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Black in Asia

February 6, 2018





Diaspora means I’m neither here nor there, we’re all familiar with the trope “too foreign for here and too foreign for home”. Originally from Nigeria, we built a life in the UK, embodied and became black British. A space not created for me, which I inhabited wholeheartedly anyway. London is this wonderful bubble, a walk outside is an experience of different faces, different stories. The world truly feels like it’s yours. I am not naive. London has its moment's but someone telling me my home was not mine is laughable. Get out my country? You first mate. *Laughs in red passport*


Inhabiting spaces which in their creation did not consider people of my colour or origin began to really interest me. It was okay for others throughout history to stick their ore in places they didn’t ‘belong’, so why not. I agree this is a very strange way to describe a want to travel.


In societies where we have limited control of the way in which our humanity is perceived, my very existence began to seem purely for consumption. For the gaze of many in amusement, bewilderment, wonder and disdain. We all aspire to live “our best lives” so we travel, we read, we explore. This burning need to experience the world is slowly but surely inched away, with every stare, every particle of thick phlegm that narrowly misses my dusty Stan Smiths. You begin to see that the places you’ve loved and lusted for, also have their dark realities. It is difficult to prepare to be hated by those around you for no particular reason. I know so many of our parents in the 60s/70s had to experience the exact same thing. The West I suppose has come along in some ways, but other areas of the world remain riddled with ignorance.


Living as a student in Hong Kong, working in Cambodia, travelling around Asia I've been experienced heightened versions of over-sexualisation, fetishisation and racism. But I have no choice but to be unapologetically me. I see many faces like mine also trying to build lives. We talk and collect our experiences, common themes become apparent, it is good to see them and engage in their warm embraces. My blackness could never be a burden but it became this beacon for unwarranted and unsolicited attention. 


In trying to understand how you could love yourself in spaces that do not love you, I began to think about these spaces in their totality.  The subtleties are what you notice first, the bleaching cream, excessive covering in the sun, lightening masks. Societies still suffering from the plague of western ideals and beauty standards, much like the rest of the world. Consequently, how could they open-heartedly welcome us brown, black boys and girls? For obvious reasons I began to think about where I come from, how lighter skin, straighter noses are to some extent celebrated. Across all societies, darker people suffer. 


Another aspect of my reflection was too assess how this could affect my self-love. The love I’ve grown, the very one I have cultivated over many years. Could it really be damaged by prying eyes? I always have been brazenly black, as a Nigerian woman compromise is not in my vocabulary. My blackness is my very essence. It was immediately apparent to me that attempting to rationalise blatant racism, would be the true risk to my self-love.  Although ignorance is usually a root cause of hostility in these spaces, I believe this is not an acceptable excuse. It's 2018, how much longer is needed to catch up?


How do I overcome this? How do we overcome? Mostly by stopping myself from being continuously triggered. I pick and choose what and who I put my energy into. I personally do not feel it’s the job of a black or brown person to defeat wild stereotypes, but if you wish to educate others do so. I mean assimilating with the stereotype is slightly problematic, but if that is you, do you. Live your life unapologetically, be kind to people and forget the other noise. 


*Disclaimer - this is my somewhat limited experience of parts of east and southern Asia, therefore it is my reality. It is by no means a general experience and reality for all black people in Asia.* 


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