Everything is racialized; immigration, crime, labor, beauty ideals, food. Language and the words we use to describe things change according to race. A prime example example of this is who is “expat”, a term used for Westerners who live almost permanently in another country (aka immigrants).This article lays the discussion of who is considered an expat versus an immigrant and why very bluntly, “Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats because they can’t be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. Immigrants is a term set aside for ‘inferior races’. Just as the relationship between race and law is important to understanding each separately, the lexicon we use to describe in order to understand where it comes from.
Another racialized word concerning travel that also comes to mind is voluntourism; the combination of tourism and volunteering. This elicits images of white men and women taking pictures with black and brown women and/or children “in need.” They post the pictures on various social media outlets and receive the attention they sought. “The white savior complex” goes beyond the very blatant examples of missionaries and Western imperialism and Pocahontas to the method of work that many NGOs and nonprofits commit to. The debate which I often find myself wondering about is- are good intentions enough? For example, many students (including Denison) pursue study abroad options for example in places in East Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East in order to be the changemakers our liberal arts education teaches us to be- but where is the line drawn between making a difference and (subconsciously) embodying the white savior in new form?
I urge you also to examine the freely used words “Hispanic” and “Latino/Latina”? African American versus Black? In what context to these apply? Which is more accurate and who gets to say so? It is not because of an obsession with being “politically correct” but rather so that it is proof of the privilege we (as university students) were granted in being able to learn (critically) about the history of race in the US.