Are Passport Stamps the New Paper Bag Test?

Are Passport Stamps the New Paper Bag Test?

When it comes to world traveling, one globetrotter warns the Black community against the divisive snobbery of wanderlust

by Tracey Coleman, February 2, 2015

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Are Passport Stamps the New Paper Bag Test?

From Thailand to Iceland and every land in between, beautiful brown travelers are introducing Black America to the world, defying the shallow stereotypes of reality TV, and painting a more positive picture of our rich culture. Full of energy and optimism, these globetrotters are using the power of social media to prove that, contrary to popular belief, we are not a monolithic minority who only vacation on South Beach.

But one look at the Travel Noire Instagram account could have you all up in your feelings, wondering why you’re not on a camel in some desert you can’t pronounce. And the Nomadness Travel Tribe has created a community of voices so on fire for travel that mass media has finally started to pay attention, slowly adding a more colorful perspective to their travel stories.

In a culture where travel within our own borders was once a struggle, the Black travel movement has become a portrait of progress for previous generations. As a child, my mom would fry up a month’s worth of fried chicken for our road trips from South Carolina to New York City, and for years I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just stop along the way. I realized when I got older that on those road trips, stopping along the way in the Jim Crow south wasn’t an option, and packing all the food our family needed for 14 hours was a habit she’d learned from my grandmother.

So today, when we post that selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower or at the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, we make a statement far more powerful than the photo caption. Our collective journey has been a long one, and those photos are badges of pride that carry more weight than we realize.

But just when this thing was getting good, here come your cousins. You know the ones that start acting all brand new when they Columbus something you didn’t know about. Now that Calvin got a job and a few passport stamps, he and his crew suddenly have that classic Kanye “you ain’t up on this” attitude, taking to social media to question every dollar in your wallet not dedicated to a vacation.

While these special friends of ours are on the extreme end of the travel bragging spectrum, it’s pretty easy to start feeling yourself once you’re exposed to the awesomeness outside the USA. We’ve all been there. You come back from an amazing trip and every dollar you spent making memories abroad feels so much more valuable than the money you somehow blow at Target every month. It’s easy to start turning your nose up at folks who spend their money differently.

But the minute we use our passport stamps to define ourselves as better than the next crab in our own barrel, we’ve allowed the system to win once again. It’s similar to the colorism used to separate us by skin tone, and it’s perpetuated as we continue to divide ourselves using everything from the fraternity/sorority letters we choose in college to the texture of our natural hair. There’s a very long list of boxes we check to differentiate ourselves from each other. But in a time when we’re facing what feels like war against our community, the last thing we need is to be is divided.

Travel is absolutely exhilarating. When you arrive in a new country, there’s a rush of adrenaline the minute you step outside of the airport and into some new culture. Understandably, the first thing you want to do is share that feeling! But our photos and posts should be used to educate and inspire those watching us back home, not distance ourselves with boasting or shaming. Showing people the richness of an Africa that still isn’t taught about in schools, pooling resources to help people unable to finance a trip… there are so many positive ways we can use travel to bring our community closer together.

Let’s use the energy of this movement to bring those less traveled on a joyride around the globe, and become a united voice that forces the industry to include us in their marketing. We can continue to introduce others to our wanderlust while understanding that passions outside of travel are just as important.

There are enough things already dividing Black people. A passport stamp shouldn’t be one of them.

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