Traveling while brown through Trump’s America: Tips, advice, and words of empowerment
At the posting of this blog, it is day two post-elections. The country is more divided than ever and emotions are raw. But I know many of my readers, as well as many of my peers, on both sides, are already tired of hearing all the chatter and want the lot of us to just move on and get over it. But before I get back to business as usual, I will share some tips on how my community and peers can start to take care of themselves, because I know there are many of us out there living scared now and I am not going to pretend you don’t matter.
Now, I have seen the comments, mostly from Trump supporters, claiming that our fears are irrational and that we are really just doing this to ourselves. That whatever concerns we may have about race in America and how that might impact our every day lives and even our travel experiences are no less different, and in essence, no worse than they were before the election.
I will admit that being of color, and Latino (or Muslim, or any other non-white race or ethnicity), and woman, and a member in the LGTBQ community has not been easy. Before the elections, members of our black and Latino community were being killed by police almost daily. Protests, both online and off, exclaiming the value and worth in our country of blacks, Latinos, women, and LGTBQ friends and families were still being fought for.
There was anger before, as well as sadness and much, much work to be done. But, there was also hope. We had hope in our leaders, even though we didn’t agree with them on everything, we believed that when push came to shove most of them, a lot more of them than not, were going to do what was right for all of us.
Most importantly, we had hope in our country. In our neighbors, in our co-workers, in the people with whom we share this great country. For the most part, though we knew there were people out there who didn’t accept us for who we were, who we loved, what we looked like, where we came from, what we believed in, how we prayed, and the choices we made for our families and our bodies, we wanted to believe that there were more people out there who did, and we believed that they would come out in numbers when we needed them to the most.
Popular vote numbers show that there are more people who are the kinds of people we hoped for than not, but our electoral system didn’t take them into account and what has resulted in this has been the empowerment of the people who we fear the most, the ones who stand against us, not just politically, but ideologically and worse yet, personally.
Now, we can go on and on about this and disagree, but this is my truth and the truth of many, many others. That you don’t agree or like it doesn’t make it any less so.
To date, only day 2 post-election, an entire segment of the population in this country is living in fear, whether it be for the color of their skin, their beliefs, their lifestyle, their health status and needs, and more. And this fear also affects how and where we choose to travel and move around this world.
As travelers and consumers we have a lot of power
Just before the election, Aaron Mair, a top environmental leader, who is black, and another friend of color were photographing the landscape in the Adirondacks before they came face to face with a group of white locals who spewed out racial epithets at them for no reason other than that they disagreed with them on a conversation topic. Mr. Mair had recently spoken at a conference organized by the Adirondack Diversity Council, of which I am a board member. Even with that incident, and others before it, I and others like me, were committed to causing change and pushing the region to become more welcoming and more inclusive. This is a region that is trying to overcome its racist past, and is struggling to stay afloat economically and seeks the financial rewards of tourism to save its dwindling population to survive. I won’t say that our work is over, but this massive task seems to be even harder to reach. As a traveler, I think about those men and how empowered they are now in their beliefs and this is something that would impact my and others’ decision of traveling there. In other words, their racism is like a bullet to their own foot.
A few years ago, I had a man yell at me as I walked through the streets of Memphis because I was with my white husband. I looked past that incident, and still wrote what a fun experience it was to visit this new city. I gave that city and its people the benefit of the doubt. Today, I am not sure how I would write that story. Not sure how others will either from now on.
We don’t have to travel far either. One women had her hijab ripped from her head while visiting a local Walmart. Another black woman was crossing the street to her car when a truck filled with white men slowed down to call her a N and tell her Trump was sending her back to Africa. Countless Muslim, Latino, and other immigrant children are being taunted and bullied at their schools. The ugly underbelly of our society has been embolden and we don’t know where to escape it.
I spoke about how I felt passing by the confederate flags while driving through PA on a hiking trip with my kids. I will not be traveling there alone again. I was also uncomfortable while traveling through rural Virginia while visiting Shenandoah National Park, and had I not been with my white sister-in-law in rural Texas, I would never have considered visiting either. These are all places that need us, the consumer, the traveler, but have, in many ways taken it for granted.
