Racism in Travel

Racism in Travel

When I first penned a blog post on the racial realizations outlined in this chapter, I was concerned about how it would be received. Writing on race is a sure-fire way to piss off just about everyone, not to mention if I fail to accurately convey the heart of my message in just the right way, I stand a good chance at coming across as a complete asshole. Still, I think it’s worth including here because I think the realizations, fears, and issues that I’ll run through in this chapter are very real and the issues are ones that many of you may also secretly share and be curious about.

There’s a very famous quote, generally attributed to Mark Twain that states, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Travel long enough and you’ll run into this quote, often in abbreviated form, found plastered across guide blogs, blogs, and articles dedicated to travel.

Racism in Travel Photo Gallery

It embodies the beauty of travel. It also conveys some of the power of travel.

As a veteran traveler, a lot of my prejudices and biases were eroded away a long time ago. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that focused heavily on education while striving to teach a message of respect, inclusion, and evaluation based on individual merits not race or ethnic origin.

Still, as I prepared for my first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa a continent I had never before set foot upon or, to be candid, had a strong desire to visit I was nervous and forced to admit privately, if not publicly, that I was unsure of what to expect.

I had a number of what I knew to be childish fears about simple things…dealing with my lactose intolerance, accepting local’s hospitality, squat toilets, a light case of hypochondria and underneath it all, a decent chunk of racially-oriented anxiety. Current events across Europe and the U.S. right now make it clear that race is as important a subject as ever, so, it’s something that we, as individuals, have to at least seek to better understand.

One note: I refer to Africans in a general sense throughout this section. This is done to keep things brief despite the issues with such usage stemming from the common but erroneous tendency to assume some sort of homogeneous entity or identity throughout Africa. I fully realize that Africa is incredibly diverse and that it is truly massive with vastly different cultural groups populating each nation. For this chapter, I’m largely focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa and more specifically my experiences in Zambia. However, because I think that similarly powerful experiences and realizations can be had across the majority of Africa’s Sub-Saharan countries and because you, as my readers, are more likely to visit a wide range of countries across Africa, I don’t want to limit this chapter explicitly to Zambia, Tanzania, and Botswana where I have traveled.

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