2024 Conference
All Conferences
TSVC | Tourism Students Virtual Conference

Racism and Tourism Experiences of the Black Community

Racism and Tourism Experiences of the Black Community
Author: Maria Dominguez Musso
0 Commentries
This paper aims to identify the influence of slavery and early biological theories about racism on the travel experiences faced by the black community in the twenty-first century. It also sets the 9/11 incident as a critical factor that generated and fed the idea that the Western society has to fear ‘the Others’. Further, some travel experiences will be discussed, as well as the main initiatives created to deal with racial discrimination in the tourism industry.

Key words
Racism, Tourism, Freedom of movement, Ethnic minorities, Initiatives

From the first half of the fifteenth century, the symbolic difference between blackness and whiteness was established in society; the first one meant evil and death, whilst the second one was associated with goodness and purity (Fredrickson, 2015, 26).

In the beginnings, the justification for the inferiority of these minorities was based on the idea that Africans were not-Christians, and when white people (Christians) purchased and enslaved them, they did it with the moral excuse of ‘saving their souls through contact with believers’. But not only this religious factor helped in making slavery a ‘logical’ thing to do, it was also the skin colour that made the process of putting people under tortious acts psychologically easier for the perpetrator (Fredrickson, 2015, 30). Nevertheless, there was also the contrasting idea that Africans did not have souls and they existed merely to serve Christians (Tickell, 2007).

After the third voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1498, people understood that one could stay on the same latitude and see people of opposite skin colours, and therefore, another explanation rather than geography had to exist for skin colour. This triggered new biological theories, that lated on led to racist theories. But not until the first half of the twentieth century did theories about race and racism began, first in the United States, discussing the influence of poverty and slavery on racial discrimination (Tickell, 2007).

Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes two articles that expressly establish the freedom of movement, residence, rest and leisure for everyone (United Nations, 2015, 28/50), this does not necessarily translate to reality, since there are certain groups that are far from having the same travel experiences as the ‘privileged’ ones, or do not even have the possibilities to travel under any circumstances, just because of things like race, ethnicity, nationality or gender. According to Dominique Moisi, it is possible that this need to marginalize the different ones comes from the intensification of the fear over ‘the Others’ after the 9/11 incident (Miller and Torabian, 2016).

People from the black community all over the world suffer from racial discrimination, violence and even murder, and a lot of times the verdicts are not fair for the victims and their families. Black travellers can suffer from this in Argentina, Greece, India, Spain and in many other countries.

Happily, an extensive number of purposeful initiatives, groups and platforms has come up with the objective of helping the black community travel freely, safely and enjoy their travel experiences as much as they possibly can. Some examples are the Black Travel Movement, a community of almost four hundred members that travel and cultivate life-lasting relationships, with the goal of changing the global perception of blackness (Cummings, 2019). Also Travel Noire, which is a digital media company that helps to discover, plan and experience the world, and has the goal to make international travel more inclusive and representative for explorers of colour (Ugochukwu, 2019). Tourism RESET is a research and outreach initiative that aims to identify and study influences of race, ethnicity and social equity in tourism, and believe that this industry can be a strong tool for racial reconciliation and empowerment. They encourage scholars studying these areas to collaborate with conferences, joint projects and publications (Benjamin, 2019). Noirbnb came after the founder and a lot of his friends came together to share their experiences of racial discrimination all over the world, and decided to conceptualize and idea that would make the home-sharing experience not only better, but safer for the black traveller (Grant, 2017). Some travel bloggers such as SomtoSeeks often share their experiences of racial discrimination on their websites, with the goal to beware future travellers about the possible encounters (Sugwueze, 2018).

It cannot be denied that the tourism movement can be a tool to promote ethnic acceptance and inclusion and combat cultural differences and discrimination, but it has been a difficult task, also because when the state takes interest in this industry, it is often with not only economic, but also political and ideological perspectives (Feighery, 2011). The main issues negatively affecting the ethnic minorities’ attempts to travel are the national concerns over illegal entry, the importation of illegal drugs, their representation as dangerous groups generated by the media, public opinion and popular perceptions and the 9/11 incident named before.

Fredrickson, G. (2000) Racism: A short history. Princeton, NJ: University Press.

Miller, M. C. and Torabian, P. (2016) Freedom of movement for all? Unpacking racialized travel experiences. Current Issues in Tourism, 20(9) 931-945. Available from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13683500.2016.1273882?needAccess=true [accessed 7 May 2019].

Stephenson, M. L. (2006) Travel and the ‘Freedom of Movement’: Racialised Encounters and Experiences Amongst Ethnic Minority Tourists in the EU. Mobilities, 1(2) 285-306. Available from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17450100600726662 [accessed 13 May 2019].