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Anti-racism and Travel Series (Part 1): You and Anti-Racism

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The swell of Black Lives Matter protests around the world set off by George Floyd’s murder have also brought about an awakening, particularly among white folks. This awakening has led to personal reflections about white participation in racist structures, open discussions about race and racism with friends and family, and deep investigations of white Euro-centric standards that, for centuries, were (and continue to be) the perceived cultural default. 

We at Bébé Voyage are also engaging in this self-evaluationas an organization and among the individuals who make this operation run. We have posted about standing with the Black Lives Matter movement, but we also realized that to do that fully, we needed to make a strong commitment to action that centers on an antiracist approach. We did that on July 3rd to make those commitments public to help hold us accountable. You can read the full statement and commitment to action here.

This post is part of a three-part series that includes anti-racism resources we believe will be helpful for our community on the path to anti-racism.

About this Series 

One of our major commitments is to integrate anti-racism content into the editorial process for the blog. This three-part series is meant to be an overview and introduction that we believe our community will find useful as we all navigate to bring anti-racism into our lives. Our intent is to continue to post, and probably flesh out many of these themes, in later posts. This post will exist as a resource that will live alongside our Anti-Racism Commitment statement and will be updated continuously as we learn about more resources. It’s a long post, but it is meant to be returned to again and again.

To be clear, Bébé Voyage is not an expert on this topic. We are learning as we go along. While I have worked in social justice education for over a decade, I admit that as a white person, I’ve lived far too much of my life unaware of how I have helped to uphold racist structures. I have been doing the personal work for a few years, and like so many of us, I’m doing it imperfectly. I don’t always speak up when I should, I have moments of doubt, but I am also working to hold myself accountable. I am not an expert (and never will be), but I’ve found some amazing resources along the waywhich include a cadre of people also on the path to anti-racismto help guide me and hold me accountable to anti-racism work.

The two advisors on this post were essential in helping to create a solid resource list. Ratha Kelly brings her background in education and Brinda Shah brings personal experience and empathy. Both are mothers and women of color whose insights, reflections, and awareness around anti-racism helped bring this post to life.

Together, we drew upon the plethora of anti-racism content out there by the experts who are referenced frequently throughout this series. If there’s a topic that piques your interest, find the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) experts and listen to and learn from them. We provide resource links wherever possible as a starting point. Beyond those links is a world of information on every topic.

Additionally, each of these posts will include specific actions in relation to the topic. We want to emphasize that personal reflection is only valuable when it leads to tangible action. 

We encourage you to see this post as a starting point that will lead you to the resources and experts that push us to continue this work. But first, let’s dig into the term of anti-racism so we’re all on the same page.

 

Defining Anti-Racism

what is anti-racism?

In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.

Angela Y. Davis

Anti-racism isn’t a new concept. But it’s increasingly becoming part of mainstream vocabularythat is to say, white people are starting to embrace the term in ways they haven’t ever before. With that new awareness, we should also dive a bit deeper into what anti-racism means.

“What’s the difference [between non-racist and antiracist]?” Ibram X. Kendi asks in his book How to Be an Antiracist. “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.'” And he emphasizes this takes work and self-examination. “To be an antiracist is a radical choice,” he writes, “requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness.”

For travelers, especially those of us white travelers, this “radical reorientation” likely comes from how we view cultural exchange, how we understand the communities we visit, and how we understand our own race/whiteness in those environments. With this shift also comes a rejection of “colorblindness” on which so many of us Millennials were raised where we were taught that “we don’t see race” and that people of all races are the same. Rosa Perez-Isiah addresses why colorblindness is problematic in a 2019 Medium post, The Myth of Colorblindness

“Colorblindness oppresses people of color,” she writes, “When you fail to see color, you fail to acknowledge the current narrative, a system of injustice for many non-white people.” And, the narrative she writes of is an inherently racist one. 

As traveling parents who yearn to broaden our children’s perspective of the world, this antiracist approach is an opportunity for transformational learning. We can help create a generation of self-aware antiracists. We can show our children they can help make this world more equitable and just. 

Let the worldwide Black Lives Matter revolution be your motivation to begin and continue on this lifelong journey of not just building peace and love, but by building anti-racism education into your kids’ global education. 

Now that we’ve discussed what anti-racism is, here are some steps to start your own antiracist education journey.

 

Step One: Know The Real History

[White people] are trapped in a history which they do not understand and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.

James Baldwin, A Letter to My Nephew (1962)

The Black Lives Matter protests have also led to a larger discussion about what history is taught in schools. Or rather, what history we are not taught or how history was framed from the white, Euro-centric perspective. To counter this requires an unlearning, or as Ibram X. Kendi describes it, a “radical reorientation” of the racist histories and perspectives we’ve consistently been brought up on. 

Particularly relevant to us travelers, the white, Euro-centric perspective we’ve been raised on is, at its heart, a colonizer’s history of the world. And we must unlearn that perspective as well, especially for those of us who strive to create global-minded children. This process of unlearning the history we’ve been taught and re-investigating and re-learning history is often described as “decolonization.” 

