Monday, March 22, 2010

Being a Tourist Part V: Race, Class, and Power Issues

As I said in the beginning, tourism is embedded in power/race/class issues. Race because, class is very strongly tied with race to this day and that just has to be acknowledged. I think this clip art depicts this quite nicely with the Black person catering to the White Man. The White Man is typically the one in this direction of the power. And I know that I am an exception. My family and I are below the National Poverty Line, I am a woman, and I am of color, so I am not the regular candidate--but at the same time I cannot say that my poverty is the same as the favelados because obviously I am not starving and I am very very very thankful for that.

I am studying at an expensive University of California living in a town with a pretty high standard of living, I have the privilege(?) [I am still having an internal debate about what should be considered privilege and what should have been a guarantee in this context] of being able to eat organic food (I chose food over apparel, cars, and technology)—but the point is that I have all and more than my survival needs met--obviously if I have the luxury of traveling and studying abroad. But the point is that even though I am poor and a person of color, there still are different power dynamics between me and my host family, and my tour guides, and the people who “entertain” (Afro-Brazilian culture shows intended for tourists, capoeira shows) and work for me (our house cleaner, people making souvenirs) etc. And this can’t easily be reversed. Most of these people will not have the chance to come and visit me and take pictures of me while I entertain them.

Going off of the race thing, I do think that I feel a lot more comfortable not being White I feel like I might be less intimidating or foreign-seeming because I have a Latin American background too.
Short story time:
one time a few and my friends and I were talking on the street with this one guy who had a really cute baby and another really cute son who was around 4. We were just talking and playing when the 4-year-old mentioned to my friend “I like your color” and she’s like “oh you like the color of my shirt?” and the boy said “no” pointing to her arm “your skin color”. And she was pretty much left not sure as to how to respond. She just wasn’t expecting that, kind of in shock. Afterwards she regretted not saying something like “I like your color of skin too”. But really she was just shocked and had never had anyone say that to her before.

Michel Foucault is a good read on "Power"

And So-Min Cheong & Marc Miller, also wrote a good article titled
"Power and Tourism: a Foucauldian Observation" (1999)

Another article is found at:

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