I have always been extremely aware that there aren’t very many people of color that travel. In my personal bubble of friends and colleagues, that might not be so true but my bubble only represents a miniscule part of the population. So I’m guessing that it might not surprise you to learn that I count Brown people when I’m at the airport. (And I bet some of you do too.) Not for any particular reason, mind you. Just because.
As much as I like to write, I have taken my sweet time writing about what I call Counting Brown. Mostly because I didn’t want to be misunderstood and also because it’s always been such a personal thing. The truth is that you can’t tell a person’s cultural identity by the color of his or her skin. And if you know anything about how I personally identify Brown, it’s less about skin color and more about cultural identity and pride. So even though not focusing on skin color is what I preach, it’s obvious that when I’m Counting Brown that I’m counting people who are outwardly and more obviously from culturally diverse backgrounds. And yes, I’m sure there are some people I’m missing…but probably not that many. Moving along…
On October 8, 2011, I was returning home from a short trip to Atlanta and almost collapsed into my airplane seat when I counted 8 Brown women in first class. Yep. In first class. That. has. never. happened. to. me. before. Ever. And that is precisely what prompted me to finally write this post. Of course I was on my way back from a city that boasts quite a few upwardly mobile people of color and the National Black MBA Association Conference was winding down, so maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised when my seatmate was an African-American woman. And friendly to boot! Keep in mind that I typically find more Brown people in some airports more than in others (some being New York, DC, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta); but I was still shocked. Shocked enough to post it on my Facebook page. Somebody pass the smelling salts.
In my experience, the most luxurious environments have the fewest Brown people in them (which would explain why some people are surprised to see a group of mainland Brown children traveling to a high end destination like St. John in the USVIs, but I digress). It’s not that we can’t afford it thankyouverymuch. It’s just a numbers thing. There are simply fewer of us traveling. In fact, “fewer of us traveling” is what led me to write for American Airlines’ BlackAtlas.com, a Web portal dedicated to African-American travelers. Truth be told, I wasn’t down at first. I didn’t get why there had to be a separate site for African-Americans or why American Airlines had specific outreach programs in place for Hispanic travelers. You know me, I don’t like the idea of separating to celebrate or pigeon-holing cultural groups. But then it dawned on me *smacking myself in the forehead* …. It’s about encouraging travel in communities that are under-represented. It’s about aiming to create some balance. Maybe I was being a little sensitive. But hey, now I get it. After all, I hope that by traveling (and writing about it) that I encourage people of color to travel too. *Big smile*
There is no real moral to this story. I simply like to count. (Sounds a little OCD-ish, doesn’t it?) Counting Brown has become a habit of mine and I’ll probably always do it. I figure it might take another year or so before I see another 8 Brown women in first class but I’d like to be wrong. I will always wonder who the Brown people are in airport terminals, luxury hotels and first class cabins even if they pretend like they don’t see me sitting across the aisle from them (which happened a few months ago). Not because it matters. But just because I can.
What about you? Do you ever Count Brown?
When Tracey isn’t Counting Brown in airport terminals or in first class cabins, she is blogging at OneBrownGirl.com® and giving girls a world view via OBG Adventure Camps and The Passport Party Project™.