Nobody Called Me A Nigger Today: Notes On Traveling While Black & American

Racism is Everywhere

There’s a train line not far from Anne Frank’s house and it’s not clearly defined where the humans should walk, so I walked down the middle of the street to steer clear of the bikes that already almost killed me several times. Fingers tapped my shoulder, fingers attached to an officer who mouthed, “watch it. A train is coming” with a smile. I moved, thanked him, and kept walking. I was maybe half a kilometer down the street when I realized my heart rate never increased in that moment with the officer. Sweat never dripped from my palms, and I was still alive.

One of my Howard University professors told me, “When you leave America, you are in the rest of the world.” As small and brief as that incident was on that street with that officer, it was extremely significant for me, and those I’ve made listen to this story. It meant there are places on the earth where Black folks don’t have to fear for their lives around the boys in blue. It means “the rest of the world” is a place where anxiety and the PTSD diagnosis they’re passing around in the states like stripper pamphlets in Vegas have no place. I say this very lightly, having aided the activists around the world in their fight against anti-Blackness.

On Tinder, the Surinamese woman who was almost as new to Amsterdam as me asked, “what was the best thing that happened to you today?” Getting over the fact that that’s usually my opening line, I responded, “nobody called me a nigger today.” It’s little shit that keeps me from returning to the US often. A sadness that comes when I think about making it through customs and walking out of the arrival doors into America. That first breath pulls in the anxiety I’ll feel when driving down the 10 in Los Angeles and a cop pulls behind my 1987 Caprice Classic. That second breath pulls in the reminder that I’ll have to hold my tongue and my mule when another southern cop lets me off on the ticket because she appreciates and is surprised by my articulation. All the exhales are loud and hard so I can exorcise the thousands of times I’ve been called “nigger” in Daytona Beach, Alexandria, Seattle, New York, Charlottesville, and Los Angeles.

But then, in DC, I read the papers because it’s still the thing to do, and I see where a Black woman was dragged down the stairs by a white homeowner just around the corner from Anne Frank’s hiding place. Suddenly, parts of the rest of the world begins resembling America; a shadow it becomes. I read about the six Serbian men who beat the Black man to death while his “friends” did nothing to protect him; while his friends did nothing but the American thing: watched a Black man die at the hand of racism and did nothing but provide after thoughts. I kept reading the papers and held tight to the belief that the rest of the world is still safer than America. I tell myself these cases speak more about the racist individuals than the system itself. America is about the system! Racism in America is perhaps the only perfect things. Shadows of America are safer than America. That entire decision was based on that cop touching my shoulder by that train line near Anne Frank’s place. I’m settling for safe…r; for less anti-Blackness and my name over “nigger” every time.

“Racism is everywhere,” the Norwegian woman told me during a conversation about why I left America. “You decide how much you can put up with.” She’s right.

With 2017 and beyond being all about self-care and recharging, there are places I will go to breathe deeply and just be. Come with or go alone, but you must go. If you don’t go now, you may never make it out.

At the Black Archives of Amsterdam. Follow @Mitch_Positivity on Instagram For More Information and to Visit

Without much explanation of why, here are some “rest of the world” places for you and your Blackness:

Berlin, Germany
Edinburgh, Scotland
Salvador, Bahia
Nice, France
Marrakech, Morocco
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tokyo, Japan
Montreal, Quebec
Istanbul, Turkey
Mexico City, Mexico

Shout out to Ebony Stewart’s “This Poem is About Joy.” Follow her on Twitter: EbPoetry.

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Culture

Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.

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