Global Mobility and Black Identity with Amanda Bates | TNN53

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Episode Summary

Being able to move abroad is often a symbol of money and privilege. It can also indicate a degree of freedom, a sign that one need not be constrained to a certain area of the world or lifestyle. There’s a growing movement of black travelers choosing location independence, digital nomadism, and remote work abroad. The good news is that entrepreneurship and remote work provide travelers of color the opportunity to build a life, have an income, and feel welcomed in fascinating places that celebrate all people.

Amanda Bates, a career strategist and founder of blackexpat.com, joins our hosts, Andrew Jernigan and Allen Koski in this timely episode of The New Nomad podcast. They talked about the situation today involving people of color and the challenges they encounter on a daily basis. They shared their thoughts on the misconceptions of expats and immigrants, racism outside of the US, and how to travel safely and confidently as a person of color. If you want to live abroad or find a job that can support you from anywhere but don’t know where to start, tune in to hear their conversation and listen to top tips for thriving abroad and creating your own remote job online.

From the episode

Amanda Bates:

Overlooked Place:

What You’ll Learn

Timestamps

[5:34] Geographical limitations and perspective

[8:34] Raising Cross-cultural children

[13:42] The wonderful experience of immersion

[16:38] Racism is horrible

[19:05] Communities are intentional

[25:54] We all still have a lot to learn

Show Transcript

Allen  

Welcome to The New Nomad podcast. Once again, we’re gonna have a great guest today. Amanda Bates joins us. She’s a Career Strategist, a podcaster, a founder, a creator blackexpat.com. Just so excited to have her with us today. And by the way, that’s just probably the tip of the iceberg of all the different things. We’ll learn more as we go on. Love to catch up with Andrew Jernigan. Andrew, today we’re gonna very interesting episode because there’s a piece of conversation, I think about mobility, black identity, different issues with race issues, that many people in the United States and other locations feel uncomfortable. You’ve worked in many different locations with many different folks, you’ve lived in Ghana. You’ve been somebody who’s so multicultural, but we still have to think and learn on a daily basis.

Andrew  

Yeah, this is fun to me because I’m a pink guy. I’m the pink colour. You know, I didn’t hear that until I went to Brazil. And they’re just like, Oh, he’s so pink. And I realised, you know, that’s, I’ve always been called as a white guy. And then it’s like too much sun, I’m pink. And it just really cracked up some black friends of mine was like, No, I’m a pink guy. My best friends when we went to when we moved to Ghana, our best friend got there a month before us are from Houston, Texas, black Americans that moved to Ghana with us. And the name for foreigner was the same for them as for me, and they were treated, just like I was. And even though they were closer in appearance, there were still abibities, those who were from over the horizon, expats. And it just so many times, we put so many barriers up by labels of where the boundaries are drawn, or what our hair looks like, our skin looks like, or what we talk like, and I’m not really very American, having lived around the world and married to a non-American and my kids having multiple passports. And this is gonna be fun today. Because I think we need to shake some people up. And I was on stage, families and global transition with Amanda quite a few years back in DC. And that’s where we first met. And so this is gonna be fun. I’m glad she’s joining us today. Thanks, everybody, for tuning in.

Allen  

Amanda, welcome. And, you know, somebody’s quite a big background there. You know, what got you started on the blackexpat.com and your podcast in the some of the information that you got out to folks, what inspired you?

