An swpd reader sent the following email, in the hopes of hearing from other readers about what she describes:
My best friend's boyfriend (white) has recently revealed to me that, if he were ever in South Africa, he would want to live in the townships for a week in order to understand what the black South Africans go through, and "to see what $20 would do." He thinks that such an experience would make him a better person. Having to listen to him talk about this stuff made me really uneasy, but I didn't know how to articulate why it made me so uneasy. (Also, the reason he wants to go to South Africa in the first place is because he wants to enjoy the rugby and cricket there.)
However, on the flipside, one of my teachers recently told us about why he teaches, and one of the reasons were his experiences with the disparities in standards of living in India. My teacher, an Indian who grew up in the U.S., decided to go to Calcutta as a young adult specifically in order to be "shocked." I felt uncomfortable when I heard this, but I don't know if that's because I had just had the discussion with my friend's boyfriend. I'm still trying to figure out whether a PoC who goes to another country to be "shocked" is in a completely different scenario that a white person who goes to another country to be "shocked." (However, since my teacher here is an Indian going to India, there are of course other nuances.)
Do you think she's right to find either or both of these travelers in search of other people's pain off base?
And have you encountered other travelers (or wannabe travelers) like this? If so, what did you think?
Update: Thanks to commenter Sean for the following related video, "Gap Yah," by a British comedy group, The Unexpected Items: