The Racist Realities of Travel
"If the majority of what we see is non-Black people plastered on travel billboards, how can Black people feel seen or represented in this domain?"
The independent topics of, and ideas around, race and travel have their own complexities, but when considered together, it's a conversation seldom broached in headlines or mainstream media. But why? Do Black people not travel? Do they not contribute to the tourism economy? It's clear that this is not true.
Yet the voice of the Black traveller is less heard and less covered in mainstream media – this has to change. Visibility encourages inclusivity and acceptance. Major travel and tourism brands must include POC faces in their global campaigns and branding; if the majority of what is seen is non-Black people plastered on travel billboards, how can Black people feel seen or represented in this domain? It must be remembered that travel, just as money and time, is a privilege.
It must be highlighted that the privileges that white people experience in all aspects of life, extend into travel as well. For many black people, the comfort, entitlement and anxiety-free experiences that their white counterparts experience in foreign travel is not shared. Even before their journey starts, they have to consider that their destination may not be safe for or accepting and tolerant of them. If you are a non-Black person, you have the responsibility to educate yourself on this topic and action on how you can create a more inclusive landscape.
At Trippin, we want to encourage purposeful travel. Part of this is how we look at treating others who visit our own countries too. The travel industry's recovery has and will be slow and so, this is a crucial time to reflect and consider how and why the travel landscape needs to change. When travelling, we must always remember that each place is nuanced; every community and space we visit will inherently have different ways of living and being. However, there are limits to what can be considered as merely ‘respecting local customs’. At what point does the narrative shift from ignorance to racist?
An air of ignorance is usually the result of a lack of information and visibility on a certain issue. The key lies in allowing there to be a dialogue between the two places and cultures and for that space to be one that encourages collaboration and constructive conversation. Creating an environment of acceptance and respect rather than discrimination and negativity starts with at-home and in-community teaching and awareness. Education is the answer.
These are some questions you can ask yourself when you re-evaluate the social landscape of your community...
1. What is the state of my community?
2. Do I live in an accepting environment? (Look to your family, friends and colleagues).
3. How can I encourage and teach my people and community to be more accommodating and welcoming to Black/POC travellers? If you aren't already doing this...
4. Practically, what change can I make? Start small, but think big.
These are just starting points and there are many, many more questions that need to be asked in order to instigate fundamental change. As a non-Black person, you have a responsibility to exercise anti-racist behaviour in your everyday life. However, it must also be remembered that it is imperative that change happens from the top. Visibility, at the end of the day, is in the power of those who control marketing budgets and make the major corporate decisions, which then trickle down and condition culture. You can influence this by using your voice and holding accountable the companies and public figures who project messages of discrimination. If anything is to be taken anyway from the outpouring of support through the worldwide BLM protests, it’s that people will listen if you persistently raise your voice.
It is a big task, but a wholly necessary one to aid in giving the Black community the visibility and respect that they deserve. If this daunts you, this is normal; breathe, reflect and then start your work and remember it has to begin with you being committed and consistent. At Trippin, we are a team dedicated to connecting cultures worldwide; we will continue to platform Black voices, giving them a space to speak on their views surrounding travel and culture. As well as sharing guides on Black-owned businesses across the world, our team goals are to be a platform where the Black community feels empowered to talk about their travel experiences, good and bad, and to exercise anti-racist behaviours both externally and internally. We must end racism within this industry and beyond and level the playing field for good.
This piece was written as a reflection on how we, at Trippin, can encourage our community and travellers all around the world to foster an environment in their homes which allows Black travellers to feel safe. If you feel we have missed out important points or just have comments relating to this piece, please feel free to contact us with your thoughts here.