"Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence." ― Leonardo da Vinci
As a white business owner and solopreneur, I've struggled with the message for Nine Muses Travel to send during these days of protest and if a separate message is even necessary. It's not because I don't feel a blow to my heart with every act of violence I see in the news now and all the years leading up to now. It's because I'm giving side eye to companies using this moment to market themselves and tout that they're inclusive because I don't actually know if that's true; I don't know if they've done the work. What does their staff look like? What are their mission statements? What do the people in their ads look like? Why did it take a global protest movement to announce their stand on racism and inclusivity? And what was their stand before Mr. Floyd's death?
Long ago I started the work of self-examination and concluded it's not enough to simply feel loving and kind toward everyone. Feelings aren't actions. Feelings don't bring change. Not performing racist acts doesn't automatically mean you're an ally. For example, all women know what sexism is, even when well-meaning men don't see it the way we do. Women can identify times beginning in childhood when sexism tried to weed its way in, and we feel a kind of way when we see all-male representation (in all its forms - government, business, etc.) making decisions that impact women's health and prosperity. The same thinking applies to race relations. Representation matters.
I recall an exit interview a while back when I spoke up about how everyone except for one person was white and said they needed more diversity on staff. It sends a message, I said. I was still carrying with me how a black woman had applied for a job there, and how and I others who interviewed her made our recommendation that she be chosen, only to be told she "wasn't the right fit." She was more qualified than I'd been when I was hired. You can't win every battle, but at least you have to fight and not be silent. No one should waste the chance to voice your opposition to close-mindedness when you encounter it. This work doesn't end when you put down a protest sign. This is a 24/7 job.
As a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white woman I have my own role to play in fighting racism, and it's one I take very seriously. Many times another white person has said something racist to me in a conspiratorial manner, as though I'm in on it with them, like a secret club of whiteness where they think they can get away with a nasty sentiment because I'm white too. (Men, doesn't this sound like sexist things other men say to each other when women aren't around?) When this happens, I get very excited because it's an opportunity. I seize upon these as teachable moments. When someone approaches me like this, they feel safe around me, and when someone is open like that and not defensive, there's a far greater chance of reaching them. So I stay kind (and don't lash out) and explain how I see things differently, and I share my perspective on the matter. And I talk it out. If children are in ear shot, my tone changes slightly. I speak just a little bit louder, a little more demonstratively. It's important for children to see and know that authority figures can be challenged and to model that behavior for them in a firm way that's not arrogant or cruel. My antiracism is a sneak attack. I am a spy in the house of hate. This is something all white allies can practice, and I encourage them strongly to do so.
Some of the deepest conversations I've had surrounding race were while ushering at Theatre for a New Audience, which often produces and presents work that challenges ideas about race in society. Their presentations of SoHo Rep's An Octoroon and Fairview opened my eyes, ears, heart, and mind even more, and the honest talks we had as a front of house team of all backgrounds brought us closer together while we worked on those shows. Presumptions were dismantled. Questions felt safe to be asked of each other. We came out of these shows knowing we were in safe hands with each other. I miss them all so much right now. We need diverse voices both in staffing and in the arts because we need these conversations and communities they create and foster.
I'm passionate about the arts and travel because at their best they take you outside your comfort zones and expose you to new worlds, new perspectives, and new voices, and you return home changed, with a greater understanding of what your own life means and your own place in this world. Traveling responsibly and sustainably in support of local cultures and economies also promotes a tremendous redistribution of wealth across the world and is why Nine Muses Travel is a proud member of the Virtuoso Sustainability community. Arts and travel aren't frivolous. They're essential.
That's my mission statement. That's what Nine Muses Travel represents.