#BadassWomen: A chat with Larissa about diversity, racism and her passion for traveling

It’s been almost a year since I started writing and using social media. I used Facebook and Instagram before I started my blog but never used it for anything else than chatting with friends, ex-classmates, and coworkers. So it was only after I joined Twitter and started following the blogging community that I realized how underrepresented and ignored so many women are, and how easy it is to just stay within your own bubble of people who are just like you. 

Even though I always tried to be inclusive, I stayed within my own bubble of high-educated, western, white, and mainly straight young adults during my time on Facebook myself. I learned so much about politics, mental health, gender issues, race issues, etc. the past year, just by connecting to people who are different than me. Which inspired me to start the #BadassWomen tag on my blog, where I want to make sure all kinds of women’s issues and all kinds of women are included – regardless of their age, sexuality, religion, race, origin, mental health or physical health issues and regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth.

For the very first post, I had a chat with Larissa from Life With Larissa about diversity, racism, the 2016 elections and her passion for traveling. 

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. Can you give us a little introduction? Where are you from, what are you doing in your day-to-day life, what are you passionate about, what are your dreams?

Thank you for the opportunity to make an appearance on your blog! My name is Larissa and I am 24 years old. I was born in Haiti, but I currently reside in Georgia – the state, not the country. I am an assistant coach for swimming, working mainly with the younger kids. I am passionate about swimming, traveling, and education. I swam competitively for about 13 years, took a short 2 year hiatus, and now I’m back it. As for traveling, I think the love started young but truly blossomed as I grew older and could travel on my own. Lastly, I believe knowledge is power. I love learning new things, especially about different places and cultures.

It’s really great you wanted to chat with me about the topic of diversity. I feel like the political climate has gotten worse and influential people have been spreading hate messages and racist views, both in Europe and the United States. How do you feel about this? Have you noticed anything change where you live?

I think it’s really scary, but at the same time, I think it’s important for everyone to take note, especially people who believe that racism and discrimination is a thing of the past. Because it’s not. We are living and breathing it. Some of it is outwardly deliberate and expressive, but most people don’t even realize they have racist tendencies because their actions are subconscious. Actions are taught and encouraged by society, deeming they are acceptable responses when presented with an individual different from oneself.

Right after the election took place, I was actually scared to leave my house. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be treated. Currently, there are more hateful posts and defensive stances populating my Facebook newsfeed, and the news is overcome with headlines of people dying every day due to the color of their skin.

Is discrimination or racism something you often experience? Can you give us an example or two of things that have happened or have been said in the past?

As a black female, I have definitely experienced my share of discrimination and racism. I wouldn’t say I have to experience it often, but when I do experience it, it stays with me for a very long time. Two examples pop into my head right away. For both instances, it’s important to know that I grew up in a predominately white community, so most of my friends fell into the category of Caucasian.

This happened many years ago, but I still remember as if it happened yesterday. I was hanging out with two of my closest friends and this was around the time chat roulette was getting big, so we were on that seeing what we’d find. Out of all the people, we came across that night, I only remember one –and not for good reasons. He pops up onto our screen and we onto his, and the first words out of this mouth were something to the effect of: ‘Wow, you girls are beautiful, but why are you two with that n****r?’ My friends immediately flicked onto the next person, but I was forever scarred by that experience.

In high school, one of my “friends” decided, in front of a massive group of people in the cafeteria, that it would be a good idea to “make me admit” that I was really an Oreo—black on the outside, but white on the inside. I admitted to no such thing, for I am who I am. Our “friendship” drastically changed after that incident. To this day, I still think about this, and it still hurts just the same.

Are there any stereotypes that are held against you? How do they hold up in contrast to who you really are?

When people first meet me, I think they expect a stereotypical black female; however, I don’t really measure up. I’m a quiet introverted individual who swims competitively.

Do you remember the first time you noticed or experienced it? How old were you and how did it influence you?

I think the first time I ever experienced it was in second grade, so I was about 7 or 8 years old I think. I don’t really remember any specifics, just that I would come home crying and have horrible headaches every single day. The next year I went to a different school out of my district, and I loved that school way more!

I see on your blog that you like traveling a lot, do you feel like all of this influences that passion in any way, or how or where you travel?

I think it would be safe to say yes, it definitely influences my passion of traveling. When I travel, I learn so many different things about people who are “different” than me, but I also learn that we are more alike than anything else. We all eat. We all sleep. We all need support. We’re all scared. We all have dreams. We all smile, and laugh, and cry.

What about the different places and cultures you visit? Do you have any particular memories (good or bad) that jump out? 

Bruges, Belgium- While in Bruges, I stopped in a store to look at some of their merchandise. While looking around, the owner and I started talking because I was the only one in the store. Eventually, we came upon the topic of my skin color, but I was okay with it because she seemed genuinely curious, not rude or judgmental.

Marseille, France- When I visited Marseille, I stayed with this lady through Airbnb. She is one of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting through traveling. She showed me what it truly meant to immerse myself in someone else’s culture. She taught me to cook. She helped me improve my French. She showed me the amazing local places I would not have found on my own. She took time out of her day to sit and have intellectually stimulating conversations with me. Meeting her, changed my life for the better.

MarseilleBruges

Is there anything special you do to prevent negativity from getting to you or to balance it out? Do you have any tips for others to stay positive and love themselves?

Sometimes it’s really hard to not let the negativity get to you, especially when the majority of your friends don’t have to experience it, so they have no idea what you’re going through. I wouldn’t say I do anything special, but what works for me is remembering my parents raised me to be strong and to overcome odds. I think about the way I feel when I’m surrounded by negativity, and I would not want to make others feel that way, so I try to spread positive vibes whenever I can.

And to end this post with some self-love: what are three things about yourself that you love/are proud of?

So many times people forget there are qualities about themselves worth being proud of or loving {including myself}, so I really love ending on such a positive note! The top three qualities I love and am proud of myself are:

  • My ability to listen to others.
  • My ability to put others before me.
  • My ability to make people smile or laugh.

Inspirational women

My mom: She has sacrificed so much for our family, and she has endured so many trials and tribulations, but no matter what, she tries to keep a smile on her face, and her faith is unwavering. I aspire to be as great as her one day.

Hermione Granger/Emma Watson: Although she’s famous, she doesn’t downplay the importance of education. She’s also using her platform to change the world for the better.

Zendaya: She’s younger than me, and doing great things with her life. She’s standing up and speaking out for those who need their voices to be heard.

About the blogger

My name is Larissa and I have a deep passion for traveling. I love sharing my experiences with others in hopes that it will inspire people to travel for themselves.

Follow Larissa: Life With Larissa | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Email

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8 Comments

  1. A wonderful way to share the lives of other women. A lovely read. Larissa, you sound like a strong young lady, with ambition and a feel for life, no matter the challenges. And I love that. It is sad to read you had to deal with ignorant people from such a young age. I find that kind of behaviour just bizarre, and do not understand why it even needs to exist. Aren’t we all just the same; what makes us different is what is in our heart and our understanding. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for such a great post Sarah and Larissa. That’s so sad about the Oreo incident and how it changed your friendship – I think your friends obviously had no idea how it would make you feel.

  3. This was so interesting to read, I love hearing about other people’s experiences and lives. So sorry for the discrimination you’ve faced, Larissa 🙁
    Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

  4. What a great series highlighting strong women!! I love hearing of others experiences its so important that things are spoken about and not left unsaid!