If cyberspace and the blogosphere are any indication, the answer is “Yes.”
When I started this blog 16 months ago, part of the motivation was a young black woman I’d met several years ago in Natchez MS, who was proud to inform me that she never intended to set foot outside the city limits for as long as she lived.
The sad and scary part of it was: She was serious about it.
THE SISTERS ARE OUT THERE
In the months that have passed since founding IBIT, months of researching across the Web and talking with readers and other bloggers alike, a picture has clearly emerged that is 180 degrees from that young woman in Natchez.
Almost everywhere you look on the Web, you find black women engaged with and involved in travel. Whether as travelers, writers, teachers, expatriates or entrepreneurs, they’re going, seeing, doing. All the anecdotal evidence points to a large and growing number of sisters out there for whom the big, wide world holds no terrors.
It’s a beautiful thing to see.
What I’m not seeing so far is an equally strong presence of black American men out there along with them.
Our African and Caribbean brothers, as well as Europeans of African descent, also seem more willing to venture out from home territory than we are. They may be traveling for education, job, career or business opportunities more than for leisure, but they’re traveling.
Black American men? Apparently, not so much.
Oh, I’ve met several black men in cyberspace who are not only traveling but thriving outside the United States — and in the coming days and weeks, you’re going to meet a lot of them right here on IBIT.
Overall though, they seem to be a relative trickle compared with a digital flood of black women. And I’m not the only one who has noticed.
One member of the IBIT family, Ivy LaChandra Harris, put it to me pointblank on my Facebook fan page:
“Can you answer a question for me? Why is it so hard to get black men to travel?!?!”
Good question, Ivy. A really good question. Finances are always an inhibiting fact for a lot of people, but Ivy’s question suggests there’s something at work here far beyond finances.
SOLDIERS, YES. TRAVELERS, NO?
It’s not as if we’re totally unexposed to the wider world. Most of us have access to books, magazines, radio, not to mention betwork, cable and satellite television.
And African-Americans make up a sizable percentage of the U.S. military, which means that a lot of us have been damn-near everywhere.
Is it a matter of fear? Are we black men afraid to step out of our cultural comfort zones long enough to experiences a different place, a different way of life and point of view?
Or is it just a matter of priorities?
One of the best black travel bloggers around, who goes by the nom du voyage of FlyBrother, thinks that’s one possibility.
“Sadly, the bruhs out there buying flatscreen TVs. Or they’re just not writing.”
I fear he’s right, on both counts. Especially the first one.
Remember that financial question? According to a survey done by BET, African-American purchasing power grew 55 percent between 2000 and 2008, to an eye-watering $913 billion. Three years from now, if the trends continue, it will reach an even $1 trillion.
So where it that money going?
According to the BET survey, black Americans are proportionately buying more computers than non-blacks. In fact, nearly a third of those discretionary dollars are going toward computers, cell phones and other electronics.
But on travel, again, not so much.
We’ll go anywhere in the planet in uniform to do the bidding of the United States government, but when it comes to our own enjoyment, enlightenment and advancement, we won’t leave the block?
This is not a good thing, and that same BET survey points to one of the reasons why. It broke down the African-Americans suerveyed into seven groups, two of which focused on women:
- “Conscious Sisters are selfless women that are spiritually connected and highly conscious of their culture.”
- “Inner Circle Elites are working women rich in their cultural, ancestral and spiritual roots.”
My own anecdotal experience online suggests to me that these two groups of black women are prominent among those who not only are traveling, but making a mark in the world beyond our shores. And many are eagerly looking for black men to go with them on this life journey. But they are heading out there nonetheless, intelligent, energetic, fearless.
And to the buzz in the blogosphere strongly suggests they are not waiting for the fellas to catch up, in any sense of the word.