Should racists travel?
I’ve often asked myself this question. On the one hand, travel will broaden your horizons, introduce you to new cultures and make you question stereotypes, habits and norms. However, that is only the case, if you’re open to it.
On the other hand, racism can travel with you and make you laugh at uncommon and therefore supposedly weird food, at people’s apparel and habits. It can lead to being upset about dress codes and codes of nonverbal communication. You develop expectations since you are the guest and want to be treated accordingly, on your own culture’s terms. Your views might be challenged daily and you might not like it.
If travel would lead to automatically enlightenment and tolerance, we wouldn’t have a certain bigot and hate spreader on all news channels.
So if racists distrust other cultures so much and want to literally build borders, disallow immigration and get rid of religious and cultural diversity, then they shouldn’t even have a thing for travel. No wanderlust in their vocabulary because that requires taking a step into the unknown and being open to it.
That would be a logical presupposition, don’t you think? Likewise, if you despise foreign, you wouldn’t want to go anywhere that is foreign. After all, you might find out that you suddenly are the foreigner people think is odd.
If you are scared of other cultures and immediately distrust people based on their skin colour – not on the fact where they were raised or what values they share with you –, then you must inadvertently hate travel. Travel allows you to cross borders into ‘other’ territory. Travel allows ‘the others’ to come into your space. Travel should not go well with racism.
And I get it. Different can be scary. It’s hard to understand a culture if you don’t know much about it. If you haven’t met people from that culture. If you haven’t even been to said culture. They challenge your way of thinking, the way you’ve been brought up to behave, to differentiate wrong from right, to priories. Your parents have taught you table manners just like their parents taught them table manners.
But abroad suddenly, there are people who do not do any of that. They slurp noisily, they refuse to speak English with you, they use gestures you find offensive, give presents that are confusing. You can’t relate to their way of life.
It’s scary. But what about the other side? What about the people you find strange? What do they think coming to your country, where everyone is white, where people get shot for having the ‘wrong’ skin color. Where people get paid less for having two X chromosomes. Where people don’t want to get to know you because you must be ‘loud’, ‘gangster’, ‘nerdy’ or ‘criminal’ based on your biological looks. How would that be like?
In history class, I was taught how the USA is a big melting pot, how all kinds of cultures and ethnicities are living side by side. If I think about it, it’s more like a twisted game of musical chairs. Everyone is always on the edge of their seat, suspiciously eyeing the others in fear of their seat being taken away and once the media and hate propaganda tunes in, someone gets pushed out and the tension increases.
So you have two options: either you block out everyone and sit on your little chair like a disgruntled king, never moving for fear of being overtaken. Or, you turn off the music and pull the chairs together, to see the world as it truly is: a place we all live in.