The truth is these are dangerous times and though I am not advocating that we shelter ourselves in our homes and become hermits, nor do I suggest never traveling again because of fear, I do want to be real with you and tell you to be safe, research heavily the destinations before you visit, and most of all, use the power of your dollar to fight against intolerance and hate. Do not support brands and businesses that have aligned themselves with bigotry and hate. Do not endorse or promote destinations whose leaders stand to oppresses members of their communities or visitors whom they consider an offense to their sensibilities. As travelers and citizens of the world we have a choice and we have the financial strength and economic power to make a difference. Do your research, more now than ever, and choose wisely. Because you have a choice.
Get on the path to self-healing
As any member of any group in fear for their lives. What can we do?
I am a fighter and I am vocal and I hate, more than anything, to be afraid and be bullied. In my head, I see myself kicking and screaming and punching my way past all this hate and bigotry. Anyone who has already encountered my wrath on social media over this knows I am a force to be reckoned with.
But I am also a mother, and a wife and being safe is not just a concern for me, but also for them. Self care has become a top priority.
What I have found to be immediately soothing is focusing on home. Looking past the fog and seeing my family, my husband, my children. There is so much love right here. We are a biracial family, we are children of immigrants, we are supporters and deeply love our LGTBQ family members and friends. We are not religious, but embrace the beauty that can exist in faith groups, from Christian to Muslim. We care about our environment and live a life where taking care of it is a part of it. We came from so little, and now that we have so much, giving to those in need has always been a priority for us. My children, my family represents the country we want to live in. They give me hope for our future.
If you are fortunate enough to live in a diverse and accepting community, step out into it. If you are not, find your people and reach out to them.
I went to the doctor’s office yesterday. She is a middle-aged Jewish woman whose concern for my weight and overall health is annoying in the same way it is when my mother fusses over me. I was there to remove some stitches I had from a cut to my arm. We spoke about the election, our hearts heavy with sadness. But we also came together, not as patient and doctor, but as two women, mothers, citizen of this country and we bonded in a way we both found so necessary. I smile a bit wider at the Indian guy who serves my coffee, and at the Latina lady who rings up my grocery, and at the black neighbor who I always see walking his dog. I am more patient with the young mother pushing her baby in the stroller, whose rights as a woman are so endangered right now. What I realized in just a few hours outside was that as angry and scared and hurt as I feel, I have a tremendous amount of love and comfort I want to give others too. That gave me hope for me.
As Thanksgiving approaches more of us are dreading the gathering with family members who happily contributed to the current state that we are in. For some of you these are especially hard times. Find a life line to help get you through it; whether they are friends, other family members, online or off. You don’t have to go through it alone.
You move on when ever the hell you want
Don’t let anyone hurry you through your emotions or try to shame you for feeling so deeply saddened. I have had a lot of both Liberal and Conservative folks tell me to get on with it, but I am not their problem. Their problem is the inconvenience and discomfort my conversations on this, as a woman of color and a Latina, brings them. They feel defensive and protective of their beliefs and of their privilege. Many of the things that I have to fear are not things they will ever have to worry about. For many of them, nothing changes. For some of them the most hurt they will feel is to their ego that their candidate lost. These are things they have to work out – or not. But telling you, or me, or anyone to hurry along with the processing of what has just happened is not within their rights. So you go ahead and take all the time you need.
Lastly, use your anger and fear to force change
Incredibly enough the percentage of woman of color who voted against bigotry and hate was high. Latinos came out in massive numbers. But we weren’t enough. We were let down. But there is so much we can do still. Find out what your community is doing to help heal and care for each other. Get involved in local charities that work to protect the rights of those communities most endangered. Don’t shut up. Keep using your voice, your influence, and your rights to advocate for the rights and freedoms of others and for the protection of our environment and civil liberties.
Most importantly, listen. Midterm Elections will take place in 2018. Take names and kick out those who are failing us all.
Our country was built on democracy, and the people have spoken, and I am sad to say that the message was one of exclusion, hate, and bigotry. We are a nation where diversity is continuously growing, where women’s rights are gaining strength, and where who you love is none of our business. These same groups are the growing economic powers of our nation. There is no going back. Let’s put our power to work, in our every day lives and in how and where we choose to travel. Because we all deserve to feel safe and protected where ever we go.