“Decolonization engages with imperialism and colonialism at every level,” writes Erik Ritzkes, co-founder and former managing editor of the open-access journal Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, in this Intercontinental Cry article. “This entails an on the ground resistance to the corporate and national take overs of land, as well as the slow ‘CO2lonialism’ of toxic waste, oil spills, carbon markets, and pollution that threaten the land. This means ‘writing back’ against the ongoing colonialism and colonial mentalities that permeates education, media, government policies, and ‘common sense’.”

This concept of decolonization shows up in a lot of discussions around race and history. It will come up in this series as well. And in the context of this section, we advocate for “decolonizing our minds.” Which, as we’ve noted is a constant process of unlearning and relearning through education and reflection. It is a process of actively interrupting colonialist structures, mindsets, and policies that make up our systems today.

This isn’t just an American issue, of course. Colonialism occurred worldwide. Colonial mindsets, racism, and xenophobia are pervasive everywhere in the world. And we need to understand how this white Euro-centric perspective has whitewashed our history books around the world that helped create inequitable and oppressive environments. 

These resources provide a foundation to develop a clearer picture of history, a means to decolonize our minds. While many of these suggestions are U.S.-centric, we urge this community to look deeply into the true racial history where you live and where you have traveled. Because this is a global group, we’d love to know if you have similar recommendations for other regions. If you know of books or resources that tell stories of marginalized populations, please let us know so we can add them to this list.

The following books provide a look at the paternalistic relationship in global humanitarian work: 

These articles also offer great insight and context to the U.S. context.:

Step Two: Read and Listen to Black and Brown Stories

Because white stories often dominate the mainstream, read these memoirs and novels to understand race from the perspective of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors. 

For ongoing literary inspiration, follow Diverse Spines on Instagram and Bookshop, Books on the Subway, and The Stacks Pod to discover new books that explore stories of joy, hilarity, and drama from a wide variety of authors of color (also a quick Google search will also find an amazing list of recommendations from authors in every genre!).

 

Step Three: Bring Race into your Mainstream Viewing

Explore issues of race through movies, podcasts, television or streaming series. Here are some places to start to bring topics of race into your mainstream media consumption.

Listen to and watch these podcasts and films that explore topics of race:

In the spirit of celebrating all the work of people of color that aren’t specifically about race, here are some great shows and movies that are created by or are centered on people of color:

Follow these comedians of color, watch their stand-up specials, read their books, watch their movies and shows for their nuanced and funny approach to talking about race:

Step Four: Reflect and Understand Your/White Complicity in White Supremacy

While understanding history is an important place to start and continue the journey, one of the most important things a white person or white-adjacent person can do is identify and understand how they have helped to uphold white supremacy. We can do that through reflection and investigation of our own complicity in upholding racist structures.

We at Bébé Voyage are also integrating this reflection into our personal and work lives. We’ve realized both on a personal and organizational level that we’ve served to uphold systemic racism through overlooking BIPOC stories and exploring the distinct difference in experiences (both the challenging and the joyful experiences) travelers of color face. So we are on this reflection and unlearning journey along with you. And we are also advocating that this reflection doesn’t stay in your head or with a small group of people. For your personal work to mean something, it must translate into actions (which we’ll touch on later).

The way Bébé Voyage is working to ensure our internal reflections turn into actions, and that we hold ourselves accountable to them, is by creating, publishing, and widely circulating an anti-racism commitment with the goal of integrating anti-racism practices into everything we do at the organizational level. 

It is with the spirit that these ideas will turn into action that we recommend the following materials as excellent starting points for reflection. 

  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin: This is a seminal 1968 book on race and racism in America consisting of two essays he wrote about racism in America in the 1960s. Anyone doing anti-racism work will benefit from investigating how so much of his assessment of American racism exists today, albeit in different forms.
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: This book is an excellent guide that provides both a foundation in definitions and terms around anti-racism and guidance for actions to take to help overturn racist structures. 
  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad: This is a 28-day challenge to reflect on your own complicity in white supremacy. If you want to take your learning to the next level, this book provides an important structure for that. 
  • Scaffolded Anti-Racism Resources: This working document provides a self-guided syllabus, of sorts, to dive into the stages of white identity. It’s an organized outline of what resources are already out there to explore your privilege and then to take action.
  • So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo: Oluo provides insights and guidance on how to have those open, uncomfortable, and essential conversations about race with family, friends, and the larger community. 
  • White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism by Robin DiAngelo: Something important to point out is that DiAngelo is white. While learning about being a white ally and breaking through white fragility is essential to identify how you’ve absorbed racist ideas, we recommend starting with books written by authors of color. This book, however, is very helpful to reflect and see white allyship modeled, but centering Black and Brown stories should be the first priority.

To bring reflection and Black voices into your everyday life, follow these activists and educators for consistent reminders of the need to do your work. 

