The Struggles With Black Identity While Abroad
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

The Struggles With Black Identity While Abroad

Because I'm proud to be an American, right?

The Struggles With Black Identity While Abroad
Author's photo

I’ve never had to hide my identity as a U.S. citizen before, and never really wanted to. I’ve travelled to a few countries, some as a tourist and others as a student in various summer programs, and I’ve never felt this urgent need to hide. To conceal my identity as an American was never something that ever crossed my mind, because, to me, it was always something to be proud of. Being a citizen of the "greatest country in the world" is supposed to give you so much privilege, so much protection, and to be honest, so many bragging rights. In some countries, cities, states, and social circles, it’s so easy to be "proud to be an American" (where at least you know you’re free, right?) But after studying and living abroad in Santiago de Chile for about three weeks now, this has definitely not been the case.

From day one, in one way or another, I’ve been strongly cautioned to conceal my American identity. In this city, if it’s obvious that you’re from the states, you’re a major target for theft and assault. I’ve been taught to fit in as much as I can. I’ve been taught to never speak English too loudly (or at all if I’m on public transportation, in a taxi, or out and about late at night). I’ve been told to never wear anything that’s too outrageous or outside of the normal fashion/dress code in Santiago. I’ve been taught and told so many things that all lead to the fact that when I’m here, in order to be as safe as possible, I can be anything I want, but not American.

This has served as an extremely confusing task and caused me to constantly question my identity in this city and country, because on the outside, I’m not your stereotypical white-American ‘gringo’; I’m Black. I’m a Black woman with a 20-inch weave, curvy thighs, brown skin, and brown eyes. So while others may serve as targets just by their mere looks, that hasn’t always been the case for me. Because of my looks, I’m able to hide behind an ambiguous identity that grants me a privilege of safety and obscurity. When I’m walking around, people can easily assume that I’m a Haitian or Dominican immigrant living in Santiago. And in an uncomfortable and potentially problematic sense, I’ve taken pride in the fact that I’ve been able to hide behind this identity obscurity.

As someone who is constantly on guard and looking for ways of self-protection, this comes as a comfort, but also poses an issue of claiming identities that aren’t my own. Unless I’m with a lot of white students who are speaking English and are clearly from the States, I feel like I could be from anywhere, especially because I don’t look that different from the other Black people I’ve seen around Santiago. One time, I even went so far as to lie to a homeless man and say that I was from Eritrea in Africa because I didn’t want him to keep talking to me in English and follow me and my friends out of a restaurant.

Everyday, I’m grappling with this confusing sense of identity I’ve come to have in Santiago. Never before have I felt so protected by my Blackness. In the states, Blackness targets me with so much hate, danger, stereotypical connotations and racism, but here, I haven’t had those same experiences. I’m so blessed to be here, and even more grateful that God continues to protect me from all the dangers of this city and this world, but with all this confusion I’m even more motivated to use this time studying abroad to better understand my own Blackness, and the diasporic ways that Blackness exists around the world.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

23 Pandemic-Approved Date Ideas That'll Send Sparks Flying From Six Feet Apart

There's a safe way to date right now and yes, it includes masks.


While some people would rather opt out of dating altogether during the pandemic so they don't have to wear a mask on a first date, others are choosing to listen to both guidelines and their heart in order to find love during the time of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Should you be one of the individuals welcoming romance right now, there are pandemic-approved dates you can go on that still adhere to guidelines (and yes, you'll have to wear a mask).

Keep Reading... Show less

I didn't believe the notification when it came through to my phone: Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died from complications due to cancer.

Keep Reading... Show less

In our patriarchal society, men hide from their feelings, but toxic masculinity is literally killing men. They swallow the pain and move on so that they can look, feel, and act "tough."

But, strength is derived from asking for help and voicing your struggle and, trust me, working on your mental health is one hell of a struggle. The real way to "man up" is to acknowledge the downfalls in unjust societal norms. Mental health problems do not mean that a man is weak, they are neurologically-based disorders that require professional treatment.

Keep Reading... Show less

11 Things Your Boyfriend Should Do Before He Drops $499 On A PS5

Let's start with spending less time gaming and more time with you.


