Today, only about one third of Americans hold a U.S. Passport. Though there is no statistic to account for how many of them belong to African Americans, judging from the already dismal 33% mixed with my personal interactions, I am willing to bet that the number is close to the single digits. How is it that a group of hyphenated Americans don’t even have the ability to travel to their ancestral homeland? It has less to do with opportunity, procedure, or cost ($165) , and more with to do with education, perception,and understanding.
Why a passport is important.
A U.S. passport is one of the highest form of government identification that a citizen can obtain. Being that there are many checks and verifications made prior to getting issued one, it is implied that you are definitely a citizen if you possess a passport. Now, I know, black people don’t get a lot of citizenship questions until we win the presidency, but in the event that you do you’ll have something to show your bigoted critics.
The real importance lies in the fact that it will allow you to leave the country for any reason you see fit. Vacations, tours, conferences, and even refuge are not confined to 50 states, but to the entire world. I remember one recent instance where me and another engineer at work where the only individuals that knew how to configure and set up a network from scratch in our organization. He was originally scheduled to set up a network in Toronto, but ended up in the hospital, so guess who got a phone call… Being that I had my passport for some time at that point I was able to act in his proxy and visit Toronto for the first time. You never know when things like this will happen, but a U.S. passport is good for 10 years so as long as you don’t lose it you should be cool.
And lets be honest, if it ever becomes any more blatantly obvious that black people are not equally treated and respected in this country, they will not be “sending” me anywhere; country or grave. I will use this passport to shape my own destiny, elsewhere.
The power of a U.S. passport.
A U.S. passport is the 3rd most powerful passport in the world based on the amount of countries you can visit visa-free (156), Germany being first with 158. Obtain a U.S Passport automatically qualifies you for the Visa Waiver Program that allows you at least 90 days of travel with some countries like the Philippines allowing 180 days.
If you haven’t had to deal with applying for a visa, especially if you are not an American, you don’t understand how much of a benefit this is. Having a foreign government critique your itinerary and make an arbitrary judgement on whether or not they are going to let you stay is a pain in the ass that you don’t want to deal with if you don’t have to. Thankfully this is a small benefit that we have in possessing a U.S. passport.
Having a passport creates a world of opportunity.
More than anything, having a passport will open your gateway to the world. Something that we as Americans have taken for granted for a while. Whether it be because we have 50 states to travel internally, or the country’s superiority complex, we don’t get out of our own country enough. You will be surprised at the people you will meet and experiences you will have that will impact your life forever.
Even more so for black people like myself who have been robbed of our cultural foundation. There is so much to learn about ourselves and our people that’s just not common knowledge or a topic of discussion in the United States. We are well served by traveling and learning more about ourselves, don’t allow the lack of having a passport stop you.