Black in Southeast Asia: Sri (Why) Lanka?


So why travel to Sri Lanka? One may ask. What a simple answer. Sri Lanka has a future climbing the ladder of tourism. Its hidden jewels offer some of the most majestic sites and agriculture, as well as a history untold.  Sri Lanka is occupied with “people of the sun”. Their really dark pigmentation against their really, thick, dark hair compliments the hidden “beauty” that plagues the media still today.  Being black (of African decent) in Sri Lanka was no different than traveling to any other Asian country such as, being welcomed with stares, dodging the local paparazzi from forced selfies, or bobbing and weaving fingertips aimed to land on your skin and hair. However, there was still a slight difference. The difference that I felt among Sri Lankans was that that “curiosity” of most Asians was replaced with excitement.  They were so excited to see me. “Africa! Africa!” These were the words being shouted at me, as I wandered the streets of Colombo and Kandy.

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One of my tour guides couldn’t take his eyes off of me, until he finally developed the courage to ask, “I have never meet no one like you. Why?”

“You mean…you never met a black person before?” I asked unsurprisingly.

“No! I am black too,” he responded with confusion while rubbing on his skin.

“So…I don’t know what you mean,” I responded.

“You hair. It is nice. I like. You African from America. I never see you.” Using clues to make sense of his context and heavy accent, the flickering light bulb came to a complete halt and shined so brightly.

Basically, he was saying how Black Americans rarely visit places like Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka is a place that I would recommend for people of color to visit. Heck, I believe Black Americans need to travel further out to the east and see how much we are celebrated.  Black culture has placed a stain on the world that we may recognize as nonexistent. We are often reminded through media sources how rejected and mistreated we are and some may have even accepted this theory as our fate.  I have rarely been treated poorly roughly because of the color of my skin, in any other place rather than in my own country.  Few of you may say, “Oh…it’s because you are American.”  There is less truth to this than in actuality. Being that the majority of my travels has always been when I had long dread locs (that I recently cut off), therefore, a lot of assumptions were made about me being from Africa or Jamaica. When I open my mouth to speak, that is when the eyes start popping out of heads.  So let’s just say, I have been treated great as an African/Caribbean/Black tourist and then near after, as the Queen of America as soon as I open my mouth.

Like most southeast Asian countries, Sri Lanka has been colonized by the British. Its geographical location has even contributed to the slave trade, occupying slave ports and castles controlled by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British and a history partially unnoticed by its local citizens. We have a job to do black folks, and that is to educate the world by our presence and dismantle the ignorant stereotypes that propagate negativity through the way of media.

Enjoy this read? Check out, The 9 Do’s and Dont’s of Singapore


6 replies »

  1. Yes. Thank you. It is. I often find that people from Asia often struggle with the idea that Black people can come from America. They kept insisting that I wasn’t from America and that I was from Africa. Then I had to break down the technicalities for some who weren’t aware of African American history and how my African ancestors got to America a few generations ago. It is difficult for them to equate black to America for some reason, which I don’t understand because their history also reflects African slavery right in that very country, hence where the Africans were brought over to build a lot of those historical buildings that they have there. Thanks for reading.


  2. You made a great point about us being Black first and American second, because we are treated as such until we open our mouths, and even then there’s no guarantee. I don’t think many in the diaspora understand why we are race first, especially those who want to guilt trip us about privilege.

    Liked by 1 person

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