In a short series of tweets this week, New York Times best-selling author Luvvie Ajayi took a moment to remind her followers that “Africa is not a country” and that the continent is home to 54 countries.
Ajayi went on to recommend Africa as a vacation destination (a proposition Travel Noire clearly stans for), and said that visiting for things other than volunteer work and photo opportunities is always an option (again, we stan). However, she also said that travelers shouldn’t use the phrase “I’m going to Africa” when preparing to visit the continent and, while the sentiment initially makes sense on the surface, I couldn’t help but wonder—why not?
It’s not uncommon for travelers to say “I’m going to Europe” or “I’ll be in South America,” even though the continents are comprised of several different countries. Not mentioning the country they’re visiting doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t know where they’re going. So what’s the big deal?
Tweets of you-go-girl-esque support and anecdotes flooded in from Ajayi’s followers…
While others, like myself, questioned what is so bad about saying “I’m going to Africa?”
The problem with the tweet itself, and those who chimed in to cheer on the tweet is simple: there’s a level of condescension that assumes that Americans—or even broader, Westerners — are ignorant about the diversity of the African continent. That’s just not true, especially in 2019, with the increasing visibility of African cultures and accessibility of travel to the continent.
RELATED: Luvvie Details Disrespectful Experience As A Black Woman Traveler
There’s a broader discussion to be had about some Black immigrants in America and their perception of Black Americans as inferior, but that’s something to save for another day. The most important thing to note though is that neither Black immigrants to America nor people who identify as African-Americans are a monolith, and flippant statements that try to “correct” the behavior of the very few should be side-eyed (or, at the very least, questioned).
So whether you’re going to Africa, or Asia, or Europe, say it how you want, okay? It’s no big deal.