Growing up, I always heard the phrase “traveling makes you less racist.”
I think I heard it maybe once on that old show called “Rick Steve’s Europe.”
Here’s a clip of it below.
I used to see that a lot as a kid because my mom was into it and always had it on the TV at one point in my life.
And it was pretty good.
Looking back on it now….
Perhaps it would’ve been more helpful to have a “Rick Steve’s Latin America.”
You know – prepare me for my future life with the esoteric knowledge needed.
Still, I heard that phrase somewhere.
“Travelling makes you less racist.”
Back then, I never left the US before.
Grew up in a small town that was mostly white with black people being the largest minority and a few Asian and Latino folks.
In fact, at one point, we had what seemed like an explosion of Latino folks moving in because, over the course of a year, we all of a sudden had like 5 or more new Mexican restaurants.
5 new Mexican restaurants for a small town.
How many do you need to satisfy just a few people?
Some of them were good though.
Others – not so much.
One gave me very minor food poisoning I think and another had cock roaches on the walls by the dining tables.
Still, the point is that there wasn’t that much diversity in my small town where I grew up.
And the only traveling I did before I left for Ohio…
Was a quick trip to Kentucky at one point…
And also a trip to Florida to see my dad’s brother.
A small trip to Alabama for some national competition that I competed in.
And as many 1 hour trips to Missouri as you can imagine to buy fireworks over state lines to celebrate 4th of July.
That was it.
Suffice to say, I didn’t do much traveling throughout most of my life.
And, the second I left Iowa, my life changed pretty dramatically in terms of travel.
I ended up visiting like 30 countries at least over the next 4 years.
And lived in another state for once outside of Iowa.
Ohio in that case.
And since then…
Have spent another 4 years living in Mexico as of this writing.
So I’ve travelled a little bit.
Am I not racist?
In the words of Donald Trump…
Least racist person right here, motherfuckers!
After these odd some years of traveling around now…
I don’t believe that traveling makes you less racist necessarily.
I see pros when it comes to making people less racist…
But I also see a bunch of reasons for why it wouldn’t necessarily make you less racist…
Let’s get to it by breaking down my thoughts below.
So let’s first talk about the positive reasons for why travel would make someone less racist.
They’re going to be the usual reasons you’ve heard before that I don’t necessarily disagree with.
First, you have the argument that people who travel are more sympathetic to folks from other cultures and backgrounds.
That they’d be more understanding of other cultures as well.
Yeah, I can see that.
You travel and you are obviously going to be exposed to that to some degree.
Though I don’t necessarily agree that every single person is going to be “sympathetic” to other cultures.
But we will get to that later.
Second, you have the argument that people who travel abroad to other cultures will make friends from those countries.
They might fall in love with someone from that country and might even start a family with them!
Suffice to say, you’d think they’d be less racist perhaps to people of that country after making friends and falling in love with someone from there.
Those are the usual points anyway that I’ve always heard in favor of how traveling makes you less racist.
And I can’t disagree with them necessarily.
Though there are some holes in the logic by those two points and also other things that come to mind on the other side of the argument.
First, not everyone is going to be more sympathetic to the other cultures of countries they go to.
It isn’t like you go to a country like Mexico and go “wow! I’m so wise now! I have learned the ancient traditional ways of Mexico and I see all Latinos in a more positive light!”
Some foreigners, as I’ve written many times, go the exact opposite where they shit all over the country to extreme lengths.
Some of them hate it down here and hate the cultures they come across.
I can’t imagine that makes someone “less racist.”
On top of that, most foreigners I feel will have some issues with the cultures down here at some point.
Which doesn’t make them more racist but doesn’t mean they are sympathetic to everything.
Second, not everyone makes local friends or fall in love with the local women.
You have no shortage of gringos in Latin America who basically only stick to the tourist path.
They never go out of their way to make friends with the locals.
At most, their interaction with the locals might involve ordering from a menu in a restaurant where the waiter has to speak English due to their lack of Spanish…
Or maybe trying to stick their dick in a countless amount of Latinas from Tinder.
But then the vast majority of people they hang out with (including their friends) are not locals but other foreigners.
You do have foreigners like that who, while they live in Mexico, they actually live in the US.
In a bubble of the US or Europe in Latin America.
So I can’t see that helping much reduce any racism that someone might have.
Which is assuming they are racist to begin with…
Third, not everyone who travels was some evil KKK leader trying to kill non-white people.
