About three years ago, I wrote an article titled “Goodbye to my American Dream” detailing the difficult decision I made right after graduating college to leave the United States of America to return to my country of birth, Trinidad and Tobago, because of racism. The opinion was met with equal parts support and ridicule. Some called me a coward for not wanting to stay to “fight the good fight,” a seemingly unfitting euphemism many have adopted to describe the very real struggle against racism and oppression that Black people continue to face in this nation built upon the ideas of “freedom,” “liberty” and “justice for all”. Others applauded my decision as bold, brave.
In truth, at the time, my decision was purely a matter of survival. I was not brave, or cowardly or unappreciative of the many opportunities I have been granted by American residency. I was merely struggling to get by another day. I was mentally, emotionally, physically and psychologically drained. Complacency with my life in America, acceptance of the second class citizenry that forced my mother to constantly move from state to state in search of decent housing, education and work opportunity; second class citizenry that puts targets on Black backs for use by police, could have ultimately lead me down a self-destructive path. I knew I needed more for myself: A sense of pride. Self worth. Belonging. I also knew that circumstances in America would not afford me those bare necessities.
In the time since, I have lived in Trinidad, lived in South East Asia and traveled all about the United States. While the “move” to my country of birth did not translate into the stationary life implied, it did afford me much-needed psychological reprieve and both emotional and intellectual growth.
It also taught me that sometimes leaving is the answer.
As with any relationship, full commitment and dedication is predicated on mutual respect and support. Sometimes our partners are not quite ready to give us everything we need at a particular moment in time. And it is our responsibility to ourselves to demand the treatment we deserve and also be open to explore other options. Respecting that responsibility ensures personal growth and protects us from abuses.
In terms of the Black woman’s relationship to the United States of America, we are at such a crossroads– living precisely this conundrum. To stay or not to stay? We have made demands of America by declaring #BlackLivesMatter and yet we continue to see the murder of Black people by police and no accountability. We have demanded Black men in America to stand and support us in the fight against, rape culture, slut shaming, domestic violence, misogynoir and all other issues that specifically plague Black women’s lives, but do we really feel better supported? Do we feel like the suitable partner shortage– which threatens our reproductive rights and ability to marry– can be ameliorated? We are vocalizing our everyday struggle to survive economic circumstances triggered by the 2008 crisis that essentially left the Black community in shambles, but do we really see plans to address the wealth gap between White and Black families– which is currently conservatively estimated to be $100,000? While it is true that stronger relationships are not forged overnight, we should at least have the right to expect actual commitment to that betterment. I cannot say, with certainty, that I’m sold on America’s commitment to bettering its relationship with us.
Thus, I believe it is imperative that Black women be open to exploring options available to them elsewhere. As demonstrated by the very popular story about Tenai Bernard, the single-parent mother who moved to Abu Dabi after divorcing her husband and forged a wonderful life for herself and her three children: Economic opportunities abound. While in Asia, I quickly recognized that the need for native english speaking teachers is growing. Many college-educated Black women who find themselves unemployed or underemployed may find precisely the type of economic break they need to get themselves on track to a sustainable, comfortable life. Our expertise is wanted, needed and useful in the global world. There are economic opportunities available to us in the global world.
This is also not simply a matter of economics. I wrote, some time ago, “Dating in America While Black Ruined my Self-Esteem, Traveling Fixed it,” a detailed account of the impact America’s limited dating pool had on my life and self-esteem and the truth that I immediately encountered better dating prospects during my travels. And those experience helped me to develop a better sense of self-worth which empowers me to make more demands of American men.
By writing this piece, I do not intend to present moving or traveling to other countries as some type of cure-all for the social and economic inequality Black women face. The Black fight against racism and misogynoir is global. However, that does not mean that there may not be opportunities or more options out there in the world for us. Both social and economic opportunities and options which can give us more leverage to bargain for better treatment right here in the United States of America.
After all, we cannot expect to build a more equitable relationship with this country if we do not feel empowered and worthy. If we have to look elsewhere to find that empowerment, so be it.