A Letter from HAR's founder, Stephanie Lee
Dear Travel Community,
I want to address the murder of George Floyd. It’s something I cannot stay silent on.
My heart hurts. There is so much pain in the world right now.
I recognize everyone comes to the table with a different set of life experiences. Each of us sees the world through a unique lens, tinted by the events we’ve lived through. That’s why I love meeting new people. Everyone has their own stories. Their experiences help broaden my worldview and tint my lenses in different ways.
But regardless of your worldview, I know there is something we can all agree on: George Floyd was killed under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer who cut off his air supply while three other officers stood by and watched.
It was not an accident. It was not in self-defense. It was murder. George Floyd was one of many African Americans killed by someone sworn to protect and serve them. Regardless of your background, that should upset you.
It’s my sincere hope you will join me in calling out for change to ensure this never happens again.
Right now the African American community is asking for our help to stop the inequality and murders. Every George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery is someone’s son/daughter, brother/sister, friend, neighbor. They’re fellow human beings.
My First Step
Personally, my first step is supporting an end to police brutality and to not remain silent. It’s to support the Black community’s fight for equality and equity. And I know that’s where people become divided.
Many people, including myself, find that race and racism is uncomfortable to talk about. But it’s a reality in our world. There are inequalities and there are racist people who judge you by the color of your skin.
As a bi-racial person, I can tell you that I've had racial slurs spat at me as I’ve walked down the streets of my own neighborhood simply because the look of me upsets them. Racism is real.
My Second Step
My second step is asking myself how my past actions may have contributed to the problem and how I can become a part of the solution.
I think most people would call me a pretty nice person and not someone that goes around with bad intentions trying to hurt people. But I’m far from perfect and I make mistakes.
I made a mistake this week when I sent our newsletter and addressed the killing of George Floyd in my intro. I then proceeded to put in an article on how agents can make their agencies more LGBTQ+ friendly for Pride month. What I should have done, in addition to our already written article recognizing Pride, was to also include an article on how agents can make their agencies more friendly to African Americans.
I’m grateful to one of our readers who wrote in about my mistake. I obviously didn’t have ill-intentions but it was not until after she pointed it out that I realized how hurtful it was to acknowledge the killing of George Floyd, but then proceeded to avoid talking about it or addressing it in the rest of the newsletter. As she said, “Use your position to deal with all of it, or don’t use Mr. Floyd’s death at all.”
So here I am.
It’s not easy, folks. But I want to do better, to be more understanding of other viewpoints, to make the world a better place.
Host Agency Reviews’ Commitment
On the work front, the entire Host Agency Reviews (HAR) team has sat down to brainstorm how we can be the change we want to see in the world. We’re starting with just a few small actions, and I hope you’ll join us on our journey to being more inclusive, compassionate, and empathetic.
Here’s what’s in the pipeline:
- Listen, Learn and Act Webinar Series
- Committing to bringing more voices of color to our panels and articles
- A scholarship fund for new African American travel advisors
I’d love to hear any other ideas you have (send us a note or comment below).
As big of an optimist as I am, I know there's not going to be a Kumbaya moment where all sides come together to create a fairy-tale ending. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences that shape our worldview. But instead of being divided by our different perspectives, let’s use it as a connection point.
All of our experiences are important because each of us has a role to play, bringing different strengths to the table.
As a travel community––a community that loves to help others connect to new cultures, new people, and new experiences to expand worldviews––we need to start looking closer to home and to listen and respond to the cries of "I can’t breathe."
We need to stand up together and say, “THIS IS WRONG. How can I help?” Whether it’s making sure your website has images that reflect the diversity of the United States, protesting peacefully, or taking a vow to no longer be silent. We all have a role to play.
What will your role be?
Join the Anti-Racism Movement
If ever there was cause to band together and get behind - this is it. We are by no means experts (see letter above) but fortunately, individuals and organizations have been putting a lot of resource lists together to help those of us who want to become allies. We've compiled some below but please add more in the comments!
Anti-Racism Resource List - Extremely thorough list of articles, videos, podcasts, books, film/TV, parent resources and more. Compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein
Travel Unity - a non-profit focused on empowering individuals and communities through travel and tourism.
Blacks in Travel and Tourism - dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives that create access to opportunities in the global tourism industry.
Podcast: Travel + Leisure's Let's Go Together - Celebrating diversity in travel