Why race doesn´t matter when you travel
I never really understood the universality of racial prejudice until I moved to New Zealand for a High School exchange when I was 17. I lived with a family of expats, a Fijian woman, her Dutch husband and three children. I had chosen New Zealand not only because it had the highest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores of any English speaking country in Mathematics – which was my greatest weakness at school in these days – but also because I heard so much about what an open and free country New Zealand was.
I had not expected to encounter racism. I had made good friends with a Korean girl, Tracey, whose parents had immigrated to New Zealand when she was still little, on the bus to school. One evening we wanted to attend an event at school together. We talked to our (host-) parents and it was decided that while my host mother would take us to school, my friend´s mother would pick us up. Unfortunately, Tracey’s mother had something come up and wasn’t able to pick us up afterall.
My host mother agreed to drop and pick me up on her own, but only me as in her eyes Tracey´s mother had let us down on purpose. “Asians always try to take advantage of others, and I won´t have that,” she said. I was shocked. And I wondered if she knew that from a Europeans point of view she could be considered Asian as well?
Growing up in Germany I had been confronted with the concept of racism, racial prejudice and their consequences. However, I had been left under the impression that it was a domain dominated by Europeans, or white Caucasians in general, as consequence of their colonial past. I had imagined other races to be more aware of how poisonous such attitudes can be.
I felt embarrassed, talking to my friend about this, but she just told me not to worry as she knew it wasn´t my fault. “That´s just life,” she said, smiling sadly. “What can you do?”
Before I share my top tips on how to deal with racial prejudice when traveling in a few days time, please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences in regards to this issue.
Photo credit: Rosie Brazier via flikr.com