Traveling as a black guy

Traveling As A Black Guy: Treats, Trials and Tribulations

Kerwin McKenzie Travel Information 27 Comments

What’s It Like Traveling As A Black Guy?

 

 

At the time of this writing, I’ve been to 125 countries flying about 200,000 miles a year. I’ve flown 180 airlines. I took my first flight when I was 15 in 1980 and I’ve not stopped flying since that day. I’ve flown around the world more times than most. I’m in the air more than I am on the ground it seems. I’m in the air as I initially write this post…

But what’s it really like to travel when you look like me?

I’ve never written about what happens to me when I travel due to my race and how I look. I have other friends who do write about this subject and you can see some of their posts at: http://minoritynomad.com/minority-travel-difference/.

Also, check out my other minority traveler content creators here too.

In Jamaica I was taught not to “tell people you business” :-). but, lately, I get asked about it a lot, so I thought I’d tell you about it here. I’m not looking for sympathy in this writing, but more so education and making you aware of the world in which we travel and that the world is different when seen through other lenses.

So, it’s time.

 

Perceptions

Non-minority travelers take a lot for granted as they are treated very differently, by everyone; you may not realize it, but it happens. When I walk into a room, I’m looked at from head to toe and some people judge me just by the way I look. To mitigate that, I try to at least dress properly (whatever that means) when I travel as this elevates me to the next level and somehow decreases the looked down on factor. Trust me, it works! Tested it many times.

We are humans and sadly, we do judge each other by the way we dress. I’m very observant and I watch people’s body language and actions when I travel. It’s pretty amazing and telling.

I don’t let it bother me, much, I just hold my head up and enter the room like I own it. Always respectful. Maybe that’s a reflection of my upbringing. I was raised mostly by my grandparents until 9 years old, who were strict and always taught me to treat everyone with the utmost respect regardless.

So with that said, here are a few things that’s happened to me during my travels due to the way I look. You be the judge and let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

I’ll start with the good stuff.

 

Loving Japan

I love Japan. The people are so friendly and once I show up, they first laugh and then run (and I mean run), to find someone who speaks English to help me. They are usually initially embarrassed that they can’t help me, so they find someone quickly. They even laugh when they do it, which is adorable.

Lovely country and I always have great respect when I visit.

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Celebrity in Beijing

My first time to Beijing was amazing. I was with my work colleague who is about 5’; she’s white. We were walking along the Great Wall of China and a Japanese tourist asked us to take a photo. We both thought that they wanted us to take a picture of them, but they wanted to take a photo of us together. So we obliged. Apparently it’s a thing :-). I’m sure my photo sits on many mantlepieces in Asia :-).

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

Later, we went to have a foot massage and they thought we were a couple; we were not, so we had the massage in the same room. It was easier to just make it happen than explain that we were not a couple, just friends :-).

That’s travel, you just have to go with the flow.

Another time in Beijing, one of my friends asked one of the “rickshaw” guys if he could ride it and he did. The guy sat in the passenger seat and my friend did the riding. So fun. The stares from passersby were incredible and funny.

Riding the rickshaw in Beijing

Riding the rickshaw in Beijing

My next time in Beijing, this was during the Summer Olympics, people would bring their children up to me and place them in my arms and then step back and take a photo. At first, it surprised me, but once I figured out what was happening, I went with it.

I’ve learnt to understand that people are people and just curious about each other.

 

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

 

What Size Shoes Do You Wear?

I was at the San Francisco Airport (SFO) one night waiting for the shuttle bus for my airport hotel. A middle aged Asian lady came up to me and said: “What size shoes do you wear?”

I looked over at her and smiled and said size 13 wide (which, by the way, are hard to find), 14 depending on the make of the shoes, I concluded.

She looked at me again and said, “Thank you” and walked off.

 

Do You Comb Your Hair?

In some countries, people have asked me if I comb my hair? (this was when I had more hair than I do now :-))

Yes, I do comb my hair I respond, sometimes I also brush it.

These days, I just wash it daily and voila, I’m good to to go :-). I have naturally oily skin, so no need for any hair products, just in case you were asking.