Amanda  

Well, first of all, thank you for having me on. It’s great to be on your podcast. We were laughing off air, which means we’re probably going to just keep laughing until the show ends but um, that’s such a great question. So for those who don’t know me, I was a third culture kid. So TCK, I was born in DC. And then at the age of 10, my parents decided to repatriate and I always say that’s a loaded term because were they repatriating or were they immigrants here, that’s for another day. But they returned to Cameroon, to the French-speaking part, which my family is actually not from. So as you can imagine, being a TCK, CCK, going to international schools really inspired sort of the, the foundation of the work I would do later on. And when I returned to the US, fast forward, you know, for college and beyond, I was working in college access. And this sounds really random, but I’m getting somewhere with this. So for those of you who know what college access is, it’s working with students who are underserved to help them get to college, post secondary education. One of the things I would say is, you should study abroad, right? Most of my students were minorities, first gen, all these all the characteristics, and they would say, but Miss Amanda, I don’t know anyone who looks like me, who lives abroad, with one caveat, people in the military. And so I said, no, there are plenty of black and brown people that live abroad that are not necessarily because of the military, and they’re like, we don’t see it. And so I was in the process of my own move to the Middle East, but I figured before I leave, I want to create the site that really just normalizes black and brown folks moving like I wasn’t setting out to doing a movement. It wasn’t set out to be this great thing. It literally was just like I had these students who couldn’t see themselves. And I thought about all the stories and the black people I knew who had great stories that never got shared, and that’s how it came about. And it will it was launched February of 2016. Not planned but the first day of Black History month in the US.

Allen  

Awesome, awesome. And does it build a community? I take it. I mean, it’s no one of the things that Andrew and I hear about constantly on this podcast is there’s not only the community of expats, or adventurous folks and other things, but that you must have built a community out of that. And certainly picking up that kind of looking at your website. Tell me about the community, and some of the special advantages, disadvantages, and structural issues that maybe you’ve had to face over the years, getting people that confidence to go travel and see the world.

Amanda  

Sure. What was fascinating, I think we’re one of the few sites if not the only site where I say we’re black and inclusive. So I don’t care whether you’re American or Canadian, or Nigeria, because a lot of times there’s a geographical limitation, there is a geographical perspective. Now, we obviously by the way, we sound we’re all Westerners, right. But the experience of as you know, immigrating and expating, even Andrew talking about being in Ghana, going from Ghana, to the US, or to the UK, is an experience, right. And so I wanted to make sure there was a community that was also open so that there could be a lot of cross-cultural learning because we can assume that just because I’m black, and I’m next to another black expat, we have the same perspective. But that’s not true in a lot of things. Because if you grew up in the Caribbean, and I grew up in the States, your access and your passport has different weight. And so a big part of it was my, believe it or not, it wasn’t just representation, but it was also to sort of educate other black groups, about the nuanced experiences of other black folks, as well as people who don’t identify as black. And then the third reason that I thought, you know, we really need this space is, and this is a group I had not thought about at all, but people who are an interracial intercultural international adoptee situations. So you would be amazed the number of parents who have adopted black kids who are also expats, who are not black, who could become part of the community, because they like, first of all, they’re expats. And then their experiences are also different because they’ve got children who don’t look like them. And so there’s so many layers, I haven’t even gotten to the structural stuff. But there’s so many layers to that, that I often am shocked, right, like, the group, I am always the most surprised, truly are the non black parents who have black kids are like, I’m on the site, because we have black kids, and we’re in X, Y, and Z country. And I’m like, didn’t think about you, but you know what you need resources too so there you go.

Andrew  

Yes, you know, I think about this, because one of my closest friends in Ghana, actually, he became an expat went to Mozambique for a while then went to other African countries. And, of course, they didn’t know where he was from, and traveling from country to country, from Kenya, to South Sudan and doing humanitarian work. But then he actually married someone and in the San Francisco area, who’s from New Zealand, as fair-skinned as can be blond hair and their cute kids. I think about the wife, his wife actually, is having to learn the ways of raising Ghanaian-American kids because Ghanaian-New Zealand-American kids, and because he’s teaching them Twi, and they speak Twi and English, and with a New Zealand phrase thrown in here and their kids do. So it’s these kids are growing up. In this cross, they’re cross-cultural kids. TCK is not necessarily living outside their passport country as a traditional TCK. So it’s more of a cross-cultural kid, as Ruth would say it. That CCK is also the expat to consider these days. Wow. 

Amanda  

And I, and to add to that there is I, I told you, my family, my parents, I’m first-generation American. It is so important to me that we do talk about class, and we talk about passport and nationality privilege because even within what I do, I’ve had to say to black expats who are from the West, what you’re saying is not universal. Like you being able to go to Nairobi, and it you can make this decision and go does not go the other way. And so there’s a lot of cross-cultural education. I think for everyone who comes on the site because I, here’s the funny thing when you call something that black expat, it’s almost like you’ve got licensed to talk about diversity in every way form you want to talk about it. And so sometimes it’s like even intra group, there are a lot of things that I go, you got to kind of check yourself because that’s not applicable for everyone. That’s applicable because you’re American or Canadian.

