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September 11, 2020
There are no words that can fully express how wrong and unjust the deep-rooted systemic racism is in this country. Racism is an issue I’ve always been aware of–especially being Latina myself–but in the past, I’ve always reserved my platforms for light, airy happiness. I looked at my blog as an escape from reality and while we do need that from time to time, we are in the middle of a revolution. For the first time in my life, it looks like we’re starting to see some change. It’s nowhere near enough, but progress is progress and it just means we keep fighting.
I want to share a story with you from my own personal experience with racism as a bystander. In 2018, I was on my way down to Florida for my yearly trip to visit my best friend’s family for my goddaughter’s birthday. We were boarding the plane in Atlanta and the woman in front of me (white, 60s) had 3 bags: her carry on, her personal item, and a crossbody bag. As we all know, you’re only allowed to have 2 bags with you when you board a plane. The gate agent (Black, 30s, female) politely reminded her to consolidate the two bags before boarding the plane. You’d think this white woman was just told she’s banned from Delta for life. She was PISSED. She could not believe someone had the audacity to remind her to follow the rules. As she huffed and puffed down the jetway, she continued to make remarks out loud about how appalled she was. Finally, when we got to the plane and a line began to pile up, this woman said out loud, “she was just trying to get back at me for slavery!” You read that right. This woman believed that because a gate agent was doing her job and politely asked her to consolidate her carry-on bags, that she was trying to get revenge on white people????? I was in shock. Completely at a loss for words. All I could do was give her the nastiest look I could possibly contort on my face. And it still haunts me to this day. I will never forget that horrible racist interaction and the fact that I didn’t speak up. I didn’t call her out on her disgusting behavior. And by not saying anything, I was condoning it. Ever since that moment, I’ve had my replies ready. I will not be shocked into silence ever again.
My hope is that this story will help you see that not only is racism a part of our past–our country’s foundation was built on racism after all–but it’s still very much alive and well today. Racism exists in so many forms, from blatant murder and police brutality, to modern-day slavery in the prison system, to hateful comments, and ignorant jokes. Being silent encourages this racism to continue every day. The only way to see change is to be the change. If I were to witness that same racist comment today, I’d ask that woman why she thought that someone doing their job was an act of revenge on her. I’d point out that following a simple safety rule is no comparison to hundreds of years of torture, murder, rape, and forced enslavement. I’d so adamantly express my disapproval and disappointment in a grown woman uttering those words that it would be her who couldn’t forget the encounter instead of me.
I was a part of the problem that day and it’s something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. But I can say that I learned from that experience and grew as a person. I learned that words have power. I learned that it is always my place to speak up. And I learned that it’s important for all of us to recognize our mistakes and be honest with ourselves about our contribution to racism in our society. No one’s perfect. This is something we all need to work on continuously every single day.
Take a look at your inner circle. Are you friends with people of all races and nationalities? Having a diverse group of friends can open your eyes to the experiences of real people that you care about. What kind of shows do you watch? Are any of your favorites comprised of casts that include Black people? What about the books you read? Are there any Black authors in your collection or books with Black main characters? These mediums can help you see the world from someone else’s perspective. The first step is to look within at your own bias and surround yourself with diversity. Admit your faults and work to fix them.
As we all know, my usual content centers around travel. I’ve always been open about my favorite part of traveling: experiencing the different cultures and meeting people from all over the globe. I’m beginning to realize that without that need being fulfilled, I’ve been left feeling incomplete. I’ve decided that for me, the best way to replace travel is advocacy. Travel was always a way for me to experience something meaningful and bigger than me and I believe that’s something advocacy can do. So from now on, while I will continue to be a resource for all things travel, I will also be speaking up more about the things I believe in. (Up next: some resources for race education and organizations you can donate to. In the meantime, check out my Instagram highlights!) I’ll also be more selective about the brands I support, though that is something I have always prided myself in. And I’ll work to make a difference here at home instead of simply being embarrassed to say I’m American when traveling abroad. I hope you’ll do the same.
When was a time you experienced racism in America?
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Photos by Ryan Carpenter.