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Why Was the White House Conference Mostly White?

The White House summit attendees.

The White House summit attendees.

One of the biggest honors of my life is that I was able to attend the White House Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad and Global Engagement. One of the greatest sadnesses of this wonderful conference, however, was that, despite the fact that a stated aim of the conference was to encourage students from all racial backgrounds to study abroad, nearly all of the bloggers in attendance were White.

Now, I have great respect for the aims of the summit and for the organizers and sponsors of this event. I know that the planners had the best possible intentions in compiling the invite list, putting a huge amount of work into it. However, I am writing this article now to encourage future organizers to remember that the demographics of a conference profoundly impact its goals.

One of the slides from the White House summit.

One of the slides from the White House summit.

“Would you have a conference on women’s rights with over 90% of the attendees being men?” mused my blogging colleague Erick Prince-Heaggans, Board Chairman of A World Beyond Youth Exploration, a foundation to support and encourage students of color to travel.

The thing is, there is no shortage of popular travel bloggers of color who could have been invited. Further, many of these bloggers have a readership that is exactly the demographic the White House #StudyAbroadBecause initiative is trying to reach. My hope is that next time, organizers of events like this will make the explicit effort to make that connection.

A second slide from the White House summit, in which they emphasized their commitment to supporting students of all racial backgrounds to study abroad, given the current imbalance.

A second slide from the White House summit, in which speakers emphasized their commitment to supporting students of all racial backgrounds to study abroad, given this current imbalance.

It is a monumental challenge to put together an invite list that is capped at 100 attendees. I know that many other groups were saddened that they did not receive invitations, specifically Study Abroad professionals and education bloggers. I would argue, however, that the greatest loss in the invite list hinged on racial diversity.

Again, I am filled with gratitude for being able to attend the summit, and am deeply inspired by the goals stated by the White House’s #StudyAbroadBecause movement. However, as someone who has dedicated the last 11 years of her life to public school teaching in a “majority racial minority” district, I cannot remain silent when I see a clear opportunity for positive change. I have seen firsthand the transformative power of travel for students — particularly students of color and low-income students — and am committed to actions that correlate with expanding global opportunities across races and economic backgrounds.

A third slide from the White House conference. What is good is that this movement has an explicit commitment to racial and economic diversity in study abroad opportunities.

A third slide from the White House conference. What is good is that the #StudyAbroadBecause movement has an explicit commitment to diversity in study abroad opportunities.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below.

This fact is just silly. Silly and upsetting.
Join the White House #StudyAbroadBecause Movement!
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Spirals and Geometry in the Eisenhower Building, Washington, D.C. | The Everywhereist

Monday 22nd of June 2015

[…] summit seated next to her, and found her instantly engaging and mindful (on her own blog, she noted the lack of diversity among the attendees, something she voiced to me during the […]

Catherine C.

Saturday 2nd of May 2015

As a fellow educator in Boston with you, I just want to thank YOU for voicing the observation - you are stating that there are travel bloggers out there who were not invited. The paradox of the slides from the conference in contrast to the attendees - put them right next to each other!

Lillie

Saturday 2nd of May 2015

Sigh...

Jessica Goto

Tuesday 3rd of February 2015

Thank you for this post! I am in the very beginning processes of starting my travel blog and am Japanese American. This gives me inspiration to work my butt off and hopefully make it to the White House one day! :)

The White Travel Blogger Darlings and the Organizers Who Love Them

Saturday 10th of January 2015

[…] have ever been invited to at the White House? These two badasses that’s who: badass #1, badass #2. Nothing kills the sexiness of a fun travel blog like using highly charged terms like […]

Payton

Sunday 4th of January 2015

This is a very interesting issue. I was hooked from the beginning to the end. I find this interesting not only because I'm intrigued by racial issues around the world but because of your take on the problem, how you're addressing it, and the comparisons made. I also love the visuals and graphs. This is a great article!

Lillie

Sunday 4th of January 2015

Thanks, Payton!

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