What Traveling Taught Me About Racism

Where do we learn to be racists? Abroad? In countries with white communities?

To be attacked for having a darker skin tone or coming from a different country, it’s not something recent. But today -more than ever- we are witnessing how much racism has hurt our society throughout history, and Latinxs are not exempt from this.

I have to confess that when I first moved to the United States, I was kind of scared of being victim of racism…you know, for bringing my brown skin to a country known for its white privilege.

…of course someone is going to make me feel bad for being Mexican and brown, I thought.

In Mexico, it is common that some people insult those who have darker skin. “Prieto” or “indio” are two of the most common words to refer to someone moreno, or with indigenous appearance; yes, in a country with indigenous roots.

But to my surprise, that was an icebreaker in so many occasions during my first year in the US. People easily approached me to start a friendly conversation. Maybe I was lucky.  

…where are you from? -I’m from Mexico 😀

…OMG, where did you get your tan?…-My tan? Mmm, from my dad?

Is it possible that having a tan skin is not THAT bad?, I thought.

I must admit that no one had complimented my skin tone before living in that community in Pennsylvania; West Chester to be precise.

And during that year, no one ever said anything bad about my skin tone, something that seemed more possible in Mexico. So, had I experienced racism in my own country, in my own community?

Yes, I had.

When I noticed how many times you can hear people refer to someone´s skin tone in Mexico, I was shocked. Believe or not, before moving to the US I never realized that this is SO common.

Maybe someone is güerito, or prieto; we have to “mejorar la raza” by having kids with someone white… phrases like these go on and on. Hearing this over and over undoubtedly perpetuate the contempt for darker skin.

This contempt is not exclusive of some countries or people; it is a disdain well learned at home which escalates to levels we all are aware these days. And we have the responsibility to change that.

Traveling has taught me that racism is not only something we see on television, on the news or on social media; racism lives amidst us, and therefore we are responsible to educate ourselves, our people and our community in order to stop it.

Have you experienced any level of racism while traveling or withing you own community?

4 thoughts on “What Traveling Taught Me About Racism”

  1. Our constant efforts to educate people telling them that Mexico is also part of North America, surprisingly more than one didn’t know it. And, that time when someone responded to you with “geographically, yes. Culturally, no”.

    Btw… esa foto! Representa mucha más diversidad de la que se alcanza a apreciar! ❤️

  2. It happens exactly the same to me, I suffered more racism in Mexico than here in the USA, and yes people always ask me the same question…. where did you get tan and I’m like … I born like this ??? . I never ever imagine that my skin color was so appreciate and get complements because in my country was completely the oposite ?.

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