Scrolling through Twitter this week had me rolling on the floor laughing as I read some of the hilarious tweets from ladies who, whether in a relationship or not, shared reactions to the news that PlayStation 5 is on its way

As this "buy your boyfriend a PS5" joke takes off across the internet, let's just say, there are a few things your BF should be doing before dropping $499 on the new gaming system — or, if the tweets are real for some, before you buy it for him as a gift.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Sorry, But 'I Don’t Care About Politics' Is Not A Valid Excuse For NOT Voting

The younger generation of voters is so crucial to the upcoming election because our vote is going to shape the world that we are about to enter as adults.


When I ask my friends if they are voting this term most of them respond with "no" followed by an explanation of "I don't care enough," "It doesn't affect me," or "I don't keep up with politics," etc. I get it, as a college student I know that there are many other things to be concerned about like school, relationships, work, and friends. I also understand that keeping up with politics can seem like trying to keep up with an over-exaggerated reality show that has way too many seasons. Not to mention most news stations and websites are biased so it's hard to decipher if what you hear is true or fake.

However, despite all of this annoyance, as the next generation of Americans, we have to remember that we owe it to ourselves, our families, and to our futures to care.

Keep Reading... Show less
Tasia Sli

Tasia Sli and Anna Yang met in quintessential New York fashion at a chic rooftop event, inquisitive Yale grad Anna gravitating towards model/entrepreneur Tasia.

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Anna Hernández-Buces

"Do you have big parties on Cinco de Mayo?"

Keep Reading... Show less

Two of my favorite things in life are reading and books. Obviously, they go hand-in-hand. In my life, I've realized that there is nothing better than learning about the current world or getting fully immersed in another world. Reading can inspire, teach, and entertain you.

For me, the feeling of opening a book and smelling that fresh book smell can't compete with anything else.

Keep Reading... Show less

Expecting mother and wife to singer/songwriter John Legend may have accidentally slipped up and revealed the gender of her and Legend's third baby today on her Instagram story.

Keep Reading... Show less

20 Books About Latin And Hispanic Heritage Absolutely Everyone Should Have On Their Bookshelf

Any ally of the community needs to be reading these incredible reads.


I go through phases when it comes to what I like to read. I am typically reading two books at any given time: one serious nonfiction and one escapist fiction novel to have on hand and open up depending on my mood.

What remains consistent, however, amongst most of my fellow bibliophiles is a desire to try new and different authors and genres. I, as an Indian woman, have been partial to reading books written by fellow Indian and Desi writers since I first got a library card.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Asked 46 Women What They Thought About The Term 'Plus-Size', And Here's What They Had To Say

It's 2020, where change is inevitable and norms are not only questioned, but challenged.


We live in a world where it's become customary to push boundaries, break rules, and question standards upheld by society. Though try as we might, some of these standards are harder to conquer than others — body image is one of the top contenders.

For years, the body positivity movement has pushed for the acceptance of all marginalized body types not represented or celebrated in the media. Recently, we've gotten better at appreciating and accepting all body types, but one thing that's still lingering is the stigma of body image in the fashion industry — more specifically, the term "plus-size."

Keep Reading... Show less

Many popular TV shows are holding off premiers until spring, so most people are relying on their television subscriptions to get them through a socially distant fall semester.

Thankfully, Netflix was busy filming this past year because there is a ton of new original content coming in the near future. From mysteries to romances, here are some of the best new shows you have to check out this year:

Keep Reading... Show less

Taylor Swift Sang 'betty' At The ACMs And It Was The Perfect First Live 'folklore' Performance

I guarantee that Inez is spreading rumors about how fire this performance was.


The Academy of Country Music Awards were last night and the performances were wonderful, but Taylor Swift's live version of "betty" from her newest album "folklore" really took the cake for me.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

9 Reasons I Unfollowed All The Fitness Influencers On My Instagram Feed

I don't need to feel bad about myself because of who I follow on social media.


Throughout quarantine, something that a lot of us picked up on was working out. With all the free time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on that "dream bod" you've been wanting for years, or to just feel good about yourself.

A common way to stay motivated and keep yourself on-task is to follow fitness influencers on various platforms. For some people, yes, this can be a healthy and helpful way to keep your drive. In other cases, however, this can do more harm than good.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments