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Navigating Anti-Blackness & Being The “Right” Kind Of Black Abroad

There’s this thing that happens when you’re a Black traveler. You’re minding your own business, exploring a country that intrigues you when somebody (usually white) starts talking shit about the local Blacks.

This happened to me most recently in Panama. On an extended stay in the country, I’d gone on a bike tour of Casco Viejo, the “old town” of Panama City. As the ride ended, the owner of the company – a French woman – tried to upsell me. “We have tours going to Bocas del Toro and we can help you set up some activities in Boquete,” she offered. 

I asked her if they had a tour of Colón, a city rich in Afro-Panamanian culture.

Her entire face changed. And so did her tone.

“We don’t go to Colón,” she said flatly, warning me that it was too dangerous, dilapidated and “just one big wasteland”.