The answer isn’t so clear…
Many people have their reasons for packing up and leaving their hometowns to start elsewhere. Whether it’s moving to another neighborhood, state or province, or leaving their home country altogether and enter an entirely new society.
For people who come from communities that are marginalized, their decision to leave may spark quite a bit of controversy and verbal backlash. Within the Black American community, this is somewhat of a reoccurring topic to call out those who leave their communities to start new lives and raise their families elsewhere. In this past this criticism was primarily directed towards those who grew up in the inner city, but then moved to affluent [and predominantly white] suburban towns. Even more shade is thrown towards those individuals who “made it” out of the hood and never looked back despite having the knowledge and financial resources to help their fellow black “brotha” and “sista,” and most imporantly the youth.
Through a combination of more accessibility and social media, international travel has become trendier than ever before. Because of this, more Americans are considering to step outside of its borders for leisure or to live a more international lifestyle. With the current American political climate, a certain demographic of Americans are scrambling to find a way out (or at least they talk about it), especially since they’ve learned of other countries with more appealing lifestyles that fit their needs and values. With the growing awareness of racism and police brutality in America, some blacks in the US are in search of a country that is more accepting of their blackness. Some people may call it a “#Blaxit,” a somewhat comical hashtag that started in light of Brexit, the “Black Exodus,” or simply returning back to Africa, the motherland. We also have the “Black Travel Movement” (though it’s arguably more so a black American travel movement), where you see more and more black owned travel companies, communities, and influencers like Internationality, Travel Noire, Nomadness, I Luv 2 Globe Trot, CP Travels, Up In The Air Life, Bucket List Beasts, Tastemakers and others who showcase black people traveling the world, living and working abroad, starting international businesses, and sharing tips on how to navigate foreign lands in places where black people are non-existent i.e. #TravelingWhileBlack
While there are many people who have left or want to move out of America or to just simply travel as a way to take break from the madness, there’s also a demographic of dissatisfied Americans who would rather stay and fight as oppose to fleeing. Within the pro-Black and “woke” social circles, some people may believe that packing up and moving abroad is a cop out and may think “how dare they abandon the fight after what their ancestors endured?” Some criticize black people who spending for spending all of their money (sometimes, to the point where they go broke) on vacations as oppose to being financially responsible and/or investing that money back into the community. In extreme cases, people who do this may be accused of cooning, especially if they move to Europe or Asia, two continents that consist of many people with anti-black sentiments (though I’d argue that they’re not only people in the world who feel this way). They argue that people who do this are turning their backs on their community that is in much need of help.
Recently, this concern was addressed in an Facebook Group for Black American teachers who live abroad:
She raised a lot of good points. As an educator, we are one of the primary people who influence the youth. Many black youth in the inner cities are struggling. Schools have been permanently closing, thus resulting in them having to cram into schools in the next neighborhood over. This makes things more stressful for the teacher, who may or may not give a hoot about providing the necessary tools for these students to succeed in higher education and beyond. Not to mention the fact that inner city schools are already severely underfunded, understaffed, and their employees are underappreciated as well as overworked and underpaid. As a result, many youth do not have the same quality of education compared to the more affluent districts. Since many teachers are taking their talents overseas, some may feel that high quality black educators are providing the keys to success to children of other nations over our own struggling youth.
I see her point and I get it. I’ve seen this question raised a lot online as this international travel movement becomes more and more popular in the social media world. Being someone who lives and works in Asia, I’ve been questioned by people if I would ever go to Africa (the answer is Y-E-S, by the way) since I’m now at the point where I’ve mostly traveled around Asia compared any other region of the world. This topic is something that I have pondered about.
Moving abroad (or moving out of the hood) does not necessarily mean that you’re turning your back on the community and on the flip side, staying home doesn’t mean that you’re helping the community either. There are a fair share of people sitting in the slacktavisit chair that do nothing that complain about others who appear to not be doing anything for the community so they can get those “woke” brownie points and taste of internet fame.
Sometimes You Need To Be Selfish
And that’s okay #sorrynotsorry. While there are some people who feel it’s their duty to stay in the community to help their people (even those who don’t even want the help), there are some people who simply don’t. More power to people who want to place that burden on themselves. I respect them, however I don’t blame other people for going abroad for better opportunities, a worldly education, and/or moving in pursuit of more fulfillment and a better piece of mind.
Many educators have a server’s heart; there’s no doubt about that. There are some who have spent their time in the American school system and/or in their communities where they’ve been overworked, underpaid and underappreciated altogether. Plus, American society in general can be quite soul-crushing for many people across all backgrounds. Some people no longer want to place that burden on themselves, some have found ways to give back despite not being present in the classroom, and some people believe that they are better educators because of their time abroad and eventually plan to return with their new found knowledge and skills. Everything isn’t either or. You can develop your personal and career skills abroad and give back at same time. There are people doing that right now or have something in the works.
We’re showing people that there’s another way to succeed in the game of life and achieving the so-called American Dream. In previous generations, there were nowhere near as many possibilities African Americans to live or travel abroad unless it was the military. For many, this lifestyle was simply not possible because many people couldn’t afford to leave, weren’t allowed to leave, and didn’t have the same plethora of opportunities that we do now (i.e. something that our ancestors were fighting for).
Never forget that you are your ancestors’ wildest dreams. Honor that legacy by going farther than those before you. Whose world it this? It’s yours. You belong anywhere. You belong everywhere.
As African Americans abroad, when we show people our lifestyle or eventually do return home and talk about our experiences, we are showing people that this opportunity is possible. Imagine someone who never left their hometown who meets someone that spent years working in *insert exotic sounding country* and are learning about HOW they could land a job abroad. That can inspire someone to focus on their studies and one day be in the same exact position or better.
After all, how many African American children said that they wanted (and thought it was believable) to be the president of the United States prior to Barack Obama running for office in 2008? Say what you want about his presidency, but there’s no doubt that his achievements have inspired people to go into politics. Did I also mention that Obama was a third-culture kid? While there are educators abroad that teach the local students of their respective host countries, there are also educators abroad that teach American children who live outside of the country. Even if they weren’t born and/or raised in the US, they are still US citizens, which grants them the ability to easily repatriate back to the States should they want to return “home.”
Do I feel that African Americans have turned their back on the community back home? Yes, no, maybe and I don’t know. As stated before a lot of the fingers can be pointed at people back home. Everyone is living their lives as they see fit and they are helping out if they are able (and want) to do so. Our prescence and expertise can be beneficial at both home and abroad. Giving back to the community really comes down to one’s choice.