 

Your Skin Is So Soft

I get people wanting to touch me when I travel. I know that some travelers are not happy with this, but for me, it’s fine.

People are curious about people and they have questions that need to be answered, so I don’t mind answering them and let them feel my skin.

Then they go, oh your skin is so smooth, to which I respond, I’d like to say thank you to my family’s genetics and also Jergens hand and body lotion. They usually smile and then go away.

Even to this day when I go to see my mom and I take a shower or wash my hands, my mother asks me if I lotion (yeah, is a verb too in Jamaica ;-)) my skin.

 

Celebrity in Kazakhstan

I love Kazakhstan!

Not for its beauty and simplicity, but for its people.

In Asia, I’m a celebrity. People would hide in the bushes in the park to take my photo.. When I saw them, I told them to come out and take a photo with me. I’d walk on the streets and people would stop me and take photos.

I was with a friend of mine from India and he said, he’s never traveling with me again as he gets treated like chopped liver. It’s like he doesn’t exist when he’s out with me. I get him to take the photos :-).

I took photos in the train station stations, the subway, all over the city. Loved it. And my new admireres did too

 

Kerwin and Kazakhs in subway in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Kerwin and Kazakhs in subway in Almaty, Kazakhstan

 

Kerwin and Kazakhs in subway in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Kerwin and Kazakhs in subway in Almaty, Kazakhstan

 

I was even walking to the train station and a young Russian guy stopped me; he barely spoke any English, pulled out his mobile phone and wanted to take a photo, so we both did.

 

Kerwin and young Russian guy in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Kerwin and young Russian guy in Almaty, Kazakhstan

 

 

Looking like That Guy

 

Las Vegas Encounter

I’ve been mistaken for Samuel Jackson a lot; a lot! As recent as in January 2020 in las Vegas as I boarded a bus to get to the conference I was attending. A guy said, “you look like Samuel Jackson.” So I smiled and asked him if he would say it again for my video and he did.

Samuel Jackson Look alike Guy at Tropicana Hotel

Samuel Jackson Look alike Guy at Tropicana Hotel

You can watch the video here.

Here are some other instances.

 

At The Tesco In Bristol

I was in Bristol, United Kingdom and shopping in a local Tesco grocery store. I noticed the cashiers were looking at me and wondered what was going on. I’m often watched closely when I enter a store, so I thought that’s what it was. Yup, that’s my life.

When I got to the counter to pay for my stuff, one of the guys said “Excuse me mate. Are you Samuel Jackson?”

I laughed and said “no.” They then laughed and said that I looked just like him.

 

Snakes On A Plane

I was on an airplane and took my seat in Economy class. The lady next to me, shouted, “Hey everybody, I’m sitting next to Samuel Jackson!” I told her I’m not, but that did not stop her. The entire plane though I was him. I could not convince them otherwise.

The “snakes on a plane” references started as well :-).

Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 ULR

Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 ULR

 

Christmas Market In Manchester

I was in Manchester, UK at a Christmas Market (they are lovely, plan on visiting one of them) and a lady called me over and said, “Are you Samuel Jackson?” I told her no, but that I get that a lot. She insisted I was nonetheless.

 

Manchester Christmas Market-Albert Square

Manchester Christmas Market-Albert Square

 

Random Kid In Washington State

I was in a small town in Washington state in the U.S., called Mukilteo and a kid walked up to me and said “Dude, you look like him.” I said, no I’m not and he said yes, you do, can I take a photo, so I obliged. He was quite happy.

Mukilteo, Washington USA - Beach

Mukilteo, Washington USA – Beach

 

My Cuban Connection

I took a Lyft ride one morning to the Houston-Intercontinental Airport and the guy kept looking at me. He then said in a heavy Cuban accent, you look like that actor. I said which one, playing hard to get. He said that guy you know. I said, I don’t know.

So I told him that if he did not figure out who it was by the time I got to the airport, I’d tell him. He kept guessing and eventually I said “Samuel Jackson” and he exclaimed! and called his brother immediately and said something to him in Spanish and they had this long conversation about me. He was so delighted.

At the airport I took a photo with him :-).

