Chris Rock summed up the black experience in the United States kind of perfectly during his HBO special Never Scared more than a decade ago: “If you’re black, you got to look at America a little bit different,” he joked, stone-faced. “You got to look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college but who molested you.”
Since then, that “generous” uncle has moved from molesting to killing, with the list of victims growing by the day: the Charleston 9. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. Rekia Boyd. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. John Crawford III. Yuvette Henderson. Trayvon Martin.
Now, with only seconds left on the clock for that one person inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to consistently fight for some critical black issues—from universal health care and clemency for nonviolent drug offenders to the overall improvement of black male lives—pre-election jitters might be setting in, and some African Americans may want out.
But where do you move outside the good ol’ U.S. of A. to fulfill the type of vision you have for yourself and your family, where you can be as black as you want to be without fearing for your safety? Where, literally on earth, can you go and maintain—or even enhance—the kind of lifestyle you’re accustomed to, from robust career opportunities to world-class health care?
Turns out that the options—give or take a potential visa drama or two—have expanded far beyond traditional European go-to spots, like London and Paris. We hollered at our friends over at the Nomadness Travel Tribe (their Facebook page has become a hub for black expats) to come up with a list of five destinations black people can escape to if America doesn’t work out.
Please note, however: No country is an across-the-board utopia, particularly as it pertains to race, and each expat experience is ultimately an individual one. The following is a roundup of places beyond the U.S. and the rest of the world’s 17 largest African Diaspora locations (e.g., Brazil, Cuba and most of the Caribbean) that generally score high points among our melanin-enhanced brothers and sisters, in no particular order.
It’s not hard to feel right at home in Thailand. From its beautiful, tropical weather; low cost of living (in Chiang Mai, a rented two-bedroom home goes for about $500 a month); and access to high-quality medical care (in Ko Samui, it’s just $20 for a basic doctor’s visit), it’s altogether possible for the investment-minded among us to maintain residences in the heart of Southeast Asia as well as back at home.
Plus, the Thai come by their reputation for being among the world’s kindest people honestly; as a majority-Buddhist country, their literal attitude is to be kind always. This means that outside of the occasional, innocent staring (depending on how far beyond touristy areas like Bangkok or Phuket you travel), African Americans generally report receiving the red-carpet treatment (although plenty of African immigrants, who tend to work in large numbers there, report otherwise).
2. Costa Rica
Your stateside relatives can visit often (which may or may not be a good thing) if you adopt this Central American nation—just a three-hour plane ride from Florida—as your new home. With its perfect tropical weather, universal health care and consistently high marks among Latin American countries on the Human Development Index (pdf), Costa Rica has jumped in popularity for American expats overall within the past 10 years. Other pluses: its stable economy, low cost of living, strong middle class and robust diplomatic relations with the U.S. Add to this few reported natural disasters, low rates of violent crime (theft and credit card fraud are traditionally its biggest crime problems), a great mix of urban and rural areas, and the much-raved-about jungle and beach life, and you’ve got a virtual paradise.
This is particularly the case for telecommuting entrepreneurs and English teachers. “I love the vibe and I love speaking Spanish,” reports one Tribe member of the country’s primary language. “The cost of living is low, and I could afford to live in a house on the beach and just chill.”
3. New Zealand
An African-American couple currently raising their 2-year-old outside Wellington, the capital city of Australia’s gorgeous southeastern neighbor, reports, “We chose not to raise him in the USA for a myriad of reasons—the safety of our African-American child, the inconsistent quality of education there and other factors. New Zealand was a perfect place for us. The country was rated the fourth safest in the world, the public schools consistently rank in the top 10 in the world, violent crime is low—like, there was one murder in our town in the last eight years. Also, we have not experienced anything significant as far as racism. We feel welcome, supported and like true members of the community.”
4. Hong Kong
If you’ve ever given serious thought to chucking the deuces to your 9-to-5 and moving abroad to work in high-impact industries like finance or lower-impact industries like teaching (English), you already know we roll deep in the Pearl of the Orient. There are roughly 60,000 Americans living in Hong Kong, an estimated 10,000 of them black, according to an African-American expat who lives and works there. If you’re like most black people and don’t know Cantonese, you’re in luck—English is also an official language. One long-term black expat couple were so smitten by H.K.—and eager to educate curious natives about African-American culture and achievements—that they launched International Black History Month there earlier this year.
If you follow tourism trends, you know that Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is literally and figuratively hot right now, especially among people of color. With foreigners making up 71 percent of the city’s population, it’s nice to live somewhere “that is not ruled by white men,” exclaims one black expat. This has a huge impact on how black folks are treated. “You’ll find people of all races here to be quite humble,” she says of the most liberal of the Arab emirates, although American women should still expect to cover up inside the UAE, a majority-Muslim country. Plus, because it is by all accounts a young country, there is an unending list of services, goods and expertise needed there, opening itself up nicely to African-American professionals and entrepreneurs alike.
Tomika Anderson is a freelance writer, editor, producer and military brat who has traveled to 36 countries and counting. Follow her on Twitter.