When Racism Pops Its Ugly Head In Travel Blogs

Racism, in any shape or form, is never okay but seeing it rear its ugly head in a travel blog written by a well travelled writer, it somehow feels a lot worse.

A friend of mine forwarded a blog post to me earlier today. When a friend had originally sent it to him, he presumed it was a parody. Then he started reading the post and couldn’t believe what he was reading. When I opened the post, I really didn’t know what to expect.

The last thing I thought I was about to read, however, was a disgustingly racist blog post hating on a city for sheltering Syrian refugees. A blog post telling people not to travel to Norway’s beautiful capital city due to the large refugee population. A blog post that, just when I thought it couldn’t get much worse, describes “dozens of Arabic refugees, dressed in their traditional clothing” walking around causing the writer high levels of anxiety and fear. I have never read such a scare mongering post in all my years of blogging and just reading it made my blood boil.

I then went back to check what sort of comments have been left of the article so far, who’s with me in feeling angry at such open racism. What are other bloggers saying about the situation? Can you guess how many critical comments I found?

Zero. Nil. None.

What makes it okay for a travel writer to write such a post and not be confronted? Is casual racism in travel so common now, that people have stopped caring? All I can hope is that my fellow travel bloggers open their eyes and stand up for what is right.

The writer says she feels fearful and anxious at being in a part of a city where she is the only “white, blond female”. That she will not be returning to Oslo as it a city overrun with refugees. She even felt the need to share her experiences with the world, using the highly inappropriate hashtags: #refugees #islam.

I have to wonder if she ever took a step back to think about why those refugees are there. How terrifying their lives must have been, having to leave their homeland, their family, their possessions. They are most certainly not there by choice. Did she think of them as people just like her and her friends and family, and wonder what their lives are like. That they did not choose to be there.

She wrote about her love for helping people and the less fortunate. How she thinks the situation in Syria is terrible. However, she believes that the entire country has been “taken over by refugees” and that this is a serious problem.

As travel bloggers, we spend a lot of time sharing our own personal experiences. We write about a city as we experienced it, talking about what we saw and how it made us feel. While I appreciate the author was trying to do this when writing about Oslo, I can’t help but feel racism comes across so strongly throughout her post. If only she has said people in a certain area of the city made her feel uneasy, instead of writing that Arabs in their “traditional clothing” were everywhere and made her fear for her life. She does not give examples of why this made her anxious, just that she thought they might kidnap, rape or murder her at any moment.

People should be praising Oslo for showing such compassion, for welcoming people who have nowhere else to go. The city, and its people, should be thanked for doing what many other countries in Europe have failed to do. I, along with many others, often say that its is the people who make a place, not the destination itself. Regardless of who they are, where they’re from, the colour of their skin or the design of their clothes, there is good to be found in everyone.

When a travel blogger writes that she “hates a city”, I am usually skeptical. Most of the time, I expect either a click-bait article or pure satire, where the post really contains stunning images that will make the reader feel anything but hatred towards the destination. The last thing readers expect is to be confronted by a full on racist article, blaming the demise of a beautiful city on a small population of its inhabitants. A small population that have arrived there, having left their entire lives behind them, and are no doubt still fearful for their future.

In a time when fear is at an all time high around the world, when racism is rearing its ugly head across Great Britain post-Brexit and events across the United States such as the Black Lives Matter protests are gaining momentum, the last thing we need is to add casual racism to the mix. Especially when written by an online influencer.

I hope the author can right her wrong and remove her post. I also hope she can try to educate herself on why her post was so wrong, and can in turn educate those that ‘liked it’ and managed to read it in its entirety without letting their blood boil. Because at the end of the day, aren’t those that do not stand up to racism just as bad?

Speak up, people.

It’s time we all stood up for each other.

  • shobha42016
    July 9, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Do you think she meant to be racist? I’m thinking she took on a big issue and put in a couple of selfies and 500 words and obviously it came out all wrong because there was very little thought put into the nuances of this difficult issue. Obviously she is also Israeli and may have pre-conceived fears and notions related to Arabs which came into play. Not that i’m defending her. I think it’s a badly written, badly thought out post – she should stick to listicles and fluffier fare because she’s really caused an uproar without probably meaning to. Just my 2 cents.

