If you're buying Jordans and Nike Suits but you don't have a PASSPORT, YOU'RE LOSING.— Amanda Seales 🇬🇩 (@amandaseales) October 9, 2017
Amanda Seales, or Tiffany from HBO’s “Insecure,” went on an early morning Twitter rant on Oct. 9 about traveling that proved she’s as unlikeable online as her character is on “Insecure.”
Seales’ Twitter and Instagram accounts say she visited the West African countries of Ghana and Togo and is currently in Paris. But instead of basking in the beauty of Paris and West Africa, she proceeded to shame people for not traveling. On her Twitter feed, she attempted to draw comparisons between people without passports to owning Jordans and Nike suits.
Here’s why her premise is deeply flawed.
There were 131,841,062 valid U.S. passports in circulation in 2016, according to a report by the State Department. That number includes the over 18 million issued in 2016. Large states such as California, New York, and Texas issued the most passports for the fiscal year 2016. The State Department doesn’t break down these numbers by race.
But it’s clear that Seales wasn’t talking about all Americans. She singled out a specific group of Americans -- black Americans.
Black Americans have, historically, had a fraught relationship with domestic and international travel. Many of our grandmas and grandaddies and aunties and uncles have stories about the difficulties of navigating the U.S. as a black person during the Jim Crow era. The Green Book for Negro Motorists was a yearly guide that outlined places that were safe for black travelers to visit. Even now, my family won’t stop for gas or food in certain areas in Virginia.
Traveling doesn’t save black folks from issues. A black recent college graduate was beaten to death in Greece in July, and while the motive remains unclear, people immediately suspected his blackness was a factor in his death. A less violent incident in Napa, Calif., culminated with a group of black women being kicked off of a wine tour in 2015 for being “too loud.” Having the ability to travel is dope, but it doesn’t end racism against the black body.
Seales’ tweetstorm -- she’s still going at it, by the way -- reeks of respectability politics. We’ve seen this “logic” before. It seems like this argument rears its hideous head at least once a month on Twitter. Somehow, owning Jordans is a bad thing and somehow, having a passport has been associated with “making it.” Whatever that means.
This either/or comparison has been applied to many things that certain people equate to status. “If you have a closet full of J’s, but you don’t have …” *insert expensive things that people can’t afford or don’t want to purchase* then you’re living wrong. You need to get your priorities in order. This is why black people can’t get ahead.
It’s respectability politics poorly disguised as fake caring. This line of thinking is gross, but it’s also wrong. Some people are using passports to “other” themselves from people. They believe that it makes them unique. But having a passport doesn’t mean one is cultured. It’s just another form of identification.
What Seales failed to realize is that while a passport can cost around $130 -- which is still a hefty price for a lot of people -- the cost of traveling can be steep. Airline tickets aren’t cheap, conversion rates are high, and hotels are expensive. And Seales doesn’t seem to understand that not everyone has the desire to travel abroad. Her tweet excluded those who travel domestically. The U.S. is a beautiful place to travel.
What folks choose to do or not do with the money they may or may not have is nobody else’s business. But the shaming of black people for not having the means -- or the desire -- to travel is tired. Let’s put this stupid “debate” to rest, once and for all. Folks need to stay out of other people’s wallets.