Black in Kuwait: I Felt Safer as an Expat

This week I had a hair post ready, but I want to discuss something else. I want to discuss the topic of being a black expat in Kuwait. The idea of feeling safer in another country than in America. I wrote about the pros and cons of living in Kuwait. Wether or not I felt safer in Kuwait is complicated. I felt more safe in Kuwait than I did in the states sometimes. While I was living in Kuwait the most common conversation  I would have with a taxi driver went something like this. 


 Where are you from?

America

Ah, America good!


No America not good. Without even getting into the more serious issues like police brutality against blacks, I never felt safe in America. And it’s not only because I’m black. I don’t feel safe because I’m a black woman. One time a random security guard told my Jordanian friend not to hang out with the blacks, meaning me and my black friend. I was always disturb by the idea that people in Kuwait saw me as a prostitute because I was black. This idea that I could be a prostitute would have men following me in their cars while I was walking. Yes that shit bothered me. Let me be clear men didn’t follow me all the time, but who wants to be followed at all.


One of my students’ parent upset me because she was going around questioning if I really was American. She was also telling people that I’m Jamaican. She tried to discredit my word. Her, and the countless others, who didn’t see me as American bothered. I don’t know why even though I’ve never felt like an American. What has America done for me? Gave me English? 


I can not ignore the privilege as an American. Unfortunately I got paid more than some of my colleagues from other countries just because I was from the west. I also recognize that it is a privilege to be able to go to most countries and people speak my language. However, this doesn’t take away the fact that I am a black woman and America has never done anything for me except put its foot on my neck. 


I am so afraid to  speak my truth because I’m afraid that people are going to see me as a black woe is me warrior queen. But I realized that the fact that I feel like I have to censor myself so people will feel comfortable is me operating under the very system that oppresses me. I have been other all my life, those are facts, not my personal opinion. Feeling other connects with my feeling of safety. Any where I go in the world my chocolate skin stands out. When I went to Egypt people wanted to take pictures of me like a spectacle. While living in Kuwait someone was always staring at me. This is mild compared the crimes against black lives in America. 

I felt a bit safer in Kuwait because I wasn’t afraid of someone coming to school and shooting up the place. I felt safer because I wasn’t afraid of getting robbed at gunpoint. However, I am a black woman. Since I always feel other and I never feel safe. I always feel like some mess is going to go down.


Now this is not to say that I stay locked up in my house and never go anywhere. Not feeling safe in any place doesn’t mean I just give up and stay secluded to one location. Also, I have to bring up the fact that I’m an introvert and I really don’t like being around strangers, I’m hypersensitive to the looks on people’s faces and I trust no one. My thing when traveling is to look like I know what I’m doing because I don’t want to be targeted. 


For the most part I felt safe in Kuwait, until there was a rumor of war. At that point I understood all of my families concerns about moving to the middle east. Even though I feel like I would have made it out safely, that didn’t stop me from thinking that my school the American Creativity Academy could get blown up by a non- Kuwaiti extremist. Despite the flaws of some Kuwaitis, as a people their views are not extreme. At the same time I was happy that I don’t look American. I told you it’s complicated.

I am going to go off on a tangent and say that just because white supremacy is not as rampant in other countries like it is in America doesn’t mean racial inequality doesn’t exist. It infuriates me that a person can watch a video of a black person being discriminated against and comment saying it’s not like that in my country. Or even worse Americans make everything about race. No we don’t. The world makes everything about race, just educate yourself on colonialism. A simple search on a country will lead you to evidence that the marginalized group in that place are people of color.

Discrimination is not be as overt as murder. In an episode of Insecure ” Lowkey Trippin” Molly staying at a hotel and goes to get a towel. The hotel employee refuses to give her one because Molly didn’t have her keycard. Seems pretty simple except for the fact that the white people in front of her received towels without question. Then, Molly gets into a heated argument with Victor who saw the employee give the towels to the white couple without question. Victor claims to play devil’s advocate and tells Molly that she is making her life harder by making things about race. There are Victors all over the world. They are not racist, but they believe black people choose a victimized mentality. Too many instances of “lowkey” racism takes place all the time, but it takes people getting killed to realize it is a real thing.


I am so happy that people are protesting around the world for the black lives matter movement. It builds hope in my heart that we are moving toward something. It is a shame that multiple black lives have to be murdered for people to understand that black Americans are not just crying about race. If police were attacking dogs the way they do black people we would be in a state of emergency. That is a shame. I know there are good cops. But police are killing black people and not being held accountable.

Why does it take death for people to understand that all we want is basic human rights. All we want is to be able to bird watch without being accuse of posing a threat. All we want is to be able to exercise in our neighborhood without being followed and killed because we look suspicious. All we want is to be able to live to see tomorrow without being shot and killed in our home. If you minimize our desire to have basic human rights to Americans make make everything about race you have a problem. 


I always feel like other as a black woman no matter where I am. As a black woman I also feel like I always have to be on guard. Even though I didn’t fear the police doesn’t me I never felt discriminated against. My experience traveling has been mostly positive and I do not allow possible negative experiences defer me. I did not allow that fear to stop me from living in the middle east. I felt safe in Kuwait, until we thought we were going to war with Iran. And last but not least it sucks that black people have to be killed for people to realize that our lives matter.

Articles:

Black in Kuwait: ‘I Definitely Feel Safer in Denmark’

2 comments

  1. This is very true and thanks for sharing this experience.

    There is a bit of an additional thing about some countries (I know friends in UAE & Qatar) though – circles at which Western expats operate – like English teachers – are very different from – circles of immigrant construction workers, nurses, house-maids etc. from Africa and Asia – where they are very severely discriminated against. So experience as a PoC varies based on which social / professional circle you are in.

    I love how you mentioned other forms of overt racism like people thinking you are a sex-worker or non-American. Here in the US, the under-handed-ness makes it very dangerous. Like superficially, a white person may have some black friends and won’t say anything racist. But there in a hidden resentment which brews in violent ways like police brutality and school-shooting. It’s very unsafe and you always have to watch your back, but people don’t take it seriously, because it is not overt/obvious.

    • I agree that your profession does play a major role on how you experience discrimination. I included a link at the bottom where an American athlete in Denmark has a different experience than me. So location matters as well.

      The lowkey racism that exist is very harmful. It makes the workplace hostile and a list of other negative consequences. The worst part about covert racism is when the victim is criticized for playing the black card. SMH

      Anyway, thank you for reading and commenting. Hope you are doing well!

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