AN AMERICAN ABROAD
I am a young white female living in a suburban city of the United States. Racial profiling is not something that I generally have to worry about… ever. That is, until I hop on an international flight or travel anywhere outside of the U.S. What does this mean? In case you have been living under a rock, I will digress. The rest of the world has “had it up to here” with American citizens. We are at the bottom of the social totem pole on multi-cultural expeditions and are often scoffed at, ridiculed, or discriminated against openly and intentionally.
America has a hard-core reputation for its, “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude. America is attributed with its unwillingness to cooperate and big standing for relentlessly pursuing our own ambitions- regardless of the needs or wellbeing of others.
This stereotype poses as a problem when you are a young white female with an American accent and nothing but a backpack for a travel companion.
I have experienced the sting of racial profiling on every single one of my backpacking trips. The first one caught me off guard. I was on a bus tour as part of an independent backpacking trip I took to Australia. I had noticed that some of my bus mates were not open to talking to me but didn’t think much of it, being the young ignorant American that I was. It took me until the end of my trip to grasp the concept that some people were unopen to conversation with me specifically because I was an American. This was my first big trip outside of the United States and I was not aware of the fact that anyone outside of my own country would not like me because of my nationality.
My perspective was that the United States was the land of the free and home of the brave. My education told me that I was civilized well beyond any other nation. I was lucky and ahead of the game.
My second backpacking trip took me to Europe. I was in Amsterdam, enjoying a night in at my hostel. I was alone in a common room for quite some time until another backpacker saw me and walked in. He was an American. We met earlier that day and I learned from him, coincidentally, that we had ties to the same government contractor he worked for. Hardly anyone in my country even knew about this company.
We were sitting in the room- talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company, when another backpacker entered the room. He was British. He walked in the room with a big smile on his face and said, “Halfway around the world and where do you find the Americans? Talking to other Americans of course!” I must admit it was funny and peculiar. However, I could not help but feel a bit insulted by his comment. I felt the need to defend my actions in talking to my American friend, reassuring him that I was not a pig-headed drone.
Anti-American prejudice struck again when I was on a trip to Africa. I was introducing myself to an Australian couple. One of them smiled at me and said, “Oh- so you’re American.” He was very friendly about his little joke, but I knew what it meant. All I could manage to muster up as a response was, “Because we’re all the same, right?” Luckily for me, he was an incredibly open minded and kindhearted person.
I cannot say that I was treated with the same equal footing by everyone else I met on that trip.
I have encountered prejudice on multiple levels from all different nationalities. I have experienced people not just disliking me, but completely dismissing me because I was the holder of an American passport.
I traveled to Peru and everyone I met on that trip was a joy to be around. Everyone was well traveled and well educated. There were still jokes and comments made about American stupidity. I noticed that everyone was careful to gauge my reactions to the jokes and did not want to hurt my feelings. I still found it eerily strange. I also found it stranger that an American girl on the trip joined in on the bashing of her own culture. This left an impression on me I cannot quite explain.
I do not believe the rest of the world is wrong in their perception of the American culture feeling elitist and I do not disagree with the opinion that domination is the American way of life. I also do not believe that it is fair to discriminate against an entire population of people based off of things that are beyond their control.
The solution to this unique dilemma might be an education about prejudice. This calls for more open discussions about equality, relationships, and conflict resolution. Mental Health Education could combat this stigma and help to cultivate peace and harmony on the planet. We are all in this together and we are all more similar than we are different.