Neither White nor Black: Where are the 'Brown' travelers in travel media
 

Neither White nor Black: Where are the ‘Brown’ travelers in travel media?

Neither White nor Black: Where are the ‘Brown’ travelers in travel media?

Apprx. Reading Time: 7 minutes

 

To answer that question in a single word – ‘Everywhere’, would be the correct answer.

 

Yet, when it comes to being depicted or represented, especially in the context of travel and travel media, we’re quite invisible.

 

I am aware that if I were to go back to my hometown, this question would never, ever occur to me. While I’m not stating facts, I think I could be right when I say, out of a 100 Indians, about 98 would be Indian.

 

After I moved to U.K., I  came to realize, how devoid India was of color! Having its fair share of universities, we did get the occasional students from a few African & Middle Eastern countries in my city in India. There were also a few White travelers/professionals visiting, every once in a while. However, if you live in a country that’s dominated by people who look exactly like you, in different Pantone shades of Brown, questions like representation, equality do not arise in the context of color within your own country.

 

We do have our fair share of internal squabbles though. India is still internally struggling when it comes to accepting that no matter how many states or cuisines we could have, we still belong to the same country, but it’s a different issue altogether.

 

The lack of diversity in color in travel media and blogging

So, why am I suddenly discussing color and not posting pictures?

 

An article recently did the rounds which made people talk about the lack of color in the blogging space and travel media in general. The Black community came together, discussed it, suggested ways and means to help improve the state of things. It was about the lack of people of color (POC) in travel media, yet other than a couple of Asians participating, it was being led by the Black community.

 

No, I do not have an issue with the above. In fact, I’m in awe of it.

 

In awe of how I had no Black friends for almost 25 years in my life. In awe of their struggles. In awe of their spirit – of sticking together and uplifting each other and raising their voices when there’s an issue at hand.

 

I was also in awe of how there weren’t any Asians talking about it or leading it and mainly about the lack of ‘Brown’ people.

 

The lack of diversity in color in travel media and blogging

 

Do we now need another campaign for Brown people or Asians?

 

When Oneika asked me what would I be called, I realised, I’ve always been called Asian. I’ve never had an issue with that and never will but what many people fail to understand is that not all Asians are POC.

 

Not in the literal sense of the term. I’ve seen many Koreans and Japanese who would probably be more White than White people themselves. I’m unsure if I could even call them POC. (I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!) It does not, however, guarantee them a place on the table.

 

Have you ever seen a Hollywood movie try to have equal representation? You’ll usually notice the following ratio, 3 Whites, 1 Black, 1 Brown/SE Asian/Chinese individual.

 

It’s funny to notice that even though Asia is the biggest continent, we get one individual to represent us if we’re lucky!

It isn’t about bringing Brown people to the fore but having diverse voices and perspectives and not equating POC to be only Black people or people from Latin America.

 

The lack of diversity in color in travel media and blogging

 

Many Asian countries do have their local languages, and the people in media thrive within their own country, but if they do step out and move off someplace else, chances are you won’t see many of them around elsewhere as prominently as White people or even Black people!

 

Yes, less than Black people! Asians are the biggest race in the world, and my recent visit to India made me gawk at our spending habits! Disposable income was rising day by day and millennials were investing in travel, food and adventure.

 

Looking at how much my friends spent on average on travel and based on the questions I get asked, I can vehemently state that Indians if not all Brown people try our best to stick to countries where we’ll not feel left out, where we feel we’ll get the most value for our money. Value isn’t restricted only to goods but also to the way we’re made to feel.

 

A lot of us shy away as we don’t see ‘our’ people. Many articles doing the rounds are about things to do and see from a White person’s perspective. So we prefer to join a ‘group tour’ and stick amongst ourselves (and sometimes make a nuisance of ourselves!)

 

The lack of diversity in color in travel media and blogging

 

Why do we make-do with the situation?

 

 

Maybe partially because we’re our own biggest enemy, and we need validation.

 

You need to see the way Black people greet each other when abroad! It’ll make you smile and make you feel so good!

 

When Indians bump into each other when abroad:
1. We’ll first try to figure out if it’s an Indian (Or a Pakistani or Bangladeshi)
2. If its an Indian, we then try to narrow it down to the state they might be from
3. Then if we suddenly think they’re as ‘cool’ as us, they’re bestowed with a smile.