    • Janet newenham
      July 10, 2016 at 11:59 am

      I don’t think people ever *mean* to be racist, I think you either are or your aren’t. I would hope that she did not set out to cause controversy but by labelling her post with the hashtags #refugees #islam I must say it felt like she was looking for a reaction.

      I understand she must have pre-conceived fears, but as a travel blogger who now lives in the US and who has travelled to over 30 countries, you would think that you would have a more rounded world view and that she would have developed a deeper understanding of people from different countries, who wear different clothing and speak a different language.

      • Hyon il Lee
        July 15, 2016 at 4:23 am

        Infinite respect to journalists and appreciater of cultures. One day, I too will put the two together. But from where i sit, I have to agree with Shoba here and I will say this in a way that makes sense without being too verbose (my opinion only and I might have facts wrong). If someone lived in a habitat that has not changed because there was absolute no reason to and everyone got along in the CULTURE <—important word. Than, one day, from no fault of the culture or a desire, a new culture came to reside mostly from a lack of structure or stability from the foreign culture. Now, as nature has it, there will be changes to both cultures due to this action and one might not act so hospitable. Unless you know Liam Neeson, or some one with a set of particular skill sets, there might be a chance hostility takes set. Not racist….natural effect.

      • marion
        August 7, 2016 at 4:35 pm

        30 countries is not a lot – if she only went to Europe she’s done 28! I always distinguish between travellers and visitors, whereas a traveller takes time and might even work/volunteer in a country and get to know the culture – visitors go to a country to take photos.

        I don’t know the post in question but I wish to believe that people find a way to talk to her and see what she really really meant!


  • Luke
    July 9, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    You have got to be kidding! I read both of your posts. By reading hers and others she has written, I’ve learned that she travels alone and does so because she loves learning about and experiencing new cultures and doesn’t want to be influenced by even her closest friends. If you consider someone racist because they feel uncomfortable walking alone in a foreign country and being surrounded by people who are notorious for doing bad things to people like her, than I think you are the one with the problem!!
    Way too many people now are throwing the term racist out there just looking for attention, as it seems to me, YOU are doing! Being racist is having hatred for an entire race. Did you get that from reading her post? If so, we obviously comprehend words differently.
    Get over yourself and stop labeling people for undeserved reasons!

  • Florence
    July 9, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Seriously, I don’t have words. How is that even possible?
    When I read the article I had the impression to listen to one of Marine Lepen discourse… I am actually very scared to see that even people who are traveling and who are meeting other cultures can think this way!

  • Reid G.
    July 9, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Thank you for this. I was seething as I read her post. And for the people who doubt she meant to come off racist or saying it is just her experience. I’m sorry but her experience is racist, racists do not “try” to come off racist, they simply are racist and assume that they aren’t. She literally feared for het life because she did not see any white faces, her words. She was terrified of their different clothing. She was terrified by the fact that they were different period. That is the textbook definition of racist. Call out horribleness when you see it, stop looking to justify her messed up article.

  • mosesphd
    July 9, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I’d like to read both. there is no link for the other article. Janet, this is a beautiful response piece. I think you handled it very well.

  • TyrannMisu (@tyrannmisu)
    July 9, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Haha, thank you for destroying free speech with your retard article. You are just as good in denouncing people with non-mainstream opinions as the nazis were. Stop this hate-mongering and study a bit about the migrant problem in sweden:



    But yeah, you will keep ignoring it until you are a victim yourself.

    • Tamara van Groningen
      July 9, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      Ehh, are you just really bad at geography, or are you only grabbing at straws to try and spread hatred? Otherwise I don’t see what an article about Sweden has to do with Oslo.

    • Sharon
      July 9, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      Oh my goodness, so many kinds of wrong. Are you comparing Janet to Nazis?! That’s so nuts.

      Plus ‘retard’? Really?

    • Annika
      July 10, 2016 at 6:19 am

      Comparing someone with a nazi and ableism. Wow, all in the name of proclaimed free speech?! What kind of person does that?!

    • Kathi Daniela
      July 11, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Well… you know that it’s the Nazis who are racist, do you? Per definition, Janet therefore can’t be one as she’s not denigrating some culture or country. Before using certain words, one should unterstand what they mean and how to use them..