 

Cuban guy who thinks I'm Samuel Jackson

Cuban guy who thinks I’m Samuel Jackson

 

Meeting “Morpheus”

I did finally meet a guy who look like the image of Laurence Fishburne so we took a photo together as he gets the “you look like Morpheus” a lot. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdnAEyjnkKE/

 

Kerwin and Morpheus

Kerwin and Morpheus

 

Taking Photos in Ljublana, Slovenia

Family in Ljublana

Family in Ljublana

This is John and Lydia and their daughter. The other younger daughter did not want to take a selfie, she’s shy. Their 21-year old son is taking first year Uni exams so he could not make it. They are from Ljublana, but live about 30 minutes outside the city now.

We are soaked as we walked up the hill to Ljublana Castle.

I offered to take their photo as a family, even persuading the two girls to be in it; so we became instant friends.

It all starts with “Hello.”

 

 

So here are some not so fun encounters, where being Kerwin a 6′ 1″ Black Guy becomes a chore.

 

Watched in The Store

When I walk into a store, I’m watched by security until I leave. Yup, it happens. It happened on a visit to Reading, UK at a Boots pharmacy. I had just arrived at the station and needed some ibuprophen.

The Black security guard watched me from the time I entered until I left the store. Upon leaving, I said hello to him, he acknowledged me and we parted ways.

A Police Officer even came in and we talked for a bit. My friend later told me that I was a suspect as I was talking change out of a plastic bag and that’s how the drug dealers roll. The Officer and I ended up having an amazing conversation as she had actually visited friends in Houston and Austin.

Sometimes, if I go into a store and can’t find what I want, I buy a chocolate bar, so I don’t get accused of trying to steal something. So I don’t just walk in and walk out of the store as I know I’m being watched every moment and could be accused of something. I hate confrontations and having to defend myself to stupid people.

 

Not Making A Fuss Even When I’m Right

I was in a store in the UK getting a gift for a friend of mine and the manager was so wrong. He was quite loud and was giving me the leave the store look. I knew I could have told him off and shouted at him, but I did not.

I did tell him off, but nicely and then left. He would not let me use my American Express card as he though his machine would not accept it using Samsung Pay. It would, but he was adamant. The guy had a problem as he yelled at another customer who was trying to get his iPhone looked after as it was not charging and he had bought it from the store (it’s not an Apple store).

You can’t treat people like how they treat you. You treat them with dignity and respect always. It really pisses them off as they expect you to be upset, but you are not. So it messes with their minds and they can’t deal with it. For me, that’s satisfaction.

 

Denied in Prague

I was in the Prague Airport and I was checking in for my flight. At the time, I was Gold Medallion with Delta so it means that I get to use the Sky Priority lane at check-in among other perks.

I walked up to the Sky Priority lane and the agent asked me for my boarding pass or reservation. Unfortunately, I could not pull it up and I remember that on the reservation it did not show that I was Sky Priority and I did not have my card with me. (I was an idiot as its actually in the App; which I had, but forgot at the time).

I told her this and she said I need to find it. I kept trying to find it on my phone; without success.

While this happened, a white guy walked up and went straight to the counter, no questions asked. I thought it strange, but then another white guy walked up phone in hand and she asked him nothing.

Seeing that, I just continued to the counter and she did not stop me any more.

Prague, Czech Republic - Prague Airport

Prague, Czech Republic – Prague Airport

Customs Checks

This one is interesting. When I return to the U.S., I get “randomly” checked/questioned at Customs. These Officers are doing their jobs and I have nothing to hide so I’m so good with this.

It’s just that I seem to get random questions just based on visual inspection. But to be fair, I don’t check a bag, I only have a backpack, sometimes two, so I must fit some Customs profile. And my travel patterns are erratic, but the stop is not based on my paperwork, just visual inspection of me walking by. This happens at all different ports. I’ve only had to do secondary screening twice within the last year though, so there’s that :-).

Just late last year I got checked every time I entered a country and this happened about four times in 48 hours.

 

TSA Pre Check

There was a time when I’d get randomly checked like every airport for about a month. It was so weird that I asked them about it. Everyone says it’s random. But when it happens at every airport I used for a given month, it’s weird.

