Travel comes with some inequities in the travel and tourism industry for people of color. Often that impact is also affected by race and nationality. The reality is that traveling while black comes with some individual challenges. In my travels as a black woman, I have experienced being denied certain privileges because of my race by non-blacks and other people of color. With non-blacks, I have encountered people thinking I am not good enough or entitled to enjoy the same travel experiences. With some people of color, there is sometimes a judgment or derision that I think I am better because I am experiencing certain travel opportunities. Race, nationality, and ethnicity are the realities of traveling while black. Here are my thoughts.
I define EbonyTravelers, as any traveler of color. As someone who has experienced the travel space professionally and personally, I am confident that travelers of color are identified primarily by their race. If someone were to ask me, I would say we are all one race, the human race. However, the reality is that at first sight, I am recognizably a part of what many define as the black race. That racial identity is a part of my reality when I travel because, in many countries, my race often defines me as a minority. Usually, I travel and go into quaint little stores in the tourist areas. Because of my race, I prepare myself to encounter issues from those who may not see me as simply a tourist. I am careful not to put my hands in my pockets or go into my purse, as someone may assume I have taken something. Unfortunately, this experience is a common one for many travelers of color.
With travel, race and nationality are two distinct constructs. Travel identification first comes from one’s passport, which automatically defines nationality. When traveling internationally, one’s identity is often determined by the passport one carries. I travel under an American passport, so my travel identification is based on that nationality. I’ve found that when I identify as an American, even though my black race is apparent, my travel experiences are more favorable.
Ethnicity and nationality are different constructs but sometimes just as important as race and nationality. Ethnicity is related to race and culture. I was born in Barbados, even though I travel under an American passport. The ethnicity of Barbados also includes race, but ethnicity does not seem to be a factor in travel as much as race and nationality. When I travel, it is not until I have conversations with people that my ethnicity is recognized, so I find that it does not often affect my black travel experience.
Regardless of race, nationality, or ethnicity, there is racism in the travel industry, and it affects the experiences of EbonyTravelers. There is often a need to produce more identification and a justification of reason for traveling than other travelers experience. Additionally, people of color are subject to more random searches and checks while traveling than non-blacks.
Despite the realities of traveling while black, I believe there is a need to show the experiences to black travelers more than ever. While there has been a surge in black travelers, there is still a lack of inclusion in mainstream travel advertising. As a result, many people of color are unaware of the many travel experiences they can experience. A more diverse travel perspective needs to be shared so more travelers of color can enjoy the travel experience. Travel makes us better, and the more black people are exposed to travel, the more race, nationality, and ethnicity mean less.