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.
“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.
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.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!