 

I won’t deny, I have previously been guilty of the above myself. I also try my best to keep away from Indians as much as possible. (Why? I’ll be putting up an article about that soon, in the meanwhile, Soumya’s article covers a few points)

 

In brief, almost all Indians believe we need to ‘stick together’! Eat together, hang out together, spend every minute awake together and if some are not happy to oblige, we’re haughty and we’ve lost the ‘values’ taught to us by their ancestors!

 

While, each to his own, in due course, we forget that keeping away does not have to translate into competing or ignoring each other.

Another issue which many of us deny is how we still worship westerners in India.

Yes, we do. Not all foreigners, just westerners and not including POC.
We prioritise them above family, are pleased as punch if they grace us with their presence. We are the best at hospitality for a reason!

 

In the process we forget that some of us have brilliant minds. We’re creative as hell. We do not need validation nor someone telling us if what we’re doing is right.

We keep pushing ourselves down when we decide our content is inferior to others. If some of us think someone else is doing better, we compete rather than collaborate. I do not claim the above is applicable throughout Asia, but I can certainly say so of India!

 

But, in a field dominated by White, good-looking people, our voices need to be heard. Our opinions matter. Black people can’t talk for us and neither can the Chinese or the Koreans or Malaysians! All of us need to share our own viewpoints!

 

We probably stick to each other because we’re wary we’ll be subject to racism, hatred or be sidelined. Which isn’t always the truth. Nobody else can clarify this except us!

 

The lack of diversity in color in travel media and blogging

 

What’s the issue and what can be done about it?

 

 

The bottom line is that we lack diversity and when people talk about POC somehow brands and representatives translate it to only being about Black people.

 

To ensure none of us is raising a flag, sometimes a single POC is thrown into the mix.

 

I work as an Analyst, and the situation isn’t any different in other sectors. The problem isn’t constricted to only travel media. Completing an ‘equal opportunities’ from does not increase opportunities in any field, more so in travel media.

 

In our case, it’s a two-way street as we need to shine first! We need to produce stellar content and stop suppressing our voice. There are numerous influencers of color, even in the Brown community, many who feel entitled and then there are those who are smart and talented, and it’s just of late that a couple out of those few are being recognised.

 

We also need to come together and amplify each other’s voices. Doing so does not convert to fewer opportunities for us. Like Lola puts in one of my favourite articles ever, ‘Say my name.‘:

 

“The reason we get to do some things and get to some places in life isn’t just for the mere fact that we worked our backs off day in day out and that we continue to do so daily.

 

It is also because someone not only remembered our names but operated from a mentality of abundance, didn’t feel threatened by all our hard work, and mentioned our names to that one person who held the key.

 

The key to lighten the heavy load on our backs.”

 

Brands, tourism boards, publications need to realize that content produced by White folk, no matter how superb it is, isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ criteria.

 

An Asian on average may not earn the same wage as their overseas counterpart yet if you consider the population, all of those wages put together and the tendency to travel in groups, contributes to a massive chunk of incoming funds to a destination.

 

If destinations want a piece of the pie, they need to do better to give us a hand while we hustle.

 

No, it is not possible to include and amplify all the voices you might find in Asia, but some of us do have one, and we’d like to be heard.

 

 

 

 


 

 

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The lack of diversity in color in travel media and blogging

 

 

 

 


 

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14 Comments
  • This is such an important issue.
    I am whole-heartedly aware of my privilege, and it totally plays on my mind in the travel blogging world. I would love to gain some advice as to how those that are white, can help to solve this problem rather than contributing to the issue. It really is difficult, but something that definitely needs to be spoken about XX

    February 10, 2018 at 2:18 am
    • Nuraini Arsad (Teja)
      Reply

      Super tricky indeed. As an Asian and brown (and Muslim) blogger myself, I really don’t know what to suggest, to be honest. But I can share one thing as a reader. The other day I read a food article from an expat blogger in Korea (Caucasian). It was her review of a food tour she tried – in China if I remember right. The first item on the tour was a light snack – which was halal. Now, the tour isn’t halal overall – but that the first item was, and that she reported such, instantly made me feel included.

