Gentrification & Privilege: An African-American woman’s Twitter posts on Bali goes viral | campus.sg

Bali Black

UPDATE TUES 19 JAN: US citizen Kristen Gray will be deported pending the next available flight. Her visitor stay permit is valid until Jan 24, but the investigation concluded that she has violated a number of regulations, so authorities have decided to deport her. In her statement, she declared that she felt she was only being deported due to her posts about LGBT.

Twittersphere saw a heated debate over the weekend when one young American digital nomad chronicled her idyllic life in Bali since moving there a year ago. She even goes on to say that as an African-American who’s queer, she feels more accepted by the society in her adoptive (current) home. While she planned to be there for 6 months initially, Covid-19 meant that she extended her stay another 6 months.

However, what she said didn’t sit well with many Indonesians as well as Americans and she’s been bombarded with so much criticism (and even death threats) that she’s privatised her Twitter. Here’s a breakdown of the bulk of the criticisms:

Gentrification of poorer countries

Many people are upset that her move to Bali with her strong earning power and currency will only force locals out of their own housing market. The argument is about gentrification – if Americans understand how bad gentrification is for America and the poorer neighbourhoods, then why are they gladly doing it to other (poorer) nations?

Of course, its easy to feel like a queen in a country where she pays only USD400 a month for a glamorous treehouse when she used to have to spend USD1,300 on a tiny studio back in LA.

She’s glamourising queer-friendliness in Bali

She’s openly declaring that Bali is LGBT-friendly, but the local LGBT community is still underground to avoid judgement and violence. Many in the queer community are saying that she doesn’t experience backlash because she’s a privileged foreigner.

UPDATE: Prior to her deportation, she ironically stated that she felt she was being “deported because of LGBT”.

Note: ‘Bule’ are foreigners

Bali thrives on tourism, but she’s not really a tourist

In her posts she’s said many times that Bali relies on tourism and the money brought in by foreign visitors. However, many Indonesians are livid at the fact that she herself isn’t considered a ‘tourist’ because she’s also very openly working in Bali, and by having a 6-month visa, shows that she’s not on a working visa. That means she’s not paying taxes like the locals, yet earning USD for her work as a digital nomad.

She’s no different from a lot of foreigners already ‘working’ there in roles like digital nomads or ‘begpackers’ – and they’re getting away with it due to privilege as foreign citizens.

She’s encouraging others to follow in her footsteps – during a pandemic

She’s selling their experience via her ebook, which details how she and her girlfriend managed to bypass current limitations to foreigners living in Bali, and encouraging other Westerners to follow in their footsteps.

Many Indonesians are rightfully upset that she’s taking advantage of a loophole where she isn’t paying taxes while working there – and encouraging many others to do the same.

All this is even worse during the pandemic because Indonesia is struggling with rising Covid-19 cases. Indonesians have the right to be upset because the ones who aren’t adhere to local Covid-19 measures (ie. mask wearing) are foreigners who can afford the fines for breaking rules.

The whole issue veered towards racism

After her Twitter feed blew up, many African Americans criticised Indonesians for their comments, citing they were rude due to racism, as she’s a minority from her own country. Some have pointed out that many white foreigners have done the same thing, but she’s only getting the backlash due to her skin colour.

This prompted a mini war on the subject of race. The Indonesians had to explain that it wasn’t an issue of race – it was an issue of gentrification and careless glamourisation of Bali by encouraging people to move there during a Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to the ebook, she’s also selling web conferences on how to move to Bali

She’s milking her status by also selling a USD50 web conference. Someone attended it… and found out that their treehouse wasn’t actually USD400.

Here’s the original feed that’s since been deleted/privatised

For those who didn’t get to see how her whole Twitter feed went down, here’s a recap:

In summary, this is the gist of the argument: