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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Although the Black Lives Matter movement started to protest systemic racism and police brutality in the U.S., racism is a global issue. There is no country or region that you can travel to that has not been affected by the ugly face of racism and injustice in some way. But as travelers, we can make choices that can help promote racial justice. When it’s safe to travel again, please consider these tips when planning your itinerary.

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Educate yourself about white privilege and implicit bias before you go

It doesn’t matter if you’re earning minimum wage and living check to check, if you have white skin, you benefit from a large number of privileges that protect you. Learn about what those benefits are and how to use them to uphold racial justice while traveling. A few recommended books on the topic are White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About RacismHow To Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and The Racial Divide and This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do The Work.

Be anti-racist while traveling

If you are traveling to a place with BIPOC history or presence, make sure to visit the places or communities that are important to these groups. Connect with the people and culture and be respectful of them. Do not assume that you know everything and do not promote stereotypes about people or places. Do not go to an African country and only focus on the animals. Learn about the people and culture. Do not go to a Latin American or Caribbean country and only explore the resorts and beaches. Research the history and traditions and visit local spots—locally-run restaurants, for example, are a great way to do this. When visiting a city with a large BIPOC community, check out the neighborhoods and landmarks that are significant to them. These areas are often rich with local history and full of attractions.

Research BIPOC-owned hotels, tours, restaurants and shops to visit on your trip

Most hotels, restaurants and tours promoted within the tourism industry pour money into large, white-owned corporations. One of the reasons the racial wealth gap is so wide is because there aren’t as many opportunities for BIPOC to benefit from lucrative industries like travel. That’s why it’s important to make it a priority to support BIPOC businesses. A helpful tool for this is the ABC Travel Greenbook, which lists Black-owned businesses, hotels and tours around the world and in the U.S.

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Don’t be culturally inappropriate

It’s important to be respectful of the traditions and expectations of any place that you visit—from covering your head, legs or shoulders when entering a church or temple to expressing certain hand gestures that could be offensive, like what we think of as the peace sign, OK symbol or crossed fingers. Dressing like the locals and observing their customs is generally a great way to connect with people and cultures, too. However, be sensitive to nuances. Do not wear anything that is considered sacred, do not appropriate a tradition that’s reserved only for members of a specific group. When in doubt, ask.

Learn some of the language

While many folks abroad have studied English and speak it perfectly, we can’t expect the entire world to cater to us linguistically. And pro tip: Speaking louder doesn’t help anyone understand you better. Take a little time to learn the basics of a language, whether it’s through a free app like DuoLingo or even a phrase book from the library.

Do not take photographs of anyone without permission

Snapping pics of locals in traditional dress is a travel highlight, however, you do not have the right to take a photo simply because they are there. This is a colonialist attitude that exploits people and cultures. Do not take away the agency of local people by assuming they are there for your entertainment or Insta likes. Always ask for permission to take a photo and if there’s a language barrier, motion with your camera or phone so that they understand what you’re asking. This is especially important with children: Always look for an adult to ask if it’s okay to take a child’s photo, or just don’t take the picture.

Speak up if you witness racism or injustice

Being an American traveler carries a lot of power in most destinations. If you see a local or person of color being called racist names or being chased out of tourist spaces, speak up. Some places enforce the same racial discrimination and injustices as the U.S., or even worse. Raise your voice to protest it if you see it.

Choose your words wisely

Words hold power. The travel industry is crammed with terms and phrases that infer inferiority to countries, places, and people with BIPOC backgrounds. Do not use language that can be considered ignorant or insensitive. Be aware of any tendency to place yourself in any kind of “White Savior” role. Center the local people and their experiences in a non-biased way.

Tagged: Tips & advice

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

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