The author and her son in Egypt. Photo courtesy of Imani Bashir
When I was pregnant, the thing I thought about most was the future of my unborn child.
Again and again, I saw hashtags commemorating dead Black children in the United States. Would my Black child suffer a similar fate?
After my anxiety on the subject landed me in the hospital, my husband and I made the decision that we could not have our son in the United States. I knew all that being Black in the U.S. meant for us and considering how Black women and their babies die at higher rates in comparison to white mothers and their babies I figured I didn’t have much to lose.
We didn’t have a ton of money saved, but my husband is an international American football coach and I was teaching in international schools before deciding to freelance full-time. Our travels are based on my husband’s contracts and whatever teams are looking for a new coach in their country. Surprisingly, American football is very popular worldwide, which takes care of our flights and accommodations. I can teach just about anywhere so we follow his lead and go from there.
And that's how, for the last two years, we’ve lived in three different countries: Poland, Egypt and China.
My biggest lesson? Our quality of life is much different — even as Black people — and we don’t plan to trade it.
We welcomed our son in Szczecin. This little-known city sits in the northwestern region of Poland, just two hours outside of Berlin, Germany. It’s not as multicultural as Poland’s capital, Warsaw; we were the only Black people we saw.
As a Black person, the idea of racist attitudes and widespread white supremacy can be nerve-wracking when you’re going to be living in a place for an extended time — even more so when you’re about to have a child — so I was taken aback by the outpouring of support we had from our new community.
A Polish friend helped me find a local midwife and made sure we had everything we needed, including translation services, getting our son’s birth certificate and passport and finding us a pediatrician free of cost.
A community priest who heard of us came to our apartment with broken English and boxes filled with diapers, toys, clothing, shoes, wipes, bottles and medicine. He gave us so much that we didn’t have to purchase anything for months.
Imagine coming from a place where there’s such a stigma on Black people who use assistance because they’re in need. Then, here we were, in a place where help was given freely as though we belonged.
Our next destination will always hold a special place in our family’s history; my husband and I met in Cairo and with my paternal grandparents living nearby, we knew the move back would be good for us.
As in Poland, our new community quickly became our family. Our landlord’s wife only spoke Arabic, but never let us pass her floor without offering us something — even if it was just a greeting or a hug. I’d encountered this before while living in the United States but only with people who shared my same skin tone.
Local shopkeepers would greet us by name, their excitement at seeing my young son coupled with more free goods and hugs.
In the United States, the tension with regard to race is so high that if you’re Black, you’re often followed in a store or rushed to make purchases in hopes that you’re not trying to steal something. I liked the feeling of being in community that didn’t make us feel like outsiders but more at home.
These days we call Chongqing, China, home. Before moving here, we were concerned about what we’d heard of Asian culture and anti-blackness, but we’ve found our community to be nothing but welcoming.
The locals whom we’ve met greet us with smiles. Their children play with our son without treating him like a sideshow spectacle. No one pulls out their phones to take pictures (as we'd heard might happen). Rather, they’re patient with our lack of understanding of the language.
We’re exposing our son to the world to help him be more culturally aware, respectful and boundless regardless of what others’ perception of him may be. And honestly? We're not in a hurry to come back to the U.S.
The quality of life we have abroad tops the constant stress and anxiety of just trying to make ends meet without much else to show. Our son deserves the opportunity to live life with an excess, not a deficit, of options.
Ultimately, my husband and I want what any parent does: a bright future for our child. We just had to leave the country to get it.