Not everyone who travels was a hardcore skin head beforehand.
I imagine that your average “real racist….”
Real racist meaning someone who is very noticeably and openly racist against non-white folks…
Probably isn’t going to travel to a country of non-white people.
Just a guess.
Granted, I’ll have to eat my hat on that one.
When I was in Guatemala, there was this dude in my Spanish school that, over talking with him, was a literal nazi.
Or I assume so anyway.
I don’t like saying he was a “nazi” since that is such an overused insult by people who can’t handle different opinions..
But the guy, in his words, told me that his “ideal society” is literally Germany under Hitler rule.
And how he believed certain races are better than others…
I mean – kinda hard to not assume the guy is kinda like a nazi after that one, right?
I think my classification of him as a nazi is fair here.
Which his funny because when I asked him if he was basically a nazi then…
He acted insulted and replied “well, I don’t like using that term because it has a negative association with it but I think Hitler wasn’t as bad as people make it. He never gassed the Jews.”
So, to be fair, my initial assumption that people who are more openly racist wouldn’t travel a country where the locals don’t look like them…
You know, I’ve seen it all!
Enough travel and you find yourself in situations you wouldn’t imagine.
Like a nazi who believes white people are better but yet spends months in a country full of non-white people.
But outside of that specific guy I met in Guatemala…
I would guess that, at the very least, 90% of actual open racists are not traveling to Latin America.
Sure, some of them will!
I imagine many others will choose to stay in communities where the locals look like them.
Fourth, if you are a racial minority though in a country like Mexico or Argentina…
I imagine the experience is, as I implied before, capable of making you more jaded.
And if not jaded…
Well, more race conscious.
It’s impossible not to be more race conscious of yourself relative to others in a society where most of the folks don’t look like you.
Like how every black person I’ve ever met has told me they don’t like Argentina because they are one of the few black folks there with the locals treating them badly.
To how, in my experience, I tend to notice the same whenever I go to a specific city in Latin America where I, as a white person, am basically an alien from Mars to the locals.
Which can have positive effects when people treat you nicely for being white as that does happen…
To also negative effects when people discriminate against you for being a white foreigner.
In those moments of discrimination, I feel one could argue that some folks are likely to lean towards what many would call racist thoughts.
Even if they don’t necessarily believe those thoughts..
Which they might…
They could also come out in a rage-filled shit talking monologue that they have to themselves or others when they need to get something off their chest after a bad day of getting fucked over constantly for being different.
And, to be honest, I can’t judge someone for having a moment of venting like that.
Even if their venting involves saying some nasty racist shit.
Not because I endorse the words they say but because I get it’s just getting shit off your chest after you’ve had a bad day of being discriminated against.
You just shit talking.
As long as the person in question knows it is shit talking and doesn’t turn into a hateful blob spewing constant shit talking all day long every day.
Always bitching about every little thing and never having one positive thing to say.
Some foreigners never let it go.
Fifth, I’d also argue that most people have a little bit of racism in them regardless of if they travel or not.
If you do travel though, as I said, it’s likely you will become more conscious of your race relative to others in the community you are in.
Especially if you are a racial minority now.
Where you think about how you get treated nicely for being white at times relative to other folks like indigenous people in whatever Latin city…
To also the opposite when it comes to, as I said, people fucking you over due to being the white foreigner.
And so even if you do travel and never have any bad experiences…
I’d still say that person is probably a little bit racist.
It’s always been my belief that most people have at least a tiny bit of racism in them.
In which people can, when times call them to be so, a bit tribalistic.
Like how in prisons you supposedly have groups of people who associate with others based on race.
Never been to prison myself but that’s what I’ve heard.
Not sure if that counts though necessarily as an example of racism but more of tribalism perhaps.
Which can go with racism to be fair.
Either way, let’s wrap up this.
So less racist?
I think there is an element of truth to it in that traveling abroad can make you more understanding of other cultures and the people behind those cultures.
And you make friends and fall in love and all that in those countries…
But I’d definitely push back against the idea that traveling is going to cure every racist bone in your body.
And, as I pointed out, can actually make some people more jaded and arguably more racist to a degree by some people’s standards of what constitutes racism.
So while, overall, I think it can and does usually serve as a net positive when it comes to this…
I think it’s a statement that is at times exaggerated as to how much it really helps “solve racism” or shit like that.
Anyway, leave any comments below in the comment section.
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