Travel Can’t Cure Racism, but It Can Open Your Eyes

There comes a time when silence is a betrayal

Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ll admit this post isn’t entirely about travel, but it’s important. I am a white 31 year old woman. I’m privileged enough to have a home, be financially stable, and not be scared to walk down the street in fear. When I leave my home, no one wonders if I will be pulled over needlessly in my car or if I will be a victim of police brutality.

I grew up in white suburbia, but I’m happy to say I went to school where diversity was embraced. I’ve never looked at another person’s skin color and thought they were lesser, but I know people who have. I’ve always loved travel and have been fascinated with other ways of life, cultures different from my own, and how different people can be which makes living life on this planet absolutely incredible.

When I went to college, I majored in Anthropology which, in the simplest terms, is the study of people. While I mostly focused on archaeology, I took several classes on culture and couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve traveled to several dozen countries and mostly stuck with the countries where people looked the most like me, albeit unconsciously. It struck me a few years later that in school we’re taught about cultures that achieved amazing feats and about monuments and sites all over the world that we should see. Unfortunately, most of those are white-washed. It wasn’t until college when I took elective classes on diverse cultures that I realized this had happened. I’ve spent the past few years traveling to places where people don’t look like me and I have never loved travel more.

What I Don’t Want Travel To Be

I don’t want people to travel solely to places that feel comfortable. By all means please go to London or Paris. They have fantastic things to see, but if you’re like me, these places won’t open your eyes to much diversity. Don’t go into an active war zone or somewhere that truly isn’t safe, but we should all be challenging why we choose the places we do. The next time you choose a travel destination, try something different. You’ll never break out of your cultural bubble if you don’t make changes.

I don’t want travel to be white washed. I travel because there are sites I want to see, food I want to try, cultures I want to soak up, and because I’ve learned about certain places all my life and feel a tug to go visit. As I’ve gotten older, all I want is to visit places that aren’t “exclusively” white. I want to visit businesses owned by locals and truly experience another country, not just the things that tourists do. I want to be a part of the solution. I want to show others that white people can be respectful and want to support people of color.

I don’t want travelers to remain the same. This is just my belief, but if you visit another culture and you aren’t at least a little bit changed in your mind or your heart you haven’t really traveled and seen that culture. Travel should open your eyes. There are countries that do not have systemic racism like the United States is plagued with. Racism is unfortunately a global phenomenon, but it doesn’t have to be.

I truly believe that travel can help alleviate racism. I don’t think shoving a bunch of racists on a plane and shipping them off somewhere will do the trick. Change requires a desire to change. All I ask is that you be open to the idea of implementing positive change. It can change the world. Travel CAN allow you to open yourself up to the possibility that you have harbored stereotypes and that it is time to let them go.

Changing Habits Can Change the World

You can have all the lofty goals in the world to become the antithesis of racist, but you’ll never achieve those goals if you don’t fix the beliefs behind your habits. Seeing new people and places that are different from your normal is life altering. Befriending people with different viewpoints and who aren’t privileged just because they were born with a different skin tone is eye-opening. You may not even realize you harbor ill thoughts until someone else points it out. Wouldn’t you want the opportunity to fix those thoughts?

Improvements are only temporary until they become an integral part of who you are. These changes will not happen overnight and they can be terrifying. While you might be scared to make changes in your life, think about how making these changes can help change the world, your country, or your community.

I’m currently reading a book about habits by James Clear and he makes a point of the compound interest of improving yourself. In summary, he says that if you improve yourself by 1% each day, just one tiny percentage, you can make an enormous change over time. That’s almost 37% improvement year over year. Now, imagine if everyone did that. It’s unrealistic to think everyone will even consider making a change, but there are those of us who want to try and will make the effort. Think of the difference we could make in the lives of marginalized people over the course of a year. Tiny changes add up to big results if they are continued.

No One Should Live in Constant Fear

I don’t get political on my blog at all, but I’m about to and it won’t happen again much at all, I promise. I live in the United States. The land of opportunity and freedom. It doesn’t feel that way lately. With our president constantly spouting racist remarks and purposefully dividing the country, racism has had a resurgence and it makes me sick. With a president that has the cultural intelligence of a slug (slime included) I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I’m deeply disappointed.

I don’t want my friends, family, acquaintances, or even people I don’t know to live in fear. I don’t want a single person to walk out of their home and wonder if they will make it back home in one piece or even at all. I want to become a better person. I don’t consider myself to be racist by any means, but there are always ways I can improve and I am open to any discussion of how that can happen. I want people to know that they can come to me. I want people to know I’m not one of the white people who will sit idly by and wonder when the protesting will end.

I don’t want to be silent. I never realized my silence made me complicit. Yes, I voted for people who had diversity in their agendas and I’ve never been racist as far as I can tell, but I haven’t spoken out in my adult life and right now that seems like a failure.

My silence shouldn’t matter, but it does. Silence begins so small that it might not be noticed but compounds into a deafening emptiness when millions of people are content to remain silent even when atrocities are being committed.

My silence should not be heard over anyone’s pleas for help or their inability to breathe.

My silence should not be heard over anyone screaming to be seen as equal. Every single person on this planet should be considered an equal regardless of race, gender, or any other way people choose to divide the world.

My silence should not be heard over anything. I will not be silent anymore. I will join others because black lives matter. It’s 2020. It’s time to realize systemic racism will not go away with silence. We have to do this together.

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