Traveling while black in the days before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could mean certain death for families who happened upon the wrong city or the wrong neighborhood in their travels. Because of this, between 1936 and 1967, a publication entitled the ‘Negro Motorist Green Book,’ assisted Black travelers by listing safe towns and cities across the country where they could safely travel. Victor Hugo Green created the book to list businesses, accommodations, salons, hotels, and other businesses that welcomed Black customers and clients.
While things have changed over the last several decades; racism is alive and well and thriving in the United States. As a result, there are a few things to consider if you’re traveling while Black. Here are 7 things you need to know before you pack your bags for your next trip.
Roadtrip Tips When Traveling While Black
Make sure your vehicle is in top condition. When headed out on a road trip, it’s important to ensure that your car is in the best possible condition it can be. Traveling while black can make you a target for police stops in the event that a taillight is out. If your brake light isn’t working, take care of it immediately. The key is to not give an officer a reason to pull you over. Drive the speed limit; use cruise control if necessary, and use your signal lights, always.
Try to avoid speed traps. There are some locations throughout the country that are notorious as speed traps. Sometimes they include those where drivers are pulled over for ‘driving while black.’ While every region has its own specific areas, there are some that are more popular than others. Thrillist compiled the worst speed traps in every state, so that may be a good place to start your research.
Don’t rely on GPS alone. Many of us tend to use our phones for everything, including GPS when traveling. It is important to realize though, that GPS is designed usually to get you to your location in the fastest and easiest way possible. This, however, may not always be the safest route when you’re traveling while Black. Invest in a paper map or atlas for your next road trip. This will help you map out alternate routes easily without having to rely on Google maps.
Traveling While Black Vacation Planning Tips
Research your destination before you arrive. One of the most important things to do is to research the demographics of your destination before arrival. In the planning stages, online research will help you get a feel for the culture of where they’re headed. Read online reviews, watch videos on YouTube, and ask around in Black travel groups online. Knowing what to expect before you arrive will prepare you for any necessary accommodations you may need to make.
Tell people where you’re going. The single most important thing you can do as a Black traveler is to inform someone you trust of your whereabouts at all times. Check-in with family and friends back home. This allows you to let them know where you’re headed. They can also rest easy when you call or text to let them know you’ve arrived. Once there, check-in again so they know you’ve arrived safe and sound. Doing this for each destination will give you and your family member peace of mind while still allowing you to enjoy yourself and have a good time traveling.
Seek out Black communities when traveling. When choosing your vacation destination, you may want to choose communities with large Black populations. This can do two things. First, it ensures you’ll be welcomed, and second, it’s a great way to discover new historical sites, museums, and Black-owned businesses. Matador Network compiled a list of the best travel destinations for Black travelers.
Try to pre-plan restaurant choices. One of the worst feelings when visiting a restaurant is being the victim of bad service. Often it’s a result of an overworked employee or one who is juggling a lot of tables. But sometimes, you run across an employee who just doesn’t like you for the color of your skin. Sometimes it’s a result of stereotypes that we don’t tip well, other times they’re just miserable, racists. One easy way to combat this is to read online restaurant reviews. If you’re anything like me, you already visit the website to figure out what you’re going to order ahead of time. Take an extra few minutes to read reviews. If a server seems like they’ve been racist, you can 100% guarantee, there’s an online review with details and receipts.
In a country founded on racism, it is important that we, as Black Americans, move carefully within it. While much has changed over the centuries, there’s a lot that has not. Visit online forums, Facebook groups, and websites that cover Black tourism. These communities will help you make informed and smart decisions when traveling while Black. We’ve come far over the years, that’s true, but we still do have miles to go.