How white privilege exists in travel

6 Sep

Race, gender, and ethnic issues are a tricky topic. They enflame internet trolls, they are used by politicians to divide people on issues, and they are issues where even well-intentioned privileged people can give the completely wrong impression to less privileged people.

For a white male traveler, privilege is a difficult thing to confront. We like to think that anyone can travel if they want, and that the world is perfectly open to you, as long as you aren’t hung up on how the US media portrays other nations. We write pretentious blog posts that emphasize how there’s a common humanity in all of us (a major pet peeve of mine), without stopping to think about how our way of life is, to some degree, dependent on our privileges.

Because I am a white traveler, I wanted to write some examples of how white privilege manifests itself in travel:

  • I am more likely to come from a family that can afford travel
  • I can walk around in a western or Eastern European city knowing that people are not going to be violent to me simply because of my race
  • I can go to a country where nonwhites are the majority, knowing that I will be a respected, privileged guest who locals are interested in getting to know
  • My passion for travel is not assumed to be “special and unusual” simply due to my race.
  • My way of speech and accent is considered “proper english”, the standard to which nonwhites’ english speaking ability is measured up to.
  • I can go through the US customs and immigration line without being suspected of being a terrorist

There are countless other examples too. But my point is, white male travelers need to realize that they are privileged, and when they see travelers of other races being treated badly, they need to do something about it and speak out, not just post on Facebook about what happened.

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