I was 16 when I first saw a slum tour. I was outside my 100-square-foot house washing dishes, looking at the utensils with longing because I hadn’t eaten in two days. Suddenly a white woman was taking my picture. I felt like a tiger in a cage. Before I could say anything, she had moved on.
That is Kennedy Odede, a Kenyan studying in the US, rightfully outraged about slum tourism. It’s an Op-Ed in the NY Times. This must be a pet issue of one of the editors (Helene Cooper?) for they’ve written about it regularly.
Kennedy is right, of course, but more critical than constructive. I don’t think there is anything good to be said about the worst of the slum tours, but that’s not to say development tourism can’t be respectful or beneficial.
A socially-conscious person can read this Op-Ed and be left asking: how should I travel? Readers and I have tackled the question on the blog before. Here are five posts, including the first controversial one and my response.