Frustrated with racism and discrimination in the United States, Black Americans are leaving the country in search of better opportunities and a sense of belonging.
Filmmaker Jameelah Nuriddin’s decision to leave the United States and start a new life in Costa Rica is emblematic of a growing trend among Black Americans. Faced with systemic racism, discrimination, and violence, many are choosing to relocate to countries such as Portugal, Ghana, Colombia, and Mexico. This movement, often referred to as “Blaxit,” is fueled by the desire for a better quality of life and a chance to escape the emotional and psychological strain of living in a country that doesn’t fully embrace them. Through social media, relocation services, and online communities, these expats are forging new lives abroad and building communities of their own.
Seeking Freedom and Equality in New Lands
The decision to leave the United States goes beyond saving money or seeking adventure for many Black Americans. It is a response to the political and racial divisions highlighted during the pandemic years. The time away from the daily grind allowed people to question the status quo and seek a better quality of life without the emotional and psychological strain of discrimination. The movement is largely female-led, with early trailblazers paving the way for others to come abroad.
Creating Communities and Finding Belonging
In countries like Mexico, Black American expats are finding solace and a sense of community. Tiara Darnell, owner of the soul food restaurant Blaxicocina in Mexico City, has created a meeting point for Black Americans seeking a taste of home. The cultural scene is being transformed by pop-ups and dance parties organized by Black expats. While discrimination based on skin color still exists, the looks received in Mexico are often more curious than judgmental or suspicious. Many feel safer in their new homes, where crime rates are lower than in the United States.
Rediscovering Identity and Privilege
For Black Americans, moving abroad means confronting the power of their dollars and their passport privilege. The economic advantage they have in countries with lower costs of living can cause tensions with the local population. However, many expats are using their privilege to create opportunities and support the communities they now call home. They are building businesses, hosting events, and helping others navigate the challenges of relocation. The experience of living abroad has also led to self-reflection, as expats grapple with their American-ness and the ways in which they may unintentionally take up space or perpetuate certain behaviors.
Healing and Liberation
In Costa Rica, a community of Black American expats has formed in the town of Puerto Viejo. Led by Davia Shannon, a full-time Blaxit evangelist, this community is focused on creating a safe space for Black people to heal from the traumatic experiences of racism and discrimination. Shannon promotes Puerto Viejo to her followers on social media and helps new arrivals navigate the transition. The sense of connection and shared ancestry among Black locals and expats is palpable, providing a sense of belonging and liberation.
The Blaxit movement represents a significant emigration of African Americans seeking freedom, equality, and a better quality of life outside the United States. Frustrated with racism and discrimination, these expats are forging new lives, building communities, and challenging the notion that America is the only place where they can thrive. As they navigate the challenges and opportunities of living abroad, they are redefining what it means to be Black in a global context and finding a sense of belonging that they felt was missing in their home country.