By Sami Kay Starnes
Across the globe, America is called one of the greatest countries in the world. Some of us agree, while others are conflicted. Many adults have never left the U.S. to know whether that statement is accurate.
Exposure is the key to lifelong learning. It promotes creativity and innovation in children. Allowing them to see not only other parts of the world but to be fully immersed in the experience of others also helps to breed compassion and gratitude. Simply telling them phrases like, “You don’t know how good you have it,” is not the same as showing them compared to other children their age. In addition, ideas from different cultures and ideologies can help to springboard change in ways their peers may never be able to do due to their limited scope of what the world undeniably is.
A passport will help children in all income brackets have the proper identification to vote when they come of age. According to travel.gov, in 2021, only 37% of the U.S. population had valid, unexpired U.S. passports. That’s 145,028,408 U.S. citizens. And those percentages decrease (21%) and increase (64%) when broken down by household income of under $50K to $100K or more, respectively. This data is representative of every adult in the United States – not broken down by race. We can presume the number of Black people, let alone children, who have U.S. passports to be much lower. If we were to “gift” our children this vital piece of identification, we would be able to help increase the 25% of African-American voting-age citizens with proper identification in order to vote, to well over 50% or greater when they come of age to vote.
Most of our culture’s greats have traveled the world and attribute it to changing their lives for the better. In fact, after Martin Luther King, Sr. returned from Germany at age 35, he was so inspired that he changed his and his son’s names to Martin. Likewise, when Malcolm X traveled to Mecca, he changed his views. Imagine if MLK, Sr., and Malcolm X had traveled abroad in their youth.
This one vital document can change the trajectory of any person, but especially that of a child. Your child will be able to see firsthand how America’s constructs are very different from that of a third-world country. They will begin to understand the difference between racism and classism and can start to work with you to figure out how they want to combat the two in their own lives. As we constantly belt out the rhetoric of, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” let’s ensure we are showing them the whole picture of the world – with their own eyes. Trust me; you can afford it. Honestly, you can’t afford not to get your child a passport that will open doors, perhaps even you never knew existed.
Please help your child always to be able to register to vote, to actually vote, and to see how they fit in as a Black American in other parts of the world. Help them to dismantle the ideas America’s textbooks have forced them to believe about people in Africa and abroad. Afford them the birthright of knowledge through travel.
Sami Kay Starnes is an educator, philanthropist, children’s book novelist, podcast host, screenwriter, and script doctor. She enjoys the ocean, reading autobiographies, and writing in her spare time.