      I guess maybe a good start would be to diversify connections in travel, so that just naturally you would think of a wider range of people when you write? I mean, I note the things that my friends would like, and if my friends are diverse, those things I remember would automatically be as well. And then because it’s written about like it’s just normal, then the viewpoints of underrepresented groups would gradually be seen as part of the new baseline. I dunno. Just throwing out thoughts.

      February 10, 2018 at 7:37 am
      • I really appreciate your advice Nuraini – I totally understand what you’re saying and I will definitely keep that in mind!

        I’m a very open minded person and I write about diversity and global issues quite a lot, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. I am definitely going to take your advice on board, and I will try my best to be the a positive contribution to the blogging community, rather than one that abuses their privilege.

        Thank you so so much! X

        February 10, 2018 at 7:49 am
  • Interesting take, Lavina. I agree with your saying that different perspectives matter! Here are a few more thoughts on this topic. Unfortunately, white people in the perspective of many Indians are often limited to UK, US, Canada, Australia, NZ – and basically English speaking world?. If you take Europe alone (44 countries – I’m omitting transcontinental ones as the stats will be even sadder), I can assure that bloggers from over a half of Europe stay almost nowhere in English-speaking travel media and a few western non-UK bloggers have a fair representation. If you take the issue from this angle, Indians who have been raised in the English-speaking medium are not competing with white non-English speaking Europe. I met a few Indians who got 750+ GMAT score after a few months of preparation – that’s woow!

    So why despite being privileged of speaking English as a native among Indian middle and upper class families, there is such a low number of Indians in the media? While living in different European countries, I understood (as also have been mentioned by you), Indians like keeping together. In the certain cities, there are whole Indian quarters with only Indian food and shops. Kind of mini India abroad. Many Indians give little to no exposure to other nationalities as well as prefer not to integrate in the communities with other cultures that differs a lot from their. as much as I try to crush stereotypes about Indians in the minds of others (again from my perspective as a person who lived in India), the major difference can happen only if Indians will start speaking for themselves – not as a community, but as individuals in the multinational world. There are quite a few Indian bloggers who have been doing it for a while )

    February 10, 2018 at 3:25 pm
  • I haven’t really thought about it this way. I’d always assumed that there are more white people in travel media because of opportunity — the value of currency in US and Europe is higher compared to countries in Asia, other benefits at work such as more leaves for vacation and other privileges (it is easy for native English speakers to get a teaching job for countries such as China but not the other way around). I agree with a lot of your points. I notice that brands tend to favor Westerners, and they really should give more attention to Asians especially as we our the local voices of our countries which also have increasing middle-income/traveling population. :) I’m from the Philippines, btw.

    February 10, 2018 at 5:22 pm
  • Such an important and poignant piece, and thanks so much for sharing your views as an Indian travel blogger. The more diverse voices are raised within the travel sphere, the richer the travel stories we all collectively tell. Thanks so much for the link love as well. <3

    February 10, 2018 at 5:27 pm
  • Hmm
    Reply

    POC mostly refers to Blacks. Accept that. But so do Whites — mostly caucasian Americans. Indians are simply Indians. Indonesians are Indonesians. When I hear Asian I think Japanese/Chinese/Korean. Is it wrong? You’re actually lucky being identified specifically. It doesn’t take away your being technically asian. Your problem of being underrepresented isn’t an issue of racism/discrimination but a personal choice. As you said, Indians naturally like to keep to themselves. But It doesn’t mean there are less opportunites for them. It’s their choice and no ones pushing them away. You dont need to find your kind to feel welcomed. Isnt traveling about making friends?

    The support you’ll get from people depends not on your nationality but on the quality of content you deliver. Also, If your level of influence doesn’t fit the destination’s market, don’t expect to be included in campaigns.

    February 11, 2018 at 7:31 pm
  • As a black female traveler and infrequent blogger I really appreciated hearing a brown person’s perspective on the lack of visible POC in the travel industry. It’s so true that in all fields Blacks seem to be the POC that are crying it for représentation the loudest, but ALL of our voices need to be heard!! I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m listening.

    March 12, 2018 at 7:29 pm

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