Allen  

That’s an interesting point because a lot of the perspectives we get are Americans and Canadians. You seriously and they really do there is a privilege with not only that passport, but also the financial means. I mean, and we’ve gotten a lot of our remote workers, location-independent people that don’t have the means. And it’s quite a bit different experience. So maybe you could expound upon. So we talk a little bit of a race, but also about class distinction and financial issues too, correct?

Amanda  

I mean, like, first of all, I’ll give you full disclosure, my undergraduate degrees were in sociology and political science, so I can wax poetic on sociological issues. And I have a master’s in business and a master’s in counseling, so I can talk a lot about people. You’re right. So one of the things I find myself educating and you guys probably see this is that even when people decide to be location independent, they don’t understand if you’ve never done it, or if you’ve never been an expat. They don’t understand the different nuances. Right. And I think you said it perfectly. Allen, you’re people who are location independent, maybe they’re digital nomads, they’re in a category. And then I’m trying to educate the folks and say, we’ve got corporate expats. They’re at a totally different, like, totally different category. Like I will be honest, like when I went to Qatar, I had an employer that covered everything. Do I know what it’s like to move to a country and have to be an entrepreneur or to navigate? No, that’s not my experience. And so even when we’re having quit, it’s so crazy. Like even we’re having conversations, me having to explain, these are the different types of expats, your mileage will vary, because so on my podcast, my podcast, global chatter, if I love Roxanne Munson because we had this conversation about how with black and brown folks will come up and say, I want to be an expat. I want to do this and that your kids went to these schools. And she has to explain. We’re corporate expats. So the schools that her kids went to, they were in international schools, and I am an international school graduate, I fully will own that. But the schools that their kids went to are pretty pricey. And some folks because they didn’t understand the nuances thought she was gatekeeping and was trying to say, Well, you’ve made it you don’t want the rest of us and make it or whatever. And she said, No, this is just the reality, this company offers these benefits. But if you’re going to be a digital nomad, and you didn’t already have this big business before you’ve left, you’ve got to think about these finances in a different way. And so, yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of class and privilege, I think we can unpack all day long. That’s a big thing.

Allen  

Well, it ties into something that I always talk about is I like to get out of the bubble, and really get out of the bubble. And I told Andrew’s story. Once when I was in Amman, Jordan, and I was a corporate traveler, and I’m sitting at a very nice hotel, and I’ve got a security detail. And the stuff that I you know, you don’t have as an individual that’s backpacking. But I decided to go out and get haircut. And I left the bubble. And it was one of the greatest experiences I had a lot of people were a little worried when I got back. And by the way, it was a straight edge, razor haircut, four blocks away, very local, the person cannot speak English, I couldn’t speak Arabic. And we’re just pointing each other with a hit with my type of hair, just about anybody can cut it, but he got it really well. But the point was, you know, it was a local getting into the local community. But I, you know, not that I totally understand my privilege, but I knew I had it. And I know that getting a haircut at the Four Seasons is a different experience than getting out and getting some of the money into the local economy, and actually getting to make be an ambassador, maybe of myself. I don’t know what I’m really trying to say your other than it’s so important to get out and understand you have some privilege when you have it.

Amanda  

So can I tell you the number of folks who have come to me and have been shocked where I’ll use black? They’re black American, that’s how they identify. They go to a country and all of a sudden they have a certain level of privilege that they’ve never felt like they’ve had in the States, right? So I can use the go, I can use Abu Dhabi. I can use Doha, I can use Dubai as an example. And I have to say, well, part of it is your passport. And part of it’s your job. Because as someone who has been in the region, I can just say not everyone with your skin tone is treated the same. So that’s exactly yeah, it is crazy how class starts to intersect very overtly, especially when you get out of kind of your timezone.

Allen  

Well, especially in the Middle East and you really hit upon it. I mean, I remember going to Dubai and you see what I would consider the term that you would use there was like subcontinent expats. And right, you know what I’m talking about the folks that are out in the sun, working crazy hours, etc. And then there would be what I would consider to be the more traditional corporate expat gliding by in the air conditioned car. And not quite understanding that 90% of the people in the country are expats. But probably only about 10% of them are the privileged expats, like ourselves. And it’s a really interesting kind of feeling. It sounds like you’ve spent some time, obviously in that area of the world, and you have a deeper understanding of what I’m talking about there.

Amanda  

I’ll give you one quick story. I remember I was standing in line, maybe I was buying it, I have something to myself, I was standing in line. And someone just cut me off. Like I was in line guy just came and stood in front of me. And I looked at the back of his head. And then I said, Excuse me. And he turned around and went American. And I said yeah. And he’s like, I’m sorry, he got behind me. And here’s the thing I present like I said West African features West African women and so it’s that uncomfortableness that you deal with I think when you’re a person of color, and the other thing is even traveling, you’d be amazed. You guys can hear me and clearly I sound American, the number of people who are shocked that I am American, I was in it. Whereas I was at a jeep or a taxi in UAE, and that I was going on this Safari, you know, ride or whatever, there was a German family. And then there’s some Australians behind me. And the German family. And these were Westerners literally turned to the Australians and said, Are you American? And they were like, no, but she is. And I said, How did you know I was American? And he’s like, I know you’re also not only American, but from the south as he traveled in the States, because he said, you said all y’all and I said, That’s right. I am from the States, but the number of people who literally are shocked when they go, Wait, I didn’t think you were American. I’m like this because I’m black. Literally, that’s the only reason you would have thought I’m not American.

Andrew  

Right. The assumptions people make right the assumptions. That’s, that’s a loaded word. Wow.

Amanda  

And I thought it was me. But then, once again, if you listen to any of the people I interview, they all say the same thing. And particularly those who are from the West people from other worlds, whatever. But typically, it’s, we were just never assumed and this has happened to me in Singapore. This has happened to me in Latin America. It just is what it is.

Allen  

Do you go to get feedback? Yeah. But I was gonna say Do you also get feedback, though, that foreign nationals have different skin tones coming to the United States have different issues too, tied into our own issues? I’ve had a lot of guests to the United States, actually, tell me scary your stories, then a lot of the people that I work with that have gone out. And, you know, it’s very interesting, you know, depending on the city you’re at, or we’re part of the United States you’re at, is that is that often brought up on? I know, we can talk expats versus impacts

Amanda  

Anybody coming here.

Allen  

But anybody coming here, there’s a lot of issues. Also

Amanda  

Right, because I like I think if you’re black or brown, I say the problem this is so racism is horrible in general, right. But one of the things that’s really horrible is that it strips you of identity. So then you just become white, like, I have no idea if you’re white Polish, white German, white, like I know nothing about your history, I just know that I see. Okay, your weight, same thing, you’re like, she’s black, you have no idea whether I’m Hatian, Cameroonian French, whatever. And the story is attached to it. And so I think what is hard, and I can even think about myself, remember, I was seven years removed, came back for college at 17. And I’ve had gone from being in the US to a predominantly black country, which I had my own identity issues over there, but whatever, coming back into this by myself, and one of the things is that it is assumed, you know, the cultural mores, right, just because you are a colour like you know, the thing and you don’t know the queues like nobody know if you’re not from a place you don’t know the queues and I think what has been the hardest for the folks and I will put them in two categories. The people who came back as children, or let me say, as teenagers or college students, what is hard is you don’t know the mores at all. Like, you’re just like, you come from a different perspective, you’ve been out of the country, you’re never here before. And then all of a sudden, you’re black, or you’re eight, like you’re this thing. I think for the adults, it’s just you don’t realise how much race sort of permeates things depending on where you are in the country? And it’s hard to pinpoint it because it just depends where you go in the country. Do you know what I mean? So you could go to a place where I don’t know you go to Oakland and be fine because Oakland got a very big brown and black and brown community. But then you could go somewhere else where it’s like, you really are not. And it could be all of us, right? You really aren’t from there, and then you don’t look like you’re from there. And then they have a history. So yeah

