I’m going to share a post I put on my Facebook page recently after trying to argue with a brick wall, then realizing nobody is paying me to be aggravated, so I stopped.
Any who. The argument that “everyone can afford/ is able to travel” has popped up countless times on social media. Always with only two viewpoints. The people who use nuance, facts, and empathy to explain why this blanket statement is wrong, and those who act as though you just stepped on their pinky toe and cussed out their mama. For some reason, there is so much vitriol for those who live in and accept the limitations of their and other’s present day reality. Someone says “Hey, it’s not that easy. I’m in student loan debt, severely underpaid, and have a physical disability that doesn’t make travel an option right now” and they are met with “WELL IF YOU WOULD STOP BUYING STARBUCKS AND SAVE YOUR MONEY….PRIORITIES….AAAAARGGHHHH!!”
Because the reasons why travel isn’t accessible to all have been repeated ad nauseum, I won’t really get into it on this post. I would, however, like to examine the contempt and hostility displayed by those that vehemently argue that it is. I went through all the typical reasons of why this might be in my head; elitism, ableism, classism, etc. But I have firmly landed on a huge factor being survivor’s remorse. It’s similar to the Black celebs that act as though systemic oppression ended once they got on. All of a sudden economic, physical, and societal barriers are “just in your mind.”
For so many people who have reached a point where they can take advantage of certain privileges, seeing these things as privileges causes too much cognitive dissonance. They can’t accept that they’ve reached this point, while others in situations close to theirs are just shy of it. So instead of feeling guilty about being able to enjoy these luxuries that others can’t, they have to somehow make it the fault of others. Much like you’ll hear white people say things along the lines of, “Well I grew up poor and made something of myself. Why can’t Black people do the same instead of blaming everyone else?” They can’t stand the idea of them somehow being afforded privileges others aren’t, because it diminishes the merit of their own accomplishments.
There is another layer to this argument as well. It doesn’t always apply, but in the circles I’ve been in, I’ve seen it often. The underlying anti-blackness associated with not traveling. Look at the comments some people make. It’s typically some variation of “They can buy Jordans/ designer clothes/ rims/ etc, but won’t buy a plane ticket.” This sounds awfully familiar to the memes circulating with a picture of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, about Black people not saving, but buying name brand clothing. (Sidebar: I bet if you checked the labels on their clothes and shoes they surely didn’t come from Target. Also, let’s not forget the lavish yachts, homes, vehicles, gadgets, and vacations they purchase. But, you know, Black people are the over indulgent ones) Traveling is still very much seen as an activity of the white elite. That is why there are so many Black entrepreneurs taking on the task of dispelling that myth and creating successful Black travel communities.
However, there is still this desire to distance ourselves from what others may identify as Blackness. From denouncing name brands such as Jordans, Coach, and Michael Kors because they have become staples in “the hood.” To publicly decrying what you deem as the impracticality of how other Black people spend their time and money. This all comes back to wanting to other yourself, so you must shout about “those Black people” so as not to be lumped in with them.
All in all, this argument is never really about people not traveling. It’s always been a projection of the internal conflict of those that do travel. There is nothing wrong with not traveling, just as there is nothing wrong with traveling. There are valid reasons for both. However, trying to shame either side isn’t winning you any brownie points.