I was born in Florida. When a white person is asked, “Where are you from?” the question is actually a question. … Read More, Trapeze artists hovered above a crowd. My parents and siblings all live in Florida. Thanks for commenting and for being so civil. “I always wait for the next question someone asks after they hear where I’m from,” she says. The question annoys me because they’re trying to put me in a box and if people just guess correctly, the look on their face is like they just won a prize.”. And that’s okay. “Where are you from?” is an OK question, and I do love to answer it. “During the time of slavery in the [American] South, slaves often took the last name of the slave owner,” he explains. Meridian Hill Park Or Malcolm X Park? But I always reply that I’m from Michigan. May it be that our notion of what it means to be American has expanded enough to include all of us. and has a forthcoming book on the famed mystic Rumi. I get bothered when people walk up to me, do not ask me anything else, and then get offended when I give them the truth. But … Continue reading →. i’m from texas, and usually two words into opening my mouth, people say “where are you from? I know it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine when people ask me this, and I know I am irrationally bothered by it. This invalidating of someone else’s biography even extends to our diction, to our vocabulary. My Canadian colleague, Mary Shaw, said something that really stayed with me: “I realize that I’m someone with privilege. DCentric was created to examine the ways race and class interact in Washington, D.C., a city with a vibrant mix of cultures and neighborhoods. He is a professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University. We know our history. The older businesses that opened along the strip in the aftermath of the 1968 riots are, one-by-one, closing shop (andÂ getting millions of dollars in exchange for their buildings, if they own them). When we as people of color are asked that question, it sounds different because it is different. D.C. Caribbean Carnival No Longer In D.C. Malcolm X or Meridian Hill Park: On Symbolism And Accuracy, Resentment And Race In Reducing Government, The Effect Of Youth Unemployment On Crime, Lost In Translation: Report Says D.C. Writing a post about one issue doesn’t imply that it is the only thing I care about or will write about, ever. Asking someone, “Where are you from?” can seem like a very innocuous question but can quickly turn into a microaggression. The idea that only white people ask only people of color “where are you from” is erroneous.Â In fact is is only in the United States where I’ve experienced this to be a problem (for obvious reasons). Whether it was based on how I looked, sounded, or information the professor had gathered about me beforehand, their tone implied that, because I was an international student, my ability to write English well (or not) was tied to my geographical and cultural background. (Poll). I spent my first week researching and reporting an audio story about the local farmer’s market. The On Being Project He can be reached regarding speaking engagements at, an immigrant can become British, but not English. Of my general place in the world. It comes up during the 10-minute chats we have with our Uber drivers, in job interviews, and even during that awkward small talk at office parties. They mean: Where is your brown skin from? Photo Recap: Dr. Dog at Electric Factory, 3/24/12, Tweeting Surgery: Latest In Long Tradition Of Medical Voyeurism, Fun Failure: How to Make Learning Irresistible, Dismissal Hearing Delayed for Anti-Obama Marine Sgt. However, he doesn’t mind it. It drives me insane when people ask me that question. I am from Allah, angels, I am from many places. Â I’m someone who is also a child of Indian immigrants, so I have a better handle on this when I’m curious about someone else’s background. I totally agree with Jasmin Thana, if I’m asked later in a conversation, I don’t really mind. How can someone be “exotic” in America? In Your Words: Black or African American? While I agree there are better ways to go about finding out what someones heritage is than what you have experienced.Â I’m sure everyone has something that they get asked on a regular basis that is either rude, annoying, or innapropriate.Â I have a friend who is homosexual and hates when people ask him what role he plays in his relationships. None of us have singular identities and most of us belong in many places. In America, we do not have this distinction. This is a question we all ask — and get asked — very often. Those queries can be exhausting and promote a sense of isolation or “otherness” on a good, healthy day. It’s also important how you word your question. Better questions surround who they want to be, what their aspirations are, what specific needs you can help them with,” Rai explains. It didn’t strike me as a rude question because America is a melting pot, or a mixed salad if you will. When a white person is asked, “Where are you from?” the question is actually a question. In my case, I didn’t confront or seek clarification from my professor. It’s always the first question. They are all home. Florida is home. For immigrants, for people of color, it has been a different experience. The report, by the nonprofit, non-partisanÂ group based at University of Miami, found that elderly women are more likely to live alone and face higher poverty rates than men. What else is asking “Where are you from?” if it is not white supremacy? Image by Eunice Lituañas/Unsplash, Public Domain Dedication (CC0). It is one of the only times when people feel entitled to veto your biography. Is this really that big of a problem?Â I’m not saying that it’s not something that people could find annoying, but whats wrong with simply answeringÂ “I was born in Southern California, to immigrants from India, thanks for asking”.Â It’s a straight to the point answer to a straight to the point question.Â Why let little things get to you, why not focus your thoughts on more serious problems like disparity in prison populations or opportunities for employment and education.Â Getting the world to tip toe around asking you what your ethnicity is not how to fix the larger racial problems facing the world. Do not confuse a questioner’s perceived motivation with the validity of the answer.Â The two are very separate. All it takes is a little bit of self-awareness and a lot of accountability, so diversity actually makes people feel included. It can mean different things in different contexts. From my conversations, I learned that there are no easy answers to this question. Here is the problem: For those of us who already feel “different” in a given space, being asked where we’re from carries implicit assumptions about our race, caste, ethnicity, nationality, etc. Before you ask personal questions, be willing to get to know someone better. Can Wireless Tablets Bridge The Digital and Education Divide? We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t feel comfortable.” If someone doesn’t respond positively to you, understand that they may not be willing to address the question, and let it go. How can you start? I am frequently asked “what I am,” to which the obvious answer is “American,” but I know what they mean and generally say “half Russian and half Polish.” People like to play the guessing game though, and tend to peg me as Italian or Lebanese. On DCentric’s Facebook page, reader Laurie Peverill volunteered that she asks strangers about their “family history”, instead of the nebulous “Where are you from?” She adds, “Assuming that very few of us are actually from here originally, everyone has a great answer.”, Ask other questions first. “It is likely that many of us might be okay with asking our juniors or colleagues about their background, but how many of us have actually asked a senior executive a similar question?” asks Rai. Why is the question frequently aimed at people who have darker skin, immigrant parents and yes, interesting backgrounds, if not to emphasize difference? DCentric was created to examine the ways race and class interact in Washington, D.C., a city with a vibrant mix of cultures and neighborhoods. If you don’t ask everyone where they are “from”, why not? In the United Kingdom, an immigrant can become British, but not English. The combination of universities and tech companies draws people to the state from all over the world.