First let me give some personal background information, I grew up in a single mother household with my sister. For multiple reasons we moved around a lot. Before I was an adult I lived in 4 different states and in those states I lived in neighborhoods of different ethnicities. We as a family were in various economic statuses ranging from being homeless to being financially stable.
I state all of this because I have been exposed to people who didn’t look like me my whole life. Some of these people were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and some of the meanest. I have memories from my childhood where a white women who had a trailer with one room allowed for a single black women with 2 kids (that she didn’t know) to sleep there so we didn’t have to sleep on the streets or in a shelter. I also have a memory of a white boy that lived across the street from me that called me a Nigger.
I learned early on that people are people. No one culture has a monopoly on hatred or love. I have had the ability to accept people for who they are and not by where they are from or the color of their skin.
My high school years in New Jersey brought me into a more working class black neighborhood. Moving from Upstate New York where I am one of 3 black kids in the school, I was used to being different but this was new for me because I was now different among people that looked like me. From a social aspect, it was made clear that I am not “black enough”. I didn’t talk like everyone else. I didn’t dress like everyone else. I listened to various types of music where as my peers were more into the latest song on the radio. As a kid it felt like I was being black balled from a society for being different. There were moments where I would conform and I was treated better but it wasn’t me, so I would go back and would be ignored again.
What does this have to do with traveling? Very simply, I see the same behavior in the Black Travel Community. At first I thought it was me and my possible sensitivities but then I started talking to other travelers who are Black Americans and they shared the same view. There are ways of conforming that is purely accepted and there are ways that people figuratively “side eye” you for not conforming. I’ll give examples…
“I see you’ve been to Europe but…when are you going to Africa?”
This is probably the biggest measuring stick question that typically comes from those who have been to Africa. This is not meant to be in a way of “Africa is awesome and you should check it out” but it’s meant to be in a way of saying “You need to know your roots, YOU ARE BLACK!” and if you haven’t gone or not planning to go in the near future, you are somehow not measuring up. There is a sense of feeling that you are fortunate enough to have money for traveling, so you of course NEED to go. This is also coming from the same people that think Africa is a country and criticize you if you’ve been to Egypt as that is “not really Africa” (I have actually seen this stated).
“You’re in a lot of pictures with white people…”
So? Why? Why does this bother you? Did you also notice the pictures of me with black people or did you just completely overlook that? Convenient. I am also in pictures with an Iranian, Kazakhs and Colombians. I guess that doesn’t matter either.
I am not claiming that a whole community acts this way, it would be absolutely ignorant for me to say this. Black people aren’t a monolith but it doesn’t mean this doesn’t exist or happen. If there is one major point to be made, it’s this: Acceptance of something is not a rejection of another. I enjoy going to Europe for various reasons and I have other continents that I plan to go to in the future, including Africa. Me going to Europe is not a rejection of Africa. Me having white friends is not a rejection of black people.
Traveling in my eyes has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. There is a purity aspect to it that I enjoy. I love learning about other cultures and finding similarities between people of different cultures than mine. Traveling has allowed me to question myself and my surroundings as an American. It’s an overall eye opening and introspective feature that has been added to my life. I feel that anyone can have this experience and that’s what I promote. I promote understanding people and appreciating cultures. The virtue-signaling of traveling cheapens the experience and shames those who aren’t meeting your imaginary standards. Because I have not stood at the shores of Ghana where black slaves were sent to the Americas does not mean that I don’t care or I am not black enough. The judgement of travelers in general needs to stop, people go to places that they enjoy and I try my best to not shame people.
My complexion should not impede my curiosity in others or be made as a tool to show how Black you are. No one likes a virtue-signaling, in-your-face, woke-warrior. Let people live their life and enjoy themselves.