Lately, I’ve been good, but this was a weird one.

 

Extra Checks in Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, I always get asked extra questions when I show up, regardless of whether I was connecting or departing Amsterdam, having stayed there. You can’t reason with these guys, so you just play it cool as you need the security clearance to be able to board.

Meanwhile you see other people just going their merry ways without barely any questions asked.

Amsterdam Schipol Airport (AMS)

Amsterdam Schipol Airport (AMS)

 

Overlooked on A Flight More Than Once

I was on a flight in First Class; I got a complimentary upgrade due to my status. The flight attendant came by and asked me if I wanted a pre-departure drink. I said yes, I’d like some ginger ale with a little bit of ice please. She never returned with it. Now she could have forgotten right?

Then a Black male flight attendant came back asked everyone in First Class if they wanted a drink or a refill except myself and the lady next to me. He even did it twice and skipped us twice. I actually wrote a note to the airline, but they have not responded to me. It’s been over 2 years now.

Same thing happened on another flight on a different airline. The Black female flight attendant completely ignored me and treated me so weird the whole flight.

On two flights between the U.S. and Canada, I got treated very differently from the Canadian crew than the U.S. crew. The U.S. crew gave me the cold shoulder while the Canadian crew treated me with class.

 

Ibis Hotel Denial

At Ibis at the Amsterdam airport, I remember going to the Priority check-in counter for Frequent Stayer members and being told to go to the regular counter. I’m an Ibis Frequent Stayer Member (Le Club) so I can use the Priority area.

The bad thing is that I get treated like crap and when they realized my status it changes.

In this case I went to the regular counter and the guy who helped me was simply amazing; thank you.

 

Holiday Inn Oddity

I was at a Holiday Inn in Lincoln, UK and I arrived before the normal check-in time. The lady said to me, that check-in was not until 3p. I said I know, but can you please check my reservation. She said no. I insisted three times and finally she pulled up my reservation.

Lincoln Christmas Market Lincoln Cathedral View of the City

Lincoln Christmas Market Lincoln Cathedral View of the City

It was then that she said Mr. McKenzie, your room is ready. My friends looked at me and asked what happened? I said, I have early check-in based on availability as a Spire Elite member; they then wanted to know why didn’t the agent check when I arrived. I said I have no idea (but I really do have an idea ;)).

At one of the Holiday Inns at Newark Airport, I made a booking and when I arrived the lady told me that they were full. Actually, they called me while I was enroute in their shuttle van to tell me this.

Once I arrived, she treated me like I didn’t belong there and a valued member. I was upset, but calm and I looked around and noticed the security guard inching closer to the counter. Not sure what he was expecting to happen.

I reported this to IHG and nothing really came of it.

 

Life Goes On

I don’t dwell on these things when I travel, i just smile and move on. It’s perhaps why I’ve not really mentioned it before now (It’s been a while since I wrote this and never published it). When you treat me like crap on arrival and try to make up for it later, it does not work as you’ve already shown your true colors.

It’s why I love the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” as in the first scene at the hotel in London, that’s how I’m treated sometimes when I check into a hotel. Life is short so I don’t dwell on it.

I’ve learned to live with it and not make a scene when it happens; since when the authorities show up, it will always be my fault :-). It’s fun to watch the face of the people who are being jerks once they check my status and realize they should not be treating me the way they are and then they start to grovel and over compensate.

I get satisfaction surveys after most stays so I give them my displeasure there via rating and comments. Sometimes I get a phone call back, which are always fun.

 

First Class Check-in

I had a flight to Charlotte from Houston. I checked in at the First Class counter as I’d received my upgrade earlier. Since I do flight reviews, I try to experience all the facets of the flight.

So I found the First Class/Elite line and went to the front. Immediately, the agent looked over at me, although she was taking care of a customer and asked me if I’m in the right line. I said, yes I am, then she went on to say that people sometimes get in the wrong line. Umm… I ignored here.

She was extra nice when it was my turn and she realized that I was indeed in First Class. By then the damage was already done.

 

Airport Lounge Access

Meal - American Express Lounge

Meal – American Express Lounge

Airport Lounges are the best and sometimes the worst :-). I usually get extra scrutiny there.

When I walk into Airline Clubs, some will look at me like I don’t belong there.

I was at the Star Alliance Lounge at the Tom Bradley International Terminal in Los Angeles, CA (LAX). I presented my United Club card and my Air New Zealand ticket as I was flying to London-Heathrow, UK (LHR). I had already asked the United agent in the United Club in the same airport, if I was able to use the card in the Star Alliance Lounge. She correctly said yes.

However, on presenting the card at the Star Alliance Lounge, I was told no as it does not look like the card. I was showing her the electronic one in the United App.

I explained to her that the electronic card actually looked different than the physical card so they need to update their records. I also told her that I spoke with the United Club agent and she said it was fine. It’s not my job to get the Lounge to do their jobs, but apparently it is this time.

Annoyed, I waited for her to call United and verified that I am an active member, despite the fact that the card I showed her in the United App, had an expiration date in the future.

Eventually, she came back and advised that I was cleared to enter. Sigh.

Fast forward a week and the same thing happened again on my return flight; different agent.

Now I get it, people try to sneak into Airport Lounges all the time. but your job is to treat everyone the same, get it together people.

I oftentimes, take the lounge rules with me or references to it so I can politely show the agents the rules. One learns how to make travel easier when things like this is a frequent occurrence.

 

Local Buses

Bus drivers have a very difficult job. They really do and this is the world over. I get the look of disdain when I enter sometimes. It’s the make sure you pay your fare look.

Of course I always do, as well as say hello. This surprises them and then their mood changes.

I get it as I watch all the time I take the bus and I can understand why they treat me the way they do. It’s not right, but I get it.

 

Summary

I don’t let the negative experiences stop me from traveling as my travel goals are to educate and inspire people. And believe it or not, the negative experiences are teaching experiences. I buck a lot of stereotypes when I travel and make a lot of friends and hopefully have changed people’s perceptions.

One of the most annoying thing about being a Black male traveler is that oftentimes, I’m a suspect by people who look like me, it’s extra irritating then, but I keep my whits about me and continue smiling. Eventually, they come around, but it’s frustrating.

So these are my Treats, Trials and Tribulations when I travel as a Black Guy, what say you? What’s your experience like, or what have you seen?

Kerwin in Bratislava, Slovakia

Kerwin in Bratislava, Slovakia; I’d walk the city all day so I was sweaty and tired…

 

Share on Pinterest with this image.

Traveling As A Black Guy Pinterest

Traveling As A Black Guy Pinterest

Comments 27

  1. Thanks Ker win, interesting. I can’t help but feel that if that was a complete account, you have been lucky. Sometimes it’s very innocent, when we first went to China, at the Great Wall and many other place, people would unabashedly come up to my 2 toe head kids (we are white) and rub their hair and laugh and ask us to take pictures. I do t find the Japanese so innocent, in my view they are frequently deeply racist but my black friends tell me not to feel singled out, they are stared at and snickered at just like me. Africa, being a hugely diverse conglomeration of people’s, I’ve seen the whole spectrum, although, if not in a war zone, showing respect smooths things over quickly usually. In SAR, not being SAfrican does the trick. Again, American blacks don’t look like Africans and the experience can sometimes be worse. Haiti was its own thing, there, extreme poverty often made for hassles but not hostility. By and large most people seem indifferent but if I had to guess, I would guess parts of W Europe and USA would be the most challenging for non-whites. Thanks for the write up.

  2. This makes me feel so horrible. I know you don’t want pity but I THANK YOU for sharing your experiences. That could not have been easy. You are an inspiration for the African American community. People need to know that these horrible things are happening everyday.

  3. Hi Kerwin. Thanks for sharing. I traveled internationally for years for work and often my with an African American colleague. All over the world I would walk through customs and immigration checkpoints with ease and he was stopped almost every time. It was so blatant that when we landed we talked about where we’d meet as we knew I’d have to wait for him on the other side. That time traveling with him opened my eyes to the privilege I had and didn’t know.

  4. Great article Kerwin! 🙂

    I have to say that you are such a gentleman I never would have thought of people treating you differently. Thank you for opening my eyes I will be more observant in the future.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You are a great ambassador for the human race. Funny thing Kerwin, I’ve never thought about you having a different experience because of your color.. you are such a kind soul and your ever present smile is the first thing one sees. I’ve always wondered if you get treated differently when you are traveling alone! (Full disclosure- I’m a white girl and I’ve known Kerwin for about 15 years)

  6. Very interesting. I’m brown and also gets treated differently depending on where I go. Thanks to your story, maybe I’ll bookmark those places and travel there next time ^_^ – grasya.com

  7. Thanks for sharing your stories – I enjoyed reading them as a nonrevver. I do agree dressing the part makes a huge difference. I especially admire how you treat all people with respect regardless of how they treat you.

    We are basically ambassadors of our stereotype when we travel. For example, as an American I was often asked why we voted Trump into office. It’s an opportunity to educate others we meet (should we choose to).

  8. What a delightful read! Your dignity and grace comes through beautifully. Continue to travel my friend and leave the ignorant people behind.

  9. This is the kind of treatment my friends of color get when we travel together, so I was aware, but you state it so matter-of-fact eloquently that you bring clarity. I can’t imagine anyone seeing your peaceful smiling face and reacting badly, but I know they do. Going through customs once, a brown friend was stopped again (it happened at every terminal) and he just remarked to me as his luggage was searched “Why is it always only me that is searched?” I told him it was because I was white. The agent looked at me, closed the suitcase and sent us on our way. Another time, different ethnic-looking friend, the agent invited me to sit while I waited for him to search my friend’s luggage. Mine was untouched. I see my white privilege through my friend’s eyes and am ashamed of how prevalent racial inequity is. Stay safe and well my friend.

    1. I have enjoyed this article and the reply by Mr. Brown. I am sorry that travel seems so difficult at times and surely must be racially inspired in your case. My problem is that I see no answer to the problem. How could minds be changed all over the world? I daresay that some elderly people face huge problems too but there is no answer there either. People all over the world just need to DO THEIR JOBS and leave their personal feelings about others at home. Have a good day.

  10. I SO hate hearing these outragious biases some people have for other human beings based on the color of their skin. You Kerwin are such a gracious gentleman and it pains me that you would ever be treated badly. I’m not naive to pervasive racism in the world but nevertheless outraged by it. Keep right on traveling and educating as you go …but please keep safe.

  11. Kerwin, thank you for telling us of your travels and experiences. Thank you for being the man/person you are. Your grandparents did a amazing job and must have been such good people. I have learned a few lessons from your writing that I will put to practice. Keep on being you, the good and wise person you are.

  12. Thanks for sharing, Kerwin. You are definitely a lot more patient than many people would be in these situations. The anecdote about buying a chocolate bar so you don’t look suspicious is pretty revealing. That’s the sort of thing most white folks never have to think twice about.

    I don’t get the Samuel L Jackson thing at all. It’s interesting how you turn that into positive interactions with people 😀

  13. Kerwin, I LOVED reading your article! And I admire and appreciate how you handle your experiences. Here are some of my experiences that you reminded me of. I’ve traveled with friends or a group to Bahamas, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, Barbados. And EVERY time I am the only one who gets their luggage inspected. Once when friend backed up and said “you, again!”. I responded with “yes, she’s looking for my granola bar” and the agent quickly closed my bag and said “go”. I spent a number of years as a flight attendant. For me international travel was to Toronto or Quebec. Even then, dressed in uniform with the flight crew I would get singled out and have my luggage inspected. One agent in Toronto found zippers in my bag I didn’t even know I had and checked every one.

    Aside from travel on the homefront, I do as many home repairs as possible. More than once at the local hardware store I’ve had a customer service rep help me find an item and say something like “what does your husband want it for?” I tell them about my project and what I need it for.

    I am a 5’2″ single white female. I also have been told the customs inspection is “random”.

    Keep us informed Kerwin!

  14. Thanks for sharing Kerwin and for highlighting the positives also. Unfortunately the negatives do occur more frequently then most people realize. Love your blogs…stay the course my friend!

