Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Travel isn’t Colorblind…So Get Out and Get Yours!

I was recently enjoying a relaxed Saturday morning complete with a full breakfast of Southwest scrambled eggs, bacon and spiced chai. I had my laptop right beside me revved up and ready to peruse the internet for websites and articles of interest. I was praying that the internet gods would shine a light on me and allow me to log onto Facebook and other China blocked websites with relative ease. Fortunately, I was granted partial, not full access and before things totally cut out, one of my favorite Black travel bloggers had a link to an article by another Black travel blogger about the lack of black faces in the mainstream travel media.

I was curious, so I found the article and read it through comments and all. The article was discussing the recent White House Travel Blogger Summit (I never knew such a thing existed until that moment); an event that invited the top 100 people of the travel media in the U.S. The goal of the summit was to encourage American youth to become global citizens through volunteering, studying or working abroad.

According to this travel blogger, there were no black speakers invited to this event since all the photos the blogger saw were of white people (According to a commenter on that blog, this was false since the commenter  was in attendance at the event and it turned out there were a few Black speakers present). 

To be honest, I wasn’t blown away by anything the travel blogger had to say, in fact, it sounded like the same ol’ song I’ve been hearing on repeat for the past few years-The lack of black faces in the mainstream and it isn’t fair right. I guess I’ve become numb to such kind talk and instead of being

angry/upset/annoyed etc. I just feel meh…

I guess the reason for my apathetic feelings is because  I don’t expect the rest of the world to play fair /equal/accepting; not even the highest place in America. With a half Black president in the White House, some would come to the conclusion that the event would be more diverse, with a large number of Black speakers in attendance.  Obviously, folks haven’t been watching this administration that closely or they wouldn’t be acting this surprised (that’s something for a whole other blog post).
And while the point of this summit was to get the American youth interested in being a “global citizen,” I’ve come to the conclusion that they were probably trying to appeal to a certain demographic which happens to be…

White/Middle to Upper class/ College bound/enrolled/ or graduated…

Now, before anyone gets carried away, I’m not accusing the leaders of this summit of being racist. What I’m pointing out is the simple fact that a global traveler in America, especially the notion of being a “global citizen” is often times assumed to belong to the face of a White (Liberal) American. Now, historically, this was true, but in the recent decade, I’ve seen a number of Black travelers/ study abroad students/ and travel bloggers in growing numbers. However, other people may not know or realize this or if they do, they may not care to acknowledge it. I will also say something that’s been my experience while traveling:
Some may not be too happy about it...

 As someone who has traveled for a few years now, I’ve learned that travel (especially one that involves trans-Atlantic or farther), when it comes to other Americans, is something reserved for White people. While something as simple (or complicated depending on how you look at it) as travel shouldn’t be exclusionary, or have a racial undertone, I’ve found in my experience the opposite to be true.

 I’ve encountered the funny looks, comments and even downright rudeness for entering travel spaces which were apparently reserved for enlightened, liberal, colorblind white folks (yes, I’ve always laughed at the irony). While the majority of Americans I’ve met have been cordial or even excited to see another American, I’ve noticed a fair number of people (especially in Asia) weren’t too keen to see me in “their spaces.”

Luckily for me, I never let those people deter me from my travel path. If I encountered someone of that kind, I would cordially excuse myself/busy myself and keep it moving. No amount of ignorance was going to keep me from enjoying my well-earned vacation or working abroad experience.

So what am I trying to say?

Black people…please realize that life isn’t fair. Instead of moaning about things/people/ institutions being too exclusive, start forging your own path. Stop waiting on the media or the government to give Black people a voice, because... “that ain’t gonna happen cap’n!”
 Lastly, if you see another Black person in the travel world who’s product/service/writing has inspired you or helped you, pay it forward and support that person (I will emphasize if you agree with them, not just blind support based on race).

I guess what I’m trying to say that if you’re black and you’re interested in travel, currently traveling, thinking about a career in travel media or, are firmly in travel media, my advice would be to seek out other like-minded people on that path.  If you want to study or work abroad, find alumni from your high school, college or university who have been/are currently abroad. If you want to get into travel media, start making moves and network with other people in this arena if your goal is to expand your brand or, be successful in this business. 

Send your support to other Black people who are doing the travel/study/work abroad thing. Comment or reblog their posts; purchase their podcast or merchandise; simply spread the word about these other Black platforms to give them well needed (and hopefully) deserved exposure.  

So dear readers, realize that you have the power and stop begging for scraps. It’s a new day, a new world and a new time out here and the determined/innovative/hard-working are going to get the spoils.

Well, that all for now, tune in next time to hear about my upcoming travel plans for 2015!

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