I’ve been traveling for a long time. As far back as I can remember. Actually, one of my first memories is of being at the beach in St. Kitts, point blank refusing to go into the sea. Thank you uncle L and Jaws! Spoiler alert! I eventually dip a toe in years later. Progress! So it’s no surprise that I became a Digital Nomad some 40 *cough* years later. With a pretty decent ‘number of countries visited list’…48 and counting.
Being a Digital Nomad
I provide business, content and technology support to female entrepreneurs and the coolest thing is that I get to do that virtually! Yep, I’m one of those people that goes on video calls wearing a nice top with sweatpants bottoms. Ah…the perks, but it does provide me with the financial support and freedom to do what I love – travel.
Which means that on any given day I can say “hasta la see ya” to one place and a week or so later I get to say “howdie” to another.
Not bad going for a former single mother (yes I said former…I ain’t gots to look after him no more…he grown!) from the ‘hood’ of “Gunchester” officially known as Manchester.
Life was not easy but we made it out alive and with our sanity…mostly.
We even did a stint of living in Luxembourg for a few years. With more than 46% of the foreign resident population living in this teeny tiny country. It was like a melting pot of United Nations!
So it’s safe to say I have met a bunch of people, from various backgrounds, ethnicity and cultures. For me, what unites us all is that we are, all “different”. Usually, I love that! But sometimes, not so much!
“It didn’t make me less ‘black’. It made me a multifaceted human being. I was good with that.”
Being a “Different” Type of Black Woman
I’ve always known that I was “different”. I was a classically trained, sports playing, Russian music singing, comic book reading, eclectic music listening/movie watching teen. Because of that I was called “snob”, “posh”, “white sounding” by a few of my black peers and their parents! It took a minute to understand and accept it, but my life was different to theirs and that was ok. It didn’t make me less ‘black’. It made me a multifaceted human being. I was good with that.
But as I got older and started to travel more, I started to notice that my “otherness” was not connected to who I am, but rather to what I am. To put it bluntly, what I look like. The colour of my skin had become a gateway to a world of micro aggression and blatant racism.
It hasn’t stopped me from travelling, but it has made me acutely aware and always on alert, that I can never escape the reality of my blackness. I’m sure that’s the case for any Black, Latinx, Asian or even racially ambiguous person.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have had the “Where are you from” interrogation.
The need to put people in an identifying box has lead to people mistakenly taking me for someone from India, Brazil, Jamaica, Africa, to name a few. I can shrug that off because in most cases it’s coming from a place of genuine curiosity. I get it.
Then there are the ones that are not content with my “England” answer. They’re not satisfied. My answer is not “exotic” enough for them. Nope, that’s not the foreign land they were looking for. So they ask again…
“No, where are you REALLY from?”
Cue my eye roll and my immediate disdain.
Why “Where Are You From” Says Nothing About You
People tend to be simple-minded when it comes to global views. In their minds, just by learning where you’re from, they can then offload all of their built up opinions, experiences, and interactions that they’ve had with people of a similar background. And that’s how they form an immediate opinion about me. It’s exhausting, and it’s the question that I get asked the most!
The BBC summed it up pretty well in this sketch. It’s hilarious to watch but it’s also sad that this pretty much hits the nail on the head on what people are really wondering when they ask…
Here’s the thing. If you are really interested in knowing more about a person, why not ask them what their heritage is? Or maybe lead with a compliment, let us know that you come in peace, sensitivity and awareness. You will be privy to a conversation with substance, and potentially educational/new knowledge as a bonus.
I can’t express just how frustrating it is that the media fuels the views and perception of people around the world. Much of what people think about me is from media representation. Of course this can be good and bad. But in my experience, it’s mostly not been great, mainly because of the sheer number of representation of people of colour drops drastically in certain countries.
But, I try to remain positive and feel that it is an honor to be the first black person that many people have met. I’ve been able to show that what they think they know is only based off the only frame of reference that they have. Whatever is fed to them by Western media.
I have been in a privileged position to provide knowledge of what a Black person (or at the very least myself) is really like and hopefully dispelled their misconceptions. To an extent, I do feel that it is my responsibility to represent my people and country in a positive light. Because I do feel that when you open up to people they open up to you.
I have no idea where or when I’m going to experience another incident of racism and it’s not really healthy to lead with the idea that I’m always going to encounter it either (that is something that I am working on).
I’d like to highlight that it’s good to interact with people that have made the effort to research the social situation of a person of colour. Someone that seeks advice and knowledge from friends and family of colour (if they have any), or even someone that is open to learning and understanding without preconceived notions is definitely a helpful way to be a part of the conversation with substance.
Written by Cassandra Queeley, CEO of Wonder Assist, Digital Nomad, Author, Nerd
One For Women is honored to have Cassandra Queeley, CEO of Wonder Assist, Author of She is Unstoppable (Vol. 1) and Founder of She Power Movement, share her voice and her important message as part of our One Voice to Hear series.