Through our scientific genius we made of the world a neighborhood, but we failed through moral commitment to make of it a brotherhood.” Martin Luther King, Jr.”
The first thing I would like to write is, “Thank you.”
Thank you for taking the time to come to this website and take a few minutes to read something from my heart. Today I have decided to talk to you about the importance of diversity in your life. To exclude it to travel is too simple. You can’t immerse yourself in a culture for two weeks then go back to 50 weeks on the set of ‘Friends.’
We are a weak species, humans. With the ability to feed everyone, fill buildings with clothing, build homes over 100 stories high, and cure thousands of ailments; we still allow millions to starve, go shoeless and wear tattered clothes, sleep out in the cold, and battle over who can afford to get sick. We also made decisions thousands of years ago to separate ourselves based on skin color, who we pray to, the sex we were born in, and the family name we were born to. We failed long ago. Yet, for all our failings, we are aware that we are capable of greatness. Pick up a book, magazine, or newspaper published 100 years ago and look how far we have come. Why then, are we so far apart?
The age of six is when I first recall finding out I was black. Up until then, sure I looked at myself in the mirror and knew my hair, eyes, lips, and skin color were not the same, but I did not know there was a difference. My school age crush was Julie McKinley. Blonde, blue-eyed, best missing tooth smile in all of Oakhurst Country Day. I was in love with Julie. At every birthday of mine since I was three, Julie was seated next to me. The year of grade one, Julie’s single mom had met a guy and they were getting married and moving to Princeton. I was heartbroken. First time in my life I would know the pain of someone going away. At the end of the school year, Julie had a going away party; at some point during the party, and I can still remember his face, and man my parents age said to me, “Black boys and white girls aren’t suppose to hold hands.” That’s the day I learned I was different.
When my family moved to Columbus, Ohio, it was the first time I was confronted with choosing which table to sit at lunch. I didn’t know kids made those choices. At Oakhurst we didn’t separate into Black, White, Jewish, or Puerto Rican lunch tables, then go back a mixed classroom. Sit at the white table and the black kids will call me an ‘Oreo.’ Sit at the black table and my white neighbors might think I’m embarrassed to hang with them. Ultimately I went through middle and high school cafeteria life sitting alone. I never had a clique nor wanted to be defined by who I sat with. More than a decade after, when I started getting interested in travel and blogging, I was confronted with the cafeteria tables again.
“If you want to win hearts and minds, you have to lead with your heart as well as your mind.” -Sheryl Sandberg
I took a lot of criticism for my decision to eat alone rather decide which tables to sit at. In the past two days at the time of writing this, I’ve taken criticism for my questions posed on Instagram and a blogger’s post in regards to the conversation we are having about diversity in travel. As you look closer at who brands align with, who the influencers follow, who gets invited to YouTube travel vlogger meet ups, who wins ‘Tag Three Friends and Win A Cruise” contests, and so on, you’ll see a theme. Some saw this theme and decided to get their Robert Johnson (Founder of BET) on and create niche groups like Travel Noire. Once we created our own table in the cafeteria, although great to have, we allowed those at the other tables to say, “Well they have their own table now, we don’t have to worry about inviting them to ours.” Here I am looking at both tables and trying to explain to each, “We study in the same classrooms. If we can share knowledge, surely we can share bread. Equally.”
I decline to accept that I am different. I’ve declined to accept since the day when I was six years old and my parents explained why that man said what he did. It is easy to accept that I and others like me will never get a seat at their table; and if we do, we’ll have to accept less food to sit there. I refuse to accept this. It is easy to say, “They aren’t to blame,” as some have. I cannot accept this. You are to blame if you can travel this world and accept that everyone at your table looks like you, despite all of the unique cultures you’ve come to meet. I will not accept this. I may not benefit from my fight for equality in this medium. I accept that. I have been given a gift to lift hearts, minds, and souls with words. This voice must be used to change something which deeply disturbs me. We cannot accept that we have failed as human beings to sit at the same table and share this world together.
Those of you who read my recent captions, the comments in those captions, you were probably expecting a fiery post filled with anger and hate. I had one in mind. I was going to rabidly go after those who use people of color as props, as if we are to be ogled and cuddle like puppies, yet not good enough to be followed or considered friends. History is filled with words and acts of hate. What we need is love. Love is the supreme unifying force of life. It’s so basic, right? Love one another. Well that is what I chose to do here. I’m sorry if you are disappointed in me not entertaining you with hate. Hate doesn’t find solutions: Love discovers them. We will find solutions.
Thank you to my friend, Oneika Raymond, who wrote a very inspiring piece about diversity in travel today. Her friendship, guidance, and inspiration have constantly helped me since I began travel blogging.