  15. So sorry you have to put up with it but I’m glad you shared allow this. We (white privileged, royal we) need these stories. Can’t tell you the conversations that have emerged with BPOC friends this past week. I did not know the extent especially with police. It has to change. Glad to be part of that. Thanks again.

  16. Hey Kerwin!

    Great article and fascinating to read. I have many similar stories to yours although my appearance is the exact opposite. I am not an albino but I am deathly pale and often receive the same treatment in certain countries as you describe. Especially in rural Japan and India and Southeast Asian countries, many people practically stop in their tracks as they pass me. Like you, it doesn’t really bother me and in fact I find it very funny. I’ve been asked to take photos with hundreds of people over the years and I always comply with (hopefully) good nature, even when I’m tired. When we lose our sense of humor we lose, well, pretty much everything. I’m so glad to see you haven’t lost yours.

    Dude, keep up the good work and Keep Traveling!

  17. Very interesting read. I love the good parts and I am sorry you have had to go through the bad parts. You do it with grace when most would be pissed and rightly so. I hope people learn from their encounters with you. It’s sad that after so many years this continues to happen.

    Unfortunately or fortunately we are a direct result of what we are taught and see our parents, friends and community do. We are all born colorblind and genderblind then we go home.

    As a white person …I apologize for the white race. As a woman and Hispanic …I feel your pain. ❤

    1. I am a bit disturbed that you are apologizing for me as a white person, Iris – don’t do that – if you feel you need to apologize as a Hispanic please do. I know Kerwin realizes that there are bad apples everywhere – the Black race included. I have no idea what your horrid experiences are in America but as Kerwin so eloquently said – respect will usually settle things – try it. If some shadow judgement decides that I have offended you with this comment I will understand the sincerity of the site since no offence was intended – just truth.

  18. Kerwin,

    First of all, thank you for your awesome site, I use it all the time to plan my commutes. Second, thank you for your insight on what it’s like to travel as a person of color. I admire, appreciate, and highly respect your attitude of treating others with dignity and respect (despite sometimes not receiving the same treatment in return)–it’s a trait that is sorely lacking in many people, but would go a long way toward bridging many chasms. Thanks for flying United, see you in the friendly skies.

  19. It always amazes me how super sweet you are…but for you to keep your cool over and over in these situations is pretty damn impressive and I can’t imagine how frustrated it must be. I’ve always thought you were pretty classy, but this is a whole other level. Looking forward to bumping into you again somewhere in the world. Until then, I’ll keep following you and your adventures online. 🙂

  20. Hi Kerwin, That was great! Well thought out. This was my favorite line:
    “You can’t treat people like how they treat you. You treat them with dignity and respect always. It really pisses them off as they expect you to be upset, but you are not. So it messes with their minds and they can’t deal with it. For me, that’s satisfaction.”

    You’re the most mellow, free spirit I’ve ever met. And yes like you said, your Jamaican upbringing may have something to do with it.
    I’ll definitely use your “kill em with kindness” advice above. Thanks 🙂
    Did you ever wonder how you would have been if you were brought up here in u.s.?
    Btw: I can’t believe I never noticed the Samuel L. Jackson look-alike thing!

  21. Thank you, Kerwin! I really admire your positive attitude and your willingness to give people a chance to correct themselves. I am so sorry that you have experienced these ridiculous and unkind situations, but I am so grateful for your strength and perspective.

  22. Hey Kerwin,

    You don’t even remotely resemble Samuel Jackson. Those who say you do apparently have an agenda. I can forgive those not too exposed to Western culture but the others? No. I like the fact that you seem to be above such nonsense. Just do your own thing and avoid the far left and far right weirdos. You are better than all of them.

  23. Great article Kerwin. It is amazing how we get treated sometimes. I’ve gotten the rudeness and sides eye what are you doing here look too many times. Some when with you. Just last week I was literally chased thru the lobby by the desk clerk at the Hilton I was a guest at. Even though I had greeted him as I walked by. Sigh. I loved being in Beijing with you as the locals wanted to pose for photos with you.
    Keep traveling and breaking the stereotypes and raising the bar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.