Traveling While Black
For those with the means, contemporary Black travelers experience a freedom of movement historically circumscribed by oppression, persecution, and economic exclusion. People of African descent have found new footing in the exploding global travel field, with travel motivations ranging from pleasure-seeking to the desire to connect with ancestral homes. Travel abroad is not without its challenges, however: Black travelers recount dealing with stares, hair obsession, and the need to expand conceptions of the diverse places Black people live in the world. As a lifestyle movement coalesces around Black travelers, BBC News explores the unique experiences of traveling while Black, from encounters with strangers to hyper-visibility.
“Our access to travel has been historically tied to colonisation or immigration. We’re paying homage to our ancestors to be travelling on our own free will.”
“What does it mean to be a black traveller?” (BBC News | January 2020)
“How the black travel movement is gaining momentum” (CNN | August 2019)
Black & Abroad
Black Girls Travel Too
Graphic artist creates Ethiopia’s first female superhero comic
- Beserat Debebe, founder of Etan Comics, has developed Hawi in the wake of creating Jember, billed as the first Ethiopian superhero comic in a growing African comics market.
- Hawi features the intertwined stories of Ement, a young woman of Ethiopian descent living in the U.S. coming into her powers, and Queen Yodit, a powerful figure from 10th-century Ethiopia.
- The comic will be published in both Amharic and English and is currently available for preorder as part of the project’s kickstarter campaign.
“Ethiopia’s First Female Superhero Comic ‘Hawi’ is Here” (OkayAfrica | March 2019)
“Ethiopia Gets Its First Female Superhero Comic” (CBR.com | March 2019)
“Meet Ethiopia’s first female superhero character who returns from the U.S. to rescue her abducted mother” (Face2Face Africa | March 2019)
Medical university in Tokyo found to have altered women candidates’ scores on entrance exam
- A probe found that Tokyo Medical University, one of Japan’s most prestigious medical schools, systematically boosted male applicants’ scores while cutting female applicants’ in an effort to reduce women’s admission to the school.
- Investigators discovered that scores on the exam had been affected for at least a decade, driven by admissions officers’ belief that parental obligations would interfere with women’s commitment to the profession.
- The discovery was found amidst a broader investigation into corruption involving the alleged admission of a government official’s child in exchange for subsidies.
“Tokyo Medical University admits subtracting points from repeat male applicants’ scores and boosting others to secure donations” (The Japan Times | August 2018)
“‘Makes me shake with rage’ – Japan probe shows university cut women’s test scores” (Reuters | August 2018)
“‘Betrayed’: victims of Tokyo medical school scandal speak out” (The Guardian | August 2018)
Indigenous communities throughout Mexico protest presidential election, press for self-rule
- Residents have banned political parties, destroyed protest signs, patrolled streets for campaign paraphernalia, and blocked ballot delivery throughout small towns in the western state of Michoacán as anti-government sentiment has grown.
- Seven municipalities covering 16 towns and at least 50,000 voters have decided to opt out of the election, and Maya communities in Guerrero and Chiapas have begun mobilizing as well.
- Although popular leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has advocated for Mexico’s indigenous communities in the past, historical and ongoing neglect by and corruption in the government has led many indigenous Mexicans to disengage and push for greater autonomy.
“Indigenous Mexicans spurn presidential vote with blockades, bulldozers” (Reuters | June 2018)
“The Mexican indigenous community that ran politicians out of town” (The Guardian | April 2018)
“Mexico’s Indigenous Council Continues Campaign Despite Violence” (teleSUR English | January 2018)
Bahrain government bars opposition groups from elections
- The Shura Council, the upper house of Bahrain’s parliament, approved legislation that prevents members of dissolved political groups from participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
- Such groups include al-Wefaq, tied to Bahrain’s politically and economically marginalized Shiite majority, and the National Democratic Action Society (Waad), a secular movement.
- Last year, courts ordered the dissolution of the two primary opposition groups, arguing that they fostered violence and terrorism in the country.
“Bahrain bars members of opposition groups from standing in elections” (Reuters | May 2018)
“Bahrain bans members of dissolved parties from running in elections” (Middle East Monitor | February 2018)
“Election ban on members of dissolved political societies approved” (Gulf Daily News | April 2018)
Countering Racism in Switzerland
Following an uptick in reports of prejudice, harassment, and discrimination over the last decade, several Swiss federal agencies and civil organizations have undertaken research to outline the prevalence and dimensions of racism, discrimination, and racial prejudice in the country, focusing on the ways in which cultural, political, and administrative practices marginalize people of color and exclude them from conceptions of Swiss national identity. Anti-black racism has emerged as a phenomenon of particular concern, ranging from everyday prejudice and harassment to discrimination in housing, employment, policing, and access to public accommodations and services. The continuing growth of Switzerland’s Afro-descendant population—having doubled over the last decade to some 100,000 people—has made countering racism a priority in the integration of new generations of residents, and experts have begun issuing recommendations including increased service provision, media representation, anti-profiling measures, and data collection.
Darkening Beauty in India
Source: Dark is Beautiful Campaign/YouTube (October 2013)
In India, a cultural movement to tackle colorism has taken root, from challenging the pervasive preference for fair skin in romantic partners to reconstructing depictions of Hindu gods and goddesses using dark-skinned models. Skin-whitening practices are pervasive throughout the country and drive a multimillion-dollar industry, but activists and other community members are seeking to reaffirm beauty and value in darker-skinned people.
“Dark is divine: What colour are Indian gods and goddesses?” (BBC News | January 2018)
“Bleached girls: India and its love for light skin” (The Conversation | July 2017)
“India’s unfair obsession with lighter skin” (The Guardian | August 2013)
A Brown Girl’s Guide to Beauty (UnErase Poetry/YouTube | July 2017)
Dark Is Beautiful