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The NAACP issued a warning to black Americans last week to avoid traveling on American Airlines, a company that the civil rights organization says has shown a pattern of discrimination. It’s the latest in a string of alerts from organizations and countries about how and where people of color travel in the United States.
In August, the NAACP released an advisory telling African Americans to “exercise extreme caution” when traveling to Missouri, highlighting racial disparities in police stops and searches. A year earlier — following the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota — the Bahamas used similar language when warning its predominately black population to “exercise extreme caution” when interacting with U.S. law enforcement.
Concerns that some places are unsafe for or antagonistic toward travelers of color has prompted some businesses and governments to act. After the fatal attack at a white supremacist rally in August, the Virginia Tourism Corporation launched a “stand for love” campaign aimed at rehabilitating the images of Charlottesville and Virginia.
It’s reminiscent of a time when travelers of color in the United States had to be keenly aware of where they were welcome and where they weren’t before venturing out on the road.
In 1936, Victor Hugo Green, a postal service worker in Harlem, published the first edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for black drivers during the years spanning the Jim Crow era and the Great Migration.
The Green Book included listings for gas stations, restaurants and hotels across America that had been identified as safe places for blacks to stop during a time when segregation laws — those on and off the books — were enforced. Having such a resource while on the road, along with relying on word-of-mouth warnings, likely saved black drivers from being turned away at places that would not serve them, or worse, inadvertently stopping in an unwelcoming area where they could face physical danger.
The last known edition of the Green Book was published in 1967.
Fifty years later, hashtags like #AirbnbWhileBlack and #TravelingWhile Black are addressing the same problem, chronicling travelers’ stories of discrimination on the road, including slur-laced messages from Airbnb hosts. Similar experiences have affected Asian Americans and other travelers of color, as well.
We want to know what it’s like to travel as a person of color in the U.S. in 2017. Some of your responses will be published in an upcoming story about traveling as a person of color in the United States. A Washington Post staffer might reach out to you about your submission.
As a person of color, do you think twice before traveling to or driving through certain regions of the country? What type of precautions do you take if you need to travel in places you deem unfriendly? Tell us about your experience and insights using the form below.
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