In 1968 I was a sailor assigned to a combat riverboat stationed in Viet Nam. It was my first time in Southeast Asia. At that time one of the most popular places on the planet was a country named Thailand; more specifically the capital city Bangkok and a city named Pattaya which is by the ocean. Both were R & R (rest and recuperation) centers for shell shocked and wounded G.I.’s from all branches of the U.S. military who had been in combat in Viet Nam. I heard from all of the guys regardless of their race, color or age, (I’ll cover that one later), was how great the country was and how gracious the people were. That really made me curious especially since I was a young single sailor with all of the desires of a young man my age which was twenty-three at that time.
It took me over twenty years and an auto accident to get me here and I have not been disappointed. I am now sixty-five years old with a twenty-two year old mind. Got to make up for lost time don’t you know? Seriously, I have been to several Asian countries. As a “black” man, and now an “old black” man, I have never been treated with so much caring and genuine respect.
I have to say Thailand is unlike any other place I have been in Asia. Being an American black man means nothing to the Thai people. I am just another human being and an “elder” which Thai people have nothing but the highest regard. To the people of Thailand as long as you are “JAIDEE” which means to have a “GOOD HEART” you are welcome.
To give you a small example, where I live I am the oldest tenant. There are two Americans, a few British and the rest Thai. None of that makes a difference. I have to admit in my country the elderly aren’t treated like this. Being an elderly black man here means nothing. When I go out and about I often get mistaken for Thai. It seems my coloration and physical appearance are very “Thai” like. There have been many times a Thai will approach me and start speaking Thai. I am ashamed to say I don’t speak much Thai for as long as I have been here and it always surprises them.
Being a black man where I live is a non-issue. Here we are more like a multi-racial family in that everyone looks after each other. The United Nations and a few more entities I won’t mention could learn a few things from my community as it truly is international and “CARING”.
Not only am I a person of color, I also have severe arthritis in all my major joints. If I were in my country perhaps no one would really care except those closest to me. Here total Thai strangers show concern towards me regardless where I am. If I go to the store and come out with packages they offer to carry them to my apartment even though I am able to do it myself. They are quite insistent about it. In my country this would be a rare situation especially since I am black. This would not be normal behavior even if I weren’t black.
Although it has taken some time, it is truly an enjoyable experience living in Thailand, getting used to all the positive attention. I am somewhat a private and independent person but with my advanced age the Thai people around me go out of their way to see to my comfort and well being.
How are Afro-American people treated in Thailand? The answer to that question is with “RESPECT” and as I mentioned previously “CARING”. From my perspective it is paradise and I can see myself living here until God and Buddha see fit for me to leave this world and move on to the next.