Traveling Made Me Racist

No, this is not a click bait. It is a brutal, honest truth I am ashamed of and struggled with.

I have thought a lot about whether or not I should write and publish this article and the reason why I decided to do it, is because I believe it can help other people overcome racism too. We don’t have to hide it, we have to talk about it!

First of all, let me tell you that I come from a working-class, immigrant background and I experienced racism myself – though it was not because of my skin tone but rather because of my nationality. Also, I have spent the last two years working with indigenous students in Bolivia and trying to promote integration. So, realizing that deep inside I harbored racist thoughts shook me and made me ask myself a couple of questions.

But let me tell you how these feelings came to the surface.

She doesn’t belong here!

I was at a nice coffee shop in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, enjoying coffee and getting some work done. I had been there before but something caught my attention this time: there was a lady sat at one of the tables that stood up to me. Unlike all the other clients, who were either white or mestizo, she had clear Andean indigenous traits, and my first thought was that she did not belong there.

I felt embarrassed and worried as I caught myself thinking that.

How and when did I start believing that certain people do not belong to certain places? How and when did I start to judge people based on their ethnic background? How and when did I start to feel superior because of a lighter complexion?

Structural racism

Bolivia is a racist country! It’s the truth and it’s hard to sugar-coat it.

Just like other countries coming out of a colonial past, racism is structural here and there is a clear ethnic hierarchy. And having an indigenous president did not wipe away 500 years of discrimination.

But let’s face it, this is a problem that concerns both ex-colonies and ex-colonizers. Europe is experiencing a dangerous increase in racist attitudes and so does the USA, Oceania and many other parts of the world.

How to deal with it

The environment we live in, the ideas circulating there and the general attitudes people have, affect us more than we realize or than we might want to admit.

But I believe there’s a way out!

We don’t have to act according to our feelings but according to what we know it’s right. Our feelings will catch up eventually.

I know we are all equal. I know every single person is valuable. I know everyone is worthy of love. Therefore, I choose to live by that.

Am I 100% racism-free? I don’t know. I hope I am. But I’m determined not to let it creep in and affect the way I treat and think about people.

“You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free!”

Jesus Christ

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