to consider whenever they choose to get on a flight and travel abroad.

Thanks to the global nature of racism and anti-Blackness, Black people report experiencing discrimination, hostility, even violence, all over the world. And the vulnerability that comes with travelling – the unfamiliar settings, different languages, isolation from your support systems – can exacerbate the impact of racial discrimination.

Put simply, racism while travelling can feel even more terrifying and unsettling than the racism you face at home. And this has an impact on the way Black people choose to travel and experience other countries and cultures.

A US study from 2015 found that racism while travelling is a widespread and deeply damaging phenomenon for Black communities.

‘It is clear that many African Americans continuously suffer racism while they travel and this negative experience substantially limits their mobility and tourism activity,’ wrote researchers.

As a result, they found that Black people have to plan their holidays much more carefully than white people, avoid certain areas and countries altogether, and travel less frequently than other racial groups. This isn’t a phenomenon limited to Black people from America.

Nanjala Nyabola is a writer and political analyst based in Kenya. Travel is her passion and exploring the world is an integral part of who she is.

Nanjala has written a collection of essays inspired by her travels – Travelling While Black – that examines what it’s like to travel when guidebooks aren’t written with you in mind. Through her experiences, she brings to life the legacy of ‘othering’ and colonialism that impact how Black people are perceived and treated around the world.

‘Human mobility is actually an incredibly important part of who we are as human beings,’ Nanjala tells

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