no, where are you REALLY from?

I hate judging people, but whenever I get that “So where are you from?” question I automatically brace myself for a boring and unenlightening conversation with someone fairly ignorant of the world.

A: “I’m from the U.S.”
Q: “No, but your parents? Where are THEY from?”
A: “(sigh) They’re from the Philippines.”

Even though I identify much more as American than as Filipina (I haven’t set foot in the country in ten years and I can’t even speak Tagalog anymore), the goddamn color of my skin piques stupid people’s curiosity.

This only pisses me off because white Americans never get asked about this, and it’s a pretty much useless question if you’re anywhere near culturally sensitive. See, if people ask a typically white guy:

Q: “Where are you from, white boy?”
A: “Oh, I’m American.”

they leave it at that because the white boy in question looks stereotypically American (or French or Swiss or whatever), even though if you went further you might find something more interesting:

Q: “But where are you really from?”
A: “Well, I’m one-fifth Irish, one-fifth Scottish, one-quarter German or maybe Scandinavian… some Navajo thrown in there…”

And if you ask an average African-American this question, well, good luck.

Q: “But what country are you really from?”
A: “Hmm, that’s a good one. I have no fucking clue because MY ANCESTORS WERE BROUGHT TO THE U.S. AS SLAVES. Cunt.”
Q: “Oh. …But you’re from Africa, right?”
A: “…God, just shut the fuck up.”

I personally don’t bring race or ethnic origin up unless there’s a particular circumstance that brings it up for me. I’m much more interested in the languages that people speak— it’s more useful to know in the long run. And if the person’s worth getting to know, I’ll figure it out in time anyway. Not that I give a shit.

Besides, what’s the use of asking? All it does is help you project more stereotypes onto the person. If you have a different answer, please submit your double-spaced, five-paragraph essay on cultural sensitivity to


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This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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