These are the most racist cities in America (and should you travel there?)
It's 2017, but it can feel like 1844.
Racism has been more visible in America, and it's definitely leaving a mark in travel. For the first time ever, NAACP issued a travel advisory to Missouri, international countries issued travel warnings to the United States and black people definitely took Charlottesville off their bucket list. It has been an insane year so far, where anti-anything-not-white is a developing voice in rural and often cosmopolitan cities. I thought it was pretty frightening when this town in Arkansas put up billboards right after the elections last November that used diversity as a code word for white genocide.
But racism in travel isn't new; it's just more visible. In 2015, Google put together a list of the most racist cities in America, using a methodology that measured racist attitudes in search terms. Are you surprised with what you see?
I've been to racist cities. You can literally feel the racism even more if you're ethnic. Even if it's not directed at you, it's heavy. I feel like there are degrees of racism, and being a predominantly white city doesn't necessarily mean it's racist (as some travelers may presume). I've been to mostly white places that celebrate diversity (like Denver). I've traveled to predominantly white places that celebrate diversity but in a weird WTF way (Portland, which has a "Chinatown" but no Chinese people living in it). And I've traveled to predominantly white places so white that ethnic people stand out (Hilton Head. I mean, did you see The Bachelorette this season? Did you notice in every scene, Rachel Lindsay and the black bachelors were literally the only ethnic people in every crowd scene?). Does a totally white city mean it's totally racist?
It depends on the attitude.
Some places have that "white power" attitude, which I think is pretty sad, especially when we've had so much progress in America, and I've learned you can't change a person. They have to change themselves, and it helps when minorities remain visible. I'm not trying to send a black person to Charlottesville; I think it's important diversity is celebrated and visible in our every day lives. This includes the government, major corporations, airlines, media, film and newspapers, places where it's important all races have a voice, platforms that have impact and influence. I can confidently say ethnic people notice when there's a white-only cast on TV shows, but white people necessarily don't. See how that works? We need to keep spreading the diversity love. If it's spread thin, it's easy to forget everyone exists.
So back to racism in travel. Should you travel to a city you think is racist? It depends. You know your comfort levels more than anyone else. Be smart about the destinations you choose. You should never hide who you are, wherever you go, so don't go to places you think you need to hide. They may not be the right cities for you now but only time will tell if they progress back to 2017. The more we talk about this, the more we take action, the better off we are in the future.