Traveling the World while World Traveling
As our trip to Ghana draws closer and closer, I find it more and more necessary to revisit Lugones's piece on code-switching and world-traveling. I find myself torn between excitement and anxiety in regards to travelling to Ghana.
On one hand, I worry about the implications my mere presence will have in Ghana. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin: the epitome of what the stereotypical American is. I have the appearance of a colonizer, my ancestors were most likely colonizers; no matter how good my intentions are, I feel as if it is impossible to detach myself from the power and privilege of being an elite liberal arts college student who has no business pretending like I can fully understand and grasp Ghanian culture. I also feel very limited in knowing only a few phrases of Dagbani, which I'm certain I will butcher with my. Without the ability to code-switch, I feel like my ability to world-travel is much more difficult since I will be conversing in the language of the colonizer, which is used primarily in professional and academic settings.
On the other hand, as a low-income student from a single-parent household, I feel so priviledged to have the opportunity to gain new perspectives, learn, explore, and grow in an international setting. As a Community Diversity Assistant, a Civic Engagement Office coordinator, and a Bryn Mawr student, I am passionate about social justice and have worked with people from a diverse range of backgrounds. This question can be applied in many of the contexts I already participate in: what business does a white girl from a homogenous hometown have talking about diversity? What right does she have to go into low-income communities? My answer to this would be that my role has been to provide resources to empower communities and students, not to belittle them. While bouncing East vs. West a few weeks ago, a student from another school accusing me of being racist for not letting an African-American student enter through the exit (which no one was allowed to do.) This accusation deeply offended me, coming from a family that often makes racist remarks, I am proud of the fact that I have rose above this. In a way, I'd rather be called a bitch or something along those lines because that would have reflected badly on his character rather than mine. The alternative is to never leave the Main Line and stay in a bubble, to never push my comfort zone, to never break past stereotypes, to be satisfied, "Well I am not [blank] so I shouldn't even try." It's true, I will never be able to fully imerse myself in Ghana or any other country because of my background and skin color. All I can do is to recognize my privilege and worldview and to be open-minded. There will be moments of cultureshock and times when I make mistakes but my genuine enthusiasm will hopefully outshine these obstacles.