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WonkTV: Traveling The World As A Biracial Family With Author Alana Best
Wonkette Book Club returns!
Author Alana Best and her husband, Roland, are a young Canadian couple with an “insatiable desire to explore,” so their blended family of five embarked on an epic year-long trip around the globe. It was an eye-opening experience. As Best says, “We feasted our five senses on the temples of Southeast Asia, to the pyramids of Egypt, to the rolling hills of Tuscany, and the African plains. However, we also experienced prejudice and racism on a scale I never would have expected.”
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Best is white, and she concedes that the racial profiling their family endured on their travels might’ve shocked her but was unfortunately not a surprise for her husband, who’s Black.
In 2018, we took 56 plane rides around the world. As a white woman, I was never randomly selected for extra security screening. As a Black man, my husband consistently was.
Roland was targeted so often that we tried different scenarios to see if it would change the results. He held the baby or walked with our daughter (who is white, from a previous marriage) to see if being a parent would result in better treatment. He went solo without the kids and bags, or I walked beside him and gave him the stroller while I carried our son, so it was clear we were all together. Sometimes he had collared button-up shirts, other times athletic wear, or jeans and T-shirts. None of it mattered.
Best’s experiences inspired her captivating memoir, Around The World In Black And White: Traveling as a Biracial, Blended Family, which was released in August. Her story resonated with me, as my wife and I are an interracial couple who enjoy travel. We’ve only done parts of Europe so far with our son, but what’s interesting is that my wife has gotten more of the “let’s make sure you’re not a child trafficker” questions when going through security with the kid.
We also haven’t been to the parts of Asia where Best’s Black family was constantly singled out. Best told me how her travels sparked a self-reflective journey for herself. She had perhaps wanted to resist the notion that blatant racism persists, and that there are no “collared-shirt” hacks to avoid them. She also confronted her own personal blindspots — while shopping in Paris, she’d put items in her backpack without worrying if anyone thinks she’s shoplifting. She even let her thirsty daughter open a drink before they’d reached the checkout. This is something no Black person — included her husband — would ever do.
People will often say they travel to “get out of their comfort zone.” That’s admirable, but that often means venturing into situations that are less safe, both physically and emotionally. Something Best and I discussed is how our specific comfort zones are different: I grew up in 1980s South Carolina, so there are few places where racial prejudice, both covert and overt, surprise me, and like most Black people, I’m accustomed to being an “outsider” within my own home. It arguably makes travel easier. Like my favorite Time Lord, I’m constantly on the run as a I never felt truly at home anywhere.
Best and her family live in Victoria, British Columbia, but she doesn’t pretend that Canada is absent any racial issues. When people are fortunate enough to travel, we often go from major city to major city. This can shelter us from truly different cultures and perspectives. I get it, of course: You work hard all year and you want a true vacation, not a test of your tolerance or an exhausting battle with hostile conditions. But there’s something invaluable from seeing what the world is truly like.
Check out the rest of my conversation with Alana Best here:
Subscribe to his YouTube channel for more fun content.
Catch SER on his podcast, The Play Typer Guy.