Allen  

Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting last week, I watched Saturday Night Live, I don’t know if you ever watch it, but there was a skit that they did about the Apple store that you can now leave without paying, you just automatically picks up. I don’t know if you saw, but as he was like, Well, so what it was, was that the thing was, all the white folks could just leave Oh, yeah, I grabbed this visit on the bill. And Kenan who’s the great comedic actor and said her life is like, gets I think like, Are you sure I sure I can leave without, you know, paying debt, even put, like money down on the thing before left. And what and what I took from there is, and I read a lot of reviews, it was one of the more honest skits about how people see things. And I know through comedy, and discussion, we have greater understanding. But to me that really kind of just the two perspectives of in a store where you can just pick something up and have it automatically paid for two communities.

Amanda  

And I know this, it’s not a popular topic. But last year, on my podcast, I had a guest who was undocumented. And talking about even the disparity between being black and brown and undocumented, and not being black or brown, because I look, I’ll be fully transparent. I know a tonne of people who are undocumented of all shades, okay, like if they’re Canadian, yeah, whatever. But let’s be honest, when we think of someone being undocumented, we don’t necessarily think about that French person that overstayed the visa, and then somehow magically still here. And so you’re right. Like, it’s like a totally different angle. But it’s true, like the experiences when you add race on top of any other experience, it just makes it to all that more worse, if you will.

Andrew  

Yes, just the undocumented aspect, right, present some of the stressors, or waiting on a visa to come through or waiting on naturalization and all the vulnerabilities that are felt with that. But then throw in the demographics of the differences of, of skin and accent and all the biases you get from at Target or Walmart or the grocery, wherever you are, just because of all the differences. It’s having lived and worked in many countries. I felt it but I see it, especially with my wife, who’s not American also, much more frequently. And so this is, this is so good for people that are listening today to think differently than they might normally think. What are a couple of the two things that you would want people to walk away from today, shifting in their mindset?

Amanda  

I think we would do a lot better in general, if we had a little bit more sensitivity to situations. Like I know, intellectually, we know people live and have different experiences from us. But we don’t actually always think about that in the moment. And so when we wonder, why are you acting this way? Why are you reacting this way? Why don’t you see it this way? That because people come from different perspectives. And it’s so basic, but people because we probably are a creation of our lived experiences, what we’ve taught what we who we are, right, who our people are, what our history is. And so, and we all carry that with us, right? I mean, Irish people who are fiercely proud of being Irish, right? And they’ve had experiences and they’ve had challenges. It’s the same thing with any other group of people, whether they’re Nigerian whether the Cameroonian whether American or whatever. And so number one is if you can get your mind to shift to say, yeah, in my mind, I think you should do a but let me pause here. And let me try and understand where you’re coming from doesn’t mean that I’m going to agree with you. But at least let me show some deference and respect to the fact that you can have a different point of view. I think that would help. I think the second thing too, is, I think we need to live in community a lot better, just in general, like we community. And I know we’ve got digital communities. And I think that that’s one way, but I think we need to be in community more, because communities are intentional. And communities have conversations and communities love on each other, and communities support each other. Right. And I think especially if you’re an expat or your location independent, or you’re just living somewhere else different, there’s a great opportunity for you to actually connect with both locals and people who are coming from other places, and to build a community that is supportive for both. Because I think that can be lost. And one of the things I always get concerned, especially when I’m talking to my expats is that sometimes I’m like, it’s great that you have an expat community, for sure you share some identities and whatnot, but also be community with the host country that you are on their soil, because my God, you’re not even from there. But you should at least have people there that you can lean on and say, Hey, I do want to do friendship with you and let it be reciprocal. Let it be mutual. I think those are the two things I would find really important.

