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I’ve bit my tongue on this issue for a while, mainly because I didn’t want people to confuse this as a plea from POC (people of color) asking for handouts.
I also want to preface by saying that this isn’t an issue exclusive to the travel industry. It’s something that’s a problem in almost every profession.
When it comes to travel, no doubt it was long thought of as a [white] rich kid’s hobby, because that’s how it was always marketed.
Travel brands never targeted or spoke to the POC community, mainly because they’re ignorant to the fact that African-Americans alone spend over 40 billion dollars each year on travel.
Articles and Facebook groups have run rampant with this discussion on how we can combat this issue, and each day I’m tagged, I try to add my two cents where I can.
But it was long overdue that I put all my thoughts together in one place and offer some perspective and solutions to this issue.
Blogging is no longer monolithic and POC bloggers do exist, but we’re not being sought out by brands at the same rate as our [white] cohorts.
Do they think we don’t have influence?
Do they think we’re not qualified?
Do they think we’re not capable of telling compelling stories? Taking high-quality photos? Producing share-worthy content?
The thing is, I don’t want this to turn into a “just hire any ol’ POC to fill the void” because there’s no logic or longevity in that.
There are intelligent, articulate, talented, creative, and hilarious voices spread throughout the POC influencer community [yes, click those links to be led to their websites and pages], and brands need to do a better job of including them in the conversation.
And I don’t think we should be focusing so much on blaming successful white bloggers that are taking up the space, because it’s honestly not their fault.
What this discussion has turned into, is a blame-game towards ALL white travel bloggers, for seemingly existing in too many numbers.
These travel group discussions on this issue have quickly turned into a toxic game of slander, and because of that, white travelers have started chiming in with…
I’ve wanted to start a travel blog for such a long time, but it’s discussions like these that make me feel like the industry doesn’t need me… another white blogger, because it’s completely saturated.
I love her ability to contextualize the situation, but I hate that she feels like her voice is unwanted in the travel space, canceling out a dream before she even gave it legs.
In the same argument, if a person were to criticize the NBA for having too many black athletes, how silly would that sound?
Yes, the travel industry is very white. But that doesn’t mean white people [over]existing in this space are the ones to blame.
When I think of successful bloggers and instagrammers who are white, I don’t immediately resort to their skin color being the reason behind their success.
No doubt they are getting booked 5x more than any other demographic of bloggers, but there are still those who have a strong work ethic to show for, and I will always give credit where it’s due.
The travel industry severely lacks color, but here's where we can change that. Click To Tweet
I love to mentor black girls. Full transparency here, but when it comes to fan mail and daily messages from followers, I will respond to my black readers first, because I know they have limited options of people they can relate or reach out to.
A white blogger can’t help them with tips on black-friendly countries, black hair care abroad, or just pouring out their hearts about how seeing your black face partnered with a brand gave them hope that they can be living that life too.
The giver in me is always happy to offer free advice to POC who are willing to meet me halfway. Emphasis on the latter.
In the same breath, I’ve also had [black] people who I’ve never met, e-mail me practically demanding the contact information of a brand or sponsor I just worked with, meanwhile they don’t even have more than three posts on their blog yet.
I’ve had my name used and lied on multiple times, because by association, people felt like name-dropping me would help them land a sponsor.
People I’ve never heard of claiming we’ve traveled together or collaborated in the past, and when word gets back to me about it (usually by the sponsor), I’m left feeling disheartened that there is this extremely pervasive “PUT ME ON” culture within our community.
The sense of entitlement is real.
On the other hand, I have some amazing relationships with fellow bloggers where if I’m not available for a press trip, I would send the sponsor 2-3 influencers who should go on my behalf.
I’ve had people with massive spending power ask me for influencer recommendations, and you bet I’m forwarding them all the POC greatness in my memory bank.
I will forever be an advocate for the POC community first, simply because I can’t expect other races to do it for us.
I happily sing the praises of my favorite Instagrammers constantly, and I’m the first the defend someone’s work ethic that’s questioned unjustly.There are amazing POC bloggers out there, but it's up to the brands to seek more of us out. Click To Tweet
In a world that tries to paint everything as black and white, there is so much going on in the gray.
The gray of this situation is that I’m doing my best to hustle and grind and make my brand known in a very whitewashed travel industry, regardless of my inherent disadvantage.
But the working twice as hard to get half the recognition gets old quick.
Brands, marketers, PR reps, and beyond — if you’re continually contracting the same race, religion, gender, and lifestyle brand of bloggers, you’re doing such a disservice to the public.
Exercising diversity isn’t something that should be seen as a chore. You should be excited to amplify the voices of minorities, because it will add a different tone, pun intended, [and market, hello $$$] to the mix.
The lack of representation and diversity in a room is the reason behind so many tone-deaf PR disasters (see: Kendall Jenner in the Pepsi ad).
I’ve learned a lot of times, when brands come to me, they offer me the lowest amount [compared to white friends who book similar jobs] -Asiyami Gold
I love when people in our community are honest about their journey, because it’s a reminder that we’re ALL experiencing it in our respective realms of influence.
Asiyami is hailed as HASHTAG, GOALS by every black influencer, and it’s sad that someone who’s worked as hard as she has, still experiences that kind of treatment, even after proving her worth.
When was the last time you amplified or celebrated the voice of a minority?
We all have the power in our own way and within our own spheres of influence to drastically change someone else’s life. -Lola Akinmade
Lola also goes on to elaborate with, “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… it is also because someone not only remembered our names but operated from a mentality of abundance and mentioned our names to that one person who held the key.”
In classic black form, when we aren’t given platforms to shine, we create our own and turn them to gold.
Whenever I’m working with a brand and realize I’m the only person of color there, I hope it paves a way or opens a door for the next POC behind me.
I hate that in everything I do I’m often by default representing an entire race and demographic, because white bloggers [and white people in general] will never understand what it’s like to live with that weight, responsibility, and burden, every single day.
Nonetheless, I’ll keep hustlin’ til the wheels fall off — or at least until the travel industry catches up.