This is a commonly asked question that some think is ok to ask – but actually is quite offensive.
The question itself is not a bad one. I think it is extremely normal to ask someone ‘Where are you from?’ I have asked this question many times…….
However, the challenge comes when you answer the question, and perhaps your given response was not the one expected!
So, the follow up question comes, ‘Where are you really from?’ At this point I usually do an eye roll.
“When you are the only person asked this question continuously, it can make you feel like you need to explain your differences and almost prove who you are or where you are ‘really’ from!”
This was highlighted recently, Ms. Fulani, a black British charity boss, who was repeatedly asked where she was from during a palace visit, despite answering several times ‘Where she was really from?’
Lady Susan Hussey’s repeatedly asked the same question to validate her ideas, but rarely does the right answer pop up!
Fatigue, exhaustion and frustration
There are many ideas held about ethnicity, race and culture. Yet, many assumptions are made on limited understanding.
So, perhaps this question is not the real one?
For those who experience daily micro-aggressions or being verbally abused about ‘Where they are really from?’ The idea that I was born British and I have lived in the UK my entire life is not the right answer or even an answer that is good enough for some!
Many of us do not have a single identity, but are from a number of different places or cultures. The answer, therefore, is not as simple as having to explain ‘Where am I really from?’
Like many who are insistent in asking, the answer is often irrelevant. Instead, a strong reminder you are NOT welcome or accepted is causing fatigue, exhaustion and frustration.
Next time, if you ask someone ‘Where they are from?’ and the answer is not what you had anticipated, perhaps it is better NOT to keep asking!
Instead, it is important to have a real exchange and conversation, before asking such a personal question.
“People with a genuine interest have a different tone and way of showing respect that isn’t looking for a specific answer”
Let’s stop asking the question ‘Where are you really from?’
Nobody should ever have to justify their identity to others or be asked repeatedly by anyone.
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