  • Daniel Schwarz
    July 9, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Personally I think that the UK attracts the worst kinds of freeloading scum from all over the world and that’s why I voted Leave (I know they’re very far from ideal but I think it was necessary), but this has nothing to do with refugees or Syrian’s. A lot of British folk (especially where I’m from in South-East London) are freeloading scum too, but of course the media neglects to mention that. She chose to listen to the media, which is very disappointing from a supposedly open-minded traveller who mixes with different cultures everyday. Her assumption is very narrow-minded. I didn’t experience that from Norway at all. I’ve loved every country I’ve been too and the locals that lived there too. Just the UK and the types there I can’t stand.

  • Annemarie
    July 10, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Wow, good grief. I am always ashamed to hear travellers utter narrow-minded nonsense and just reiterate fear mongering statements that more often than not the media throws out at us. But writing a whole blog post about it is just sad. I get why a women travelling alone might feel wary and maybe a bit afraid when finding herself surrounded by a culture they were not expecting to find but you cannot simply assume that they are criminals or out to get her. I would love to read her article now to read it for myself but I guess you removed the link. Anyway, well done on speaking up against racism! It’s what travel should teach us all.

  • premkan
    July 11, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    I was not able to read the article in question, but went through the second which is a defender of the first. She stands by her feelings, but feels that some of the phrasings in the first article may have misled people’s way of looking at it. She seems to be confused between ‘feeling’ and ‘opinion’ and she has used these two words interchangeably in the defender article which to me is not well thought out. I guess her first article was a result of spontaneous feelings gushing out of a child’s mouth without parents’ approval. As a travel blogger she should be sensitive to cultures, customs and a changing world order. Prior to reading the first article what I can see here is an issue of maturity, not one of racism. But if the blogger chooses to continue her frank speeches unchecked it would not be good for different kinds of people to mingle while travelling. There needs to be some pep talk rather than an attack on someone who is trying her best to develop a broader view of the world after having gone through endless troubles in her life.

    Just to share with you a moment during my flight from KL to Jakarta a few months ago. My seatmates were two Malaysian girls of Chinese origin and they were busy talking to each other the entire flight. I was on the window and it was impossible not to listen to their conversation, sitting very close. The girl on the aisle dropped a sentence like this – ‘there’s no worse punishment than working with the Indians”. The girl in the middle quickly shushed her noticing my presence. May be she was racial, may be she was not. But I could feel the immaturity in her words. Does it mean that I will avoid travelling to Chinatowns in Malaysia or Singapore, or here in Indonesia where I work? I wished I could talk to that girl and find out more about her workplace and working conditions. I was more curious to talk to her than to despise her.

  • sanpedroscoop
    July 12, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Great post Janet. Agreed! Travel writers are inviting people to broaden their experiences and their minds…totally sucky when that FOR SOME STUPID REASON includes hate.

  • Kate
    July 15, 2016 at 4:30 am

    This is so important! I recently made a post on Inequality http://www.travelfordifference.com/inequality, which I am a huge advocate to change. For the most part it received a great deal of applaud. Although, on some other forms of social media there were a few people that tried to attack all Muslims for being terrorists; using comments like ” Muslims are terrorists because the Islamic State is Islamic” (literally the words that were used).

    These people claimed to be activists of human rights and believed that replicating the acts of terror against the perpetrators is the only way we will ever break free from the cycle of hatred. We have the right to feel whatever emotions we are faced with, but I really cannot help but fear the future if people continue to discriminate for given religion, race, gender or sexuality. I really do think that we should be seeking change, not revenge. Hatred and violence is never the answer!

    This post is a great, we should be saying no to any form of hatred. Hi five to you Janet!!

  • Ulrike
    July 26, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Great article, Janet! And there have been many critical cmments on that Oslo-article. My comment, too There have been so many critics, that she finally deleted the article. This Oslo-Article and the racist articles of some other person made me and some fellow travel blogger start an action called “Blogger gegen Rassismus” (Blogger against Racism). We are writing in German language. We want to show, that we are not quiet, when people write and talk racism. WE want to show how wonderful our world is, and that we only can develop peace when we talk to each other and travel with an open mind. If you like, we would be happy if you join us. https://www.facebook.com/bloggergegenrassismus/?fref=ts
    Thank you for your great article!