Miles Marshall Lewis left America and moved to Paris after George W. Bush was elected president of the United States in 2001.
“I left the States partially because I felt like my protests [in the lead-up to] the Iraqi War weren’t being heard,” said Lewis, who is a music journalist. “I didn’t want to be around for any 9/11-scale karma.”
As a country, France always intrigued Lewis because of its historical love affair with African-American writers like James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Chester Himes. Lewis arrived in 2002 and stayed in Paris for seven years, returning only when President Barack Obama was elected.
“I voted for Barack Obama by absentee ballot, and I didn’t want to miss out on living under a black American president,” Lewis said. “I wanted my kids to grow up with that as a given, and for them to know their American side of the family better.”
Fifteen years after President George W. Bush was elected, blacks in the United States find themselves in a similar situation. Donald Trump, a real estate magnate who often spews hateful rhetoric, leads the polls for the Republican presidential nomination. If enough Republican delegates choose him at the Republican National Convention in July, then Trump will run for president of the United States. Black people, a majority of whom often vote for Democrats, are rightfully worried. They are so worried that some are even thinking about moving away from the U.S. to other countries more welcoming to black people.
“If he’s elected, I don’t think this will be a good place for us,” said Rasalyn Bowden, a bookkeeper from Los Angeles. She was planning to move to another country in six years, when her children would be finished with school. But an election of Trump might make her hasten that timetable.
If Trump is elected the 45th president of the United States (and you don’t feel like sticking around), where should you run? The Root did some research and crunched the numbers, and below are the top five diverse countries to move to—quickly, cheaply or both—if the idea of living under a Trump administration keeps you up at night.
America’s Neighbors: Canada and Mexico
Moving to another country could be as simple as looking north or south. Canada is looking more like the country that people wish America were: diverse, not so violent and welcoming to immigrants. A recent video shows the new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, welcoming smiling Syrian refugees into the country at the airport.
The North American Free Trade Agreement allows Americans to obtain a work visa easily in areas like accounting, engineering and computer-system analysis; you just need an employment offer from a Canadian company.
To the south, there is Mexico. Last year Mexico decided to officially recognize 1.38 million Mexicans who are of African descent, which is certainly a step in the right direction. The country has long been a favorite retirement country for Americans; it has the most American expats in the world. The living costs are a fraction of those in the U.S., and it’s even better this year: The dollar has reached a peak.
Rasheed Dennis lives in Playa de Carmen, Mexico, where he runs a travel-and-tourism business. All of the practical reasons made the move to Mexico easy, but the most important factor was simply feeling welcome in Mexico.
“Mexicans aren’t afraid of your presence and will welcome you, if anything,” Dennis said. “I haven’t had any old ladies clutch their purses around here whatsoever.”
South Africa: Cheap, Cheap and Cheap
Africa’s most developed economy is experiencing a deep recession. This has made South Africa one of the best bargains for travelers and extended-stay visitors—the rand is cheap. But the country still has the second-largest economy in Africa, so there are plentiful economic opportunities for enterprising people. Even Yasiin Bey, the artist formerly known as Mos Def, has attempted to establish residency there. But there are repercussions for overstaying a tourist visa and attempting to leave the country with a “world passport,” as Bey recently learned.
Rob Crawford moved to South Africa 11 years ago, and he says he used very specific criteria in choosing the country.
“There are no harsh winters, it’s legally easy on the gays, has decent Internet, is at least nominally run by black people, and there’s little if any mosquito-borne disease,” said Crawford, who has a location-independent job typing and editing transcripts.
His long tenure in South Africa has made him wise. He cautions other potential expats against making newbie mistakes.
“What too many people do is roll in the budget-bling lifestyle,” said Crawford, explaining that the exchange rate means that almost everything except automobiles is at a deep discount when compared with the United States. “[People don’t] get to know the history of the country and the current politics—not to mention not learning any of the other 10 official languages—so you’re stuck with a one-sided, spoon-fed view of how the country runs, more than likely from people with a very specific agenda,” Crawford said.
Panama: Easy Residency
Panama is a Central American country where Spanish is the main language but English is widely spoken. There is a significant black population, many of whom are descendants of Jamaicans who moved to the country to help build the Panama Canal.
The country is considered to have the second-most-competitive economy in Latin America, and with the Panama Canal and Copa Airlines, it has excellent transportation connections to the United States.
Panama is also one of the easiest countries in which to gain legal residency. Through the Friendly Nations Visa program, all Americans need to do is deposit money into a Panamanian bank (about $5,000) and establish an economic tie to a company. Once these conditions are met and the application is approved, applicants would be approved for a one-year residency visa.
New Zealand: Working Holiday
New Zealand is best for people looking for a break from a fast-paced lifestyle, because Kiwis know how to balance work, nature and play.
Although there are few black people on the island country, some of the inhabitants are the indigenous Maori people, who are famous for the Haka war dance. And if you get bored with New Zealand, you can always hop over to Australia, which also offers a working holiday visa for people under 30.
Kiratiana Freelon is a Rio de Janeiro-based multimedia journalist whose work focuses on social issues, international news and sporting events. She has published two books: one a travel guide to black Paris, and the other a travel guide to multicultural London. Visit her blog and follow her on Twitter.