How to Be A Better Ally to Black People When You Travel

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Gabby Beckford

As global citizens and adventurers here is some simple advice on how every person, regardless of race, can be a Black ally during their travels.

The Black human experience has been brought to the forefront of most people’s minds because of recent weeks’ Black Lives Matter rallies. The movement has spread like wildfire from its origin in the United States to more than 50 countries peaceful protest, rally, and call for justice because Black life is not an American issue, it is a global movement.

As global citizens and adventurers here is some simple advice on how every person, regardless of race, can be a Black ally during their travels.

Do what’s right, whether it’s appreciated or not.

As a Black traveler, and especially as a Black solo female traveler, there are times abroad I believe I have to take extra measures for my safety than others. A simple Google search will expose you to stories of Black women traveling in Italy and being assumed to be prostitutes, or traveling through Asia and being gawked at, refused service, or otherwise discriminated against. It's not such a stretch to assume that a Black traveler would have their defenses up.

In spite of that, I think a true ally should extend help regardless. If you see a Black traveler on their own at a bar, offer them company. If you see a Black traveler at a hostel alone or at a street corner looking lost, go out of your way to show kindness to them especially. Like any other human, some will appreciate it and some won't, and that’s okay. Because being ally isn’t about being thanked, it’s about living by a moral compass.

Speak up if you see something racist happening, whether a Black person is specifically impacted or not

An essential aspect of being an ally of Black people is using one's privilege to defend them or deescalate situations for them. Especially when traveling, in a foreign country or city, Black people can be especially at risk. So if you see an act of discrimination or racism, get involved.

This doesn’t mean that you have to put yourself in harm's way, but show people that you notice and care. Stand and watch over the situation to make sure it doesn't escalate. Record on your phone, or approach the person and ask if you can help. Often in these racist scenarios, Black people are cornered, so there is strength in numbers when racist see that other non-Black people are not like them and will stand up for the Black traveler.

After the scenario above, I would also hope that an ally would make sure that I'm all right mentally. Racism in any scenario is traumatic and can affect a person’s psyche long term, let alone ruin their trip. Trying to help them stabilize their emotions after an incident can have long-term effects on their psyche.

Intentionally spend your money in diverse, inclusive spaces

if you're at a hotel and the clientele is completely white, it's likely that the establishment does not do much to attract a diverse range of clients. From their marketing, their customer service, to their services. Perhaps you should only consider giving your tourism dollars to Brands and companies that highly value diversity and inclusion in their clientele.

For example, Giraffe Manor in Nairobi Kenya is currently taking heat on Twitter for announcing that they “are open to local Kenyans”. Some Kenyans took offense to this and believe that they only made the statement because the coronavirus has halted much International tourism to the country, causing their business to struggle. You would think that African tours and hospitality would serve their local population the most.

However, centuries of colonialism and money from rich foreign tourists have caused some businesses to become white-centric in their clientele. Comments in the threads show Kenyans suggesting tourists visit other lodges with similar wildlife interactions such as a visit to Giraffe Manor to demonstrate solidarity using tourism dollars.

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Learn about Black history in the locations you visit.

Another important step for allies to take is to make learning about Black history in the destinations they visit a priority. What you'll find—especially in America—is that many destinations have darker histories than would normally be made known.

Whether involving the Transatlantic Slave Trade, slavery, murder indigenous peoples, internment camps, and other horrors of colonialization. By actively seeking out this history when we travel, we are able to keep the modern Black traveler’s mindset in perspective. The things that you may find simple and enjoyable might be built on Black trauma. By learning our true history you inherently have more context to understand us better.

Diversity in Travel Expert and Black Travel Expert Martinique Lewis has great, actionable steps for travelers ad travel brands to take to highlight the Black history and display allyship.

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Spend your money with Black-owned businesses.

And finally, the most direct way to be an ally to Black people when traveling is to directly support their businesses. By putting money into Black people's pockets, you allow them to have successful businesses, which means that they are able to flourish and become an established pillar of the community and have long-term security. Small shifts like trying to go on Black-owned history tours, staying at Black-owned accommodations, and eat at Black-owned restaurants in place of patronizing your standard chain businesses can go a long way.

And when you do buy their products or services and have a positive experience, take the time to leave a review! Especially in tourist destinations, online reviews can make or break a business.

These facts alone are not enough to offset the trauma and discomfort that Black people and Black travelers have to operate in a white-centric society on a daily basis. However, these actions and more when done long-term represent a true ally who is helping us to build a more fair and inclusive world.


Gabby Beckford is a Gen Z travel and lifestyle entrepreneur who runs the blog Packs Light.

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