Allen  

Excellent, excellent. The other question we ask all of our guests and I’m really looking forward to your answer is maybe an overlooked person, place or experience you would suggest that our audience get to know or understand

Amanda  

You said place person or experience. Okay, we’re gonna do a place because that’s just fine. I’m I’m pleased I went I guess if you follow me, you might notice what place I went and I was pleasantly surprised. Uruguay. Is that the coolest time of Uruguay? Right. I was there specific.

Allen  

Great beaches I hear.

Amanda  

Specifically to go to Argentina and Brazil, which I did. But Uruguay was like, Oh, you’re there. Let me take a ferry and just go over there and the nicest people. And here’s the funny part of that. I was in Muncie Viejo. I remember on a Sunday, I was walking down the street now. True story. A whole bunch of people turned and walked down the street because they’re not a lot of people my skin tone. But they were super nice. asked a lot of questions. Were very helpful. And it was just like the most calming experience like I say, Uruguay is the chill little brother between the big brothers that you’re like, alright, Argentina, okay, Brazil, right. Those are cool and awesome. But Uruguay was like, Yeah, this is like Southern Cal feel just like we’re all chill. We’re all at the beach. It’s Sunday. No worries. I love it. I love it.

Andrew  

Okay, so if you were you know, I know we’ve talked about your podcast, we’ve talked about your blog, but where and this is going to be in the show notes. So if you’re looking at this from your computer and listening, then you’ll be able to see these links but if you’re just listening and need to open up a new tab right now that pops something open what’s the best place for someone to find you and we’ll include the other links in the notes but you know the number one place for someone to find

Amanda  

time people find me at the black expat dot com. It is like the gateway to all things. As you can find the global chatter podcast, you can find my private site, you can find media, you can find stories, you can find writers, literally, it is if you just googled the black expat, we should probably dominate the first page on the Google page, because I got that SEO on lock. So I know what I’m doing. I’m just saying. But if you were if you just happened to be like I really want to hear on a podcast because I sound exactly like this every week. The global chatter. It is outside of the black expat one of my favourite things to do because black and brown folks talking about all kinds of things, even had Jerry Jones talking about having adopted a child who’s African American and a child who’s Asian American and being an expat as a white, as well as a white father and with a white wave. So it’s pretty we get into all kinds of stuff on that podcast.

Allen  

Fantastic. Amanda, we appreciate you today. We appreciate the energy, the conversation, and we’ll be checking in on that. And I think it’s, you know, this is just the beginning of our dialogue. I mean, let’s be honest, this is the type of dialogue that there are so many ways we could go and We’ll have you back on that. So Andrew, as you usually close out, what have we learned today that you’d like to share with our audience

Andrew  

I have learned that I’ve got so much to learn. As I’ve listened, I’ve heard that I need to be much more conscious of what I don’t know and what I need to learn. Because I’m surrounded by people that I learned from all the time and one of my most enjoyable things is getting in these recording rooms. And in hearing someone else’s perspective, but today the driving point for me is that I’ve got a lot to learn still.

Allen  

Excellent, Andrew, you know, I mean, listen, this is what’s great about being a podcaster and I think Amanda will agree with this is that in these conversations you do learn, but you also enjoy and I really enjoyed this last half hour there and by the way, kudos on the ERG way poll. I concur on that. I’m still trying to process Andrew being pink like a little baby, but he is cute

Allen  

Little swaddling cloth. Yeah.

Andrew  

No

Amanda  

Orange, small orange. All this stuff.

Allen  

Yes, sir. Yes, he could.

Andrew  

There’s you know, I’m I was living cultures like that person. So green was like, Don’t say that. But hey, it’s as simple as black and white and we’ve got to learn to embrace so much more, so I’ll embrace my pink.

Allen  

Excellent. Excellent. And on that note, thank you all for listening in. We hope you enjoyed the new Nomad podcast. We know we did. Hope to catch you next week. And please keep traveling safely.

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About the Guest

Amanda Bates is the Founder of The Black Expat, a multimedia platform focused on Black identity and international living. She is also the host of The Global Chatter podcast. As a third culture kid, Amanda’s interest in navigating cross-cultural spaces and identity started young. Her American-born, African-raised perspective continues to influence her as she leads the creative direction of The Black Expat and tells the stories that need to be told.

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