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My Favorite Staring Contest

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

My favorite staring contest

You always hear about black people getting stared at when we go abroad. Well, the rumors are true, but... The gag is I STARE BACK, respectfully.

Traveling is not always that simple when you're blessed with melanin. If you're black, you've probably done research on racism and treatment of us melanated folks when planning a trip. If you're black, finding out the history and relationship between the country and black people is essential. Endlessly scrolling through social media to find out what other black travelers have experienced in different countries is part of the planning process. IT'S A LOT.

When staring back, I'm not being aggressive or anything, but I want people to realize what they're doing. I'm a real person not some strange exhibit in a museum. You're fascinated by my mere existence? Shit, let me be fascinated by yours too. Let's both take a nice, long look at each other. Maybe we can learn something.

On my first day interacting with my students in South Korea I could see their minds going a mile a minute trying to figure me out. From my skin to my hair. Within my first week, my hair was compared to octopus tentacles. I even had students hold dreads in their hands to feel the weight and texture. Kids are naturally curious and when they reach for a dread I reach for their hair too. Let’s examine each other. Getting exposure to people that don't look like you from a young age prevents you from growing up to be a 50 year old man/woman with a staring problem.

So to be fair, it's usually curious little kids & older people that do the staring. As much as we'd like to think the world is "woke" about stuff like this that's not always the case. For a lot of people in my small Korean city I'm the only black person they'll come in contact with during their week. And MAYBE I stand out a little bit too...

Being constantly stared at is annoying, but there are also people that randomly start conversations or bow as a sign of respect. School kids yell, "HELLO!" and older people are always curious about where I'm from. I could focus on the oblivious starers or the smiling kids anxious for me to get close enough to scream some English. Glass half full.

I’m proud to say that when I started learning Korean I was able to catch some people off guard. At that point, when people stared I spoke. This little black girl speaks Korean too? What is happening??? All I can say is get used to this chocolate face, baby, because I'm not going anywhere anytime soon 😘

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