Additionally, there are BIPOC voices in every field, so go beyond the accounts above and find those people in your work world, your hobbies, and your general spheres of influence. We also emphasize that if you follow these BIPOC influencers, activists, and creators in the social media sphere, consider contributing financially to the work they are doing (their websites have info on how to support). White folks should be careful not to benefit from the labor of Black and brown people without investing financially. 

 

Step Five: Take Action

Friendly Reminder: Anti-racism work is NOT a self improvement space for white people. If protecting bodies & empowering Black lives aren’t at the center of your work then you’re not here for Black peopleyou’re simply going through the motions to make your white self feel better.

Rachel Cargle, anti-racism activist and educator

As the Rachel Cargle quote touches on, the unlearning and reflection only means something when we take action. Educating yourself and your kids is merely the starting point. But anti-racism requires doing something with our privilege. This might look different for everyone and it will likely come out of the ongoing reflection work you’re doing.

For Bébé Voyage, this action is currently focused on identifying ways to incorporate anti-racism throughout the entire organization (as fleshed out in these commitments). 

Here are some suggestions on how to take action:

    • Support Black businesses in your community and beyond. Thanks to the global Black Lives Matter movement, many publications have made this easy for you in recent weeks by putting together lists of businesses to support both at the national/international and local levels. It’s not just about your support in the moment, make a habit of supporting Black/BIPOC businesses in an ongoing way. Using your buying power is a small, but important form of participating in reparations.
    • Use your voice to speak up about white supremacy and racism. This extends to calling out your places of work, your colleagues, your friends, and especially your family members. Don’t just let racist statements or actions slide, don’t let white silence slide, have conversations with the people around you and be a resource. There are great resources out there for guidance on how to have these conversations including the following: 
    • Support and follow Black-led organizations in their advocacy and political work. These organizations have been doing the work all along, so support them by donating money and giving your political support. Listen and read about the policies for which they advocate and get engaged in their political and advocacy work.
    • Commit to continuously doing and staying accountable to the work. This isn’t a one-time thing. This is lifelong work. White folks have the privilege to dip in and out, and often we need others to help hold us accountable. Find that person/those people to hold you accountable and keep you moving forward. 
    • Know your place. It’s important to emphasize that as a white or white-adjacent person, you should follow the lead of BIPOC leaders. Listen, take instruction from those whose lives are at stake, accept critique and learn from it, do your own research rather than relying on BIPOC to explain systemic racism and how it impacts them, and continue to learn and act. We understand the instructions can seem contradictory, but, it is through a constant learning process that we’ll all figure it out.

Step Six: Don’t Get Overwhelmed

our community is committed to the conversation of anti-racism

We realize this list of articles and materials is long and overwhelming. Start with what makes sense for you. Here are some suggestions on how to use this list and start your self-education:

  • Start with one resource or action item from each of the steps above and go from there. 
  • When choosing resources, begin with your personal experience. Think about where you live, where you have lived or traveled, what your work is, your hobbies, your passions, and how you consume information. Then choose the resources that best relate to those. If there’s a region or topic that isn’t mentioned above, do your research and find those resources.
  • Always include self-reflection. This is, perhaps, the most challenging part of all of this. It helps to find ways to reflect on and critique how you have been a part of holding up systems of oppression and white supremacy. 
  • Reflection is the starting point. For your reflection and unlearning to mean something, you must take action. But remember this is a lifelong process, so pace yourself. 

We need to emphasize that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re in this for the long haul and regardless of where or how we’ve come into this work, it’s not too late. In the case of Bébé Voyage, creating our Anti-racism Commitment was just us crossing the starting line. The work comes when we are running the race.

To continue with the running metaphor, we’ll leave you with this recent Facebook post from BBV Admin and advisor for this article, Ratha Kelly in May 2020:

Today, I joined the I #runwithmaud movement, to show solidarity for #ahmaudarbery. It was easy for me to do as I had already planned to run 25 minutes today, as a part of my #mileadaymay challenge. Doing the run has already been part of my life. Some days are challenging. I slow down, I stop. Some days are easy and I breeze through. But I put in the work each day and every day to run and continue with this challenge. 

I have to be honest. I had lots of feelings today about this that I thought about during my run. I had feelings of joy seeing so many people share their runs. Then I had feelings of anger- wait, I have never seen these people speak up about racial injustice before. Why now?! So I leave you with this. 

If you are one of those people who are now just realizing the systemic racism that Black and Brown bodies face daily, it’s better late than never. Put in the work today and EVERY DAY so that when another incident happens, you’re ready to run because you’ve already been training all along.

 

Both Brinda Shah and Ratha Kelly were instrumental in helping to develop this resource list. They brought insight, wisdom, and many resources.

You can read Parts 2 & 3 of our anti-racism series here: “Your Kids and Anti-racism” and “Travel and Anti-racism.” These posts will continue to be updated as we find more resources and dive even deeper into the topic.

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