I’m a white person. I’ve always known that travel was different for POC, especially Black people, but I didn’t really know. I knew they might face racism, but I didn’t really know. I didn’t read their stories, I didn’t have those discussions, I didn’t really understand anything. That’s what I’m trying to fix with this blog post. Read on to join me on my journey in understanding Black travel.
Looking through my Instagram a few weeks ago, I realized I followed one Black traveler among the sea of white travelers that flooded my feed every day. I was ashamed, to say the least.
So, I started to seek out some diversity, read stories of people that didn’t look like me, and really dive into a part of travel that I had never considered before.
And I was shell shocked.
What I found was that a Black person could travel to the exact same place that I traveled to, do the same things, and have an entirely different experience.
I won’t claim to be an expert or a teacher on this subject. I’ll forever be a student, but I’d like to share a few of the posts that really opened my eyes in hopes of helping others start understanding Black travel! Here’s what it’s like to travel while Black:
Stories of Racism
This post by @glographics is really what inspired this entire blog post. Reading her stories in each of these countries made me sick to my stomach and I immediately knew I had to share her words with others.
I also have to say it – the fact that the US is number one on her list isn’t surprising in any way, but it is telling. Her (assumed) home country is more unaccepting of her than other countries she has traveled to. Just sit with that. Put yourself in each of her stories and sit with that discomfort for a minute.
Being Hyper-Aware of your Existence
@hey_ciara shares an experience she had in Uzbekistan in this post. She talks about being on a tour and actually becoming the attraction because Uzbekistan sees such a small amount of Black people.
She mentions that traveling while Black means being hyper aware of her existence. She’s never allowed to just BE. She has to constantly try to decipher whether the stares she gets are out of curiosity or distain. How exhausting!
Fear Around Road Trips
In this post, @joyclarkmusic mentions a topic I honestly never considered before: road trips. With everything that has been happening in the US (and really around the world) lately, I think it’s pretty well understood that Black people do not feel safe around cops – and why would they when their brothers and sisters are losing their lives at the hands of them?
Therefore, when thinking about a road trip, what comes along with that? The possibility to get pulled over. Because of that, the amount of fear that must surround road trips is unimaginable to a white person, but very real to Black travelers.
Being Solicited for Sex
@collectivedrift shares her story in this post of 1) not being able to get a taxi, 2) getting kicked out of a taxi, and 3) getting solicited multiple times for sex by white men – all in Argentina.
This unfortunately isn’t the first time I’ve heard of Black women being asked for their price (for sex) while traveling. Regardless of what sex workers “usually” look like in these countries, this is just plain disgusting.
It’s something white people never have to think about. In fact, every issue, fear, and rude comment in this post are things that white people never have to think about, but Black people have to consider every time they travel. Yes, this is white privalage.
Getting Way Too Close for Comfort
This post tells a story of a white girl (not the one pictured) coming up to @keke_dixon and put her hands in her hair saying “your hair is so fun!” She and her friends talked afterword about how this wasn’t a one-time thing. This happens pretty regularly. How incredibly annoying is that?!
This goes back to Black people becoming the attraction when they travel to certain places (even places within the US).
Getting Asked For Pictures
@bsenyana talks about the constant bombardment of non-Black tourists (and locals) asking to take her photo when she’s traveling. Just like anything life, she says some Black people don’t mind it, but she hates it. Honestly, who could blame her? She’s there to see and experience a new city, not become a souvenir for others to take home!
She says it gets so overwhelming sometimes that she’ll just stay in her hotel room because it gets exhausting saying “no” to everyone that asks.
I will never claim to understand the depth of fear and discomfort that Black people face when traveling, but I hope that by reading these posts and following people who have stories to tell, we can educate ourselves more and continue down the road of understanding Black travel.
Quite honestly, I’m inspired by the fact that even after all these experiences, all of these people are still traveling. That takes sheer and utter strength. That takes courage. And that takes passion.
I also want to point out that every experience a Black person has while traveling is not negative. There are obviously several positive moments that likely outweigh these disgusting ones. However, I think it’s important to understand the ugly side of Black travel to help fight against the discomfort that comes with it.
What We Can Do
Just because I don’t usually like to like to pose a problem without any kind of solution, here are a few posts on the lighter side with ideas of what anyone can do to support Black when we travel.
Support Black Business
@franny_the_traveler talks about how we can (and should) support Black business when we travel. She even gives some examples of Black-owned businesses in Haiti, Martinique, and Cleveland – take note if you’re traveling here soon!
Understanding Black travel also means supporting Black businesses when traveling.
Challenge Your Own Bias
@wellwornheels shares a story that was shared to her by a white woman she works with. That white woman was walking home alone in a dark area when she turned around and saw a “big black guy” behind her. Instead of walking faster or doing anything else that our implicit bias tells us to do, she introduced herself to him and asked if he’d walk with her since it was such a deserted area.
To be totally transparent, when I read this caption, my first reaction was “If I have a gut reaction of being scared, shouldn’t I follow that?” I think the answer is sometimes. After thinking about this for a while, I think we need to be able to determine quickly if that initial fear we’re feeling is because that person is Black or because there are other factors that are causing our bodies to react.
If our reaction is solely because that person is Black, then challenge your bias always, every time. It’s okay to admit that we have a bias (everyone does), just make sure it’s not leading your decisions.
Recognizing the Issue
I wanted to end this blog post with a quote from @kiarapesante which I thought was important to share after the heaviness of this post.
“Let me be very clear: being Black is NOT exhausting. Being Black is splendid. Is poppin. OPPRESSION is what’s exhausting.”
It’s not enough to feel bad for Black people and empathize with their travel struggles. Black people don’t feel bad that they’re Black. They feel bad because of the oppression that comes with being Black. So, it’s not enough to understand that oppression – we must fight it. We must stand toe to toe with our Black brothers and sisters to reduce and eventually eliminate every single one of the experiences shared in this post.
I want to take a quick moment here to thank all of the creators mentioned in this post for taking the time to tell their stories publicly to help people start understanding Black travel.
I invite you to follow everyone listed in this post along with other POC that are willing to share their stories and experiences. Becoming more knowledgeable is the first step to becoming an ally.