Dear White Travelers, Please Stop Staring At Me
Not only is it rude, but it can make Black women feel unsafe and unwelcome
When I first embarked on a two-and-a-half month adventure across Southeast Asia, I expected the stares. I expected looks of bewilderment and amazement because, well, I don’t exactly blend in. I’m a young Black woman standing at 5’10” with curves that may not be the norm in the four countries and 20 cities I was visiting. So when locals ogled and spoke about me in their native language, I understood. I might not have enjoyed these stares every day as I was doing mundane things like grocery shopping or running around, getting my cardio in, but I get it. I recognize that I’m different.
But what I can’t understand is why a White person, who is also not a local and simply a visitor, feels the need to stare at me.
To blatantly gawk at me with wide, fascinated eyes when I eat meals with friends, roam foreign streets, or pass you in hallways in hostels as if you’ve never seen a Black person before is confusing, disconcerting, rude, and not to mention weird. Have you no home training? Why are you so surprised to see me on your trip?
As a Black woman, travel is my resistance.
I’ve experienced this more times than I can count. While on an island in Thailand, I was walking to meet friends on the beach and two women, clearly engaged in conversation, were having dinner in a restaurant nearby. White Woman A, who was faced in my direction, saw me walking and said something to white woman B which prompted her to turn around, and they both stared at me for an uncomfortably long time as I walked by. It bothered me so much that a loud “HELLLOOOOO!!!” left my mouth before I could even think about it. Both women awkwardly smiled and waved.
This doesn’t just happen to me. A Black woman I met in Bali shared with me a story of an afternoon she went for lunch at a restaurant. There were only a few tables available so she went ahead and sat next to a table that was occupied by a White couple. She felt the couple burning her skin with their eyes as she sat minding her own business, looking over the menu. They even took it a step further and asked the waiter to change their seats so they would…