“Where are you Really From?”

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Hello lovely humans! This week I’m back with a short one, because I know it’s one that many of you can relate to. The modern-day neo-colonialist comment.

Where are you really from?

I hope you realize that by asking someone this question, you automatically over-sexualized that they are “foreign”.

Asking me this makes a few things known:

  1. Your unchecked assumption is that I don’t ‘naturally’ belong in this country.

  2. You have made it clear that you see me as inherently different.

  3. You’ve “othered” me based on some type of characteristic or stereotype. In my case, presumably my skin-tone- my melanin.

I’ve taken a new approach to dealing with is micro-aggression.

You have to spice things up once in a while right?

Now, when people ask me this question, I’ve started to ask them to guess. It never ceases to amaze me how long it takes someone to say Canadian.

Their tongues travel all around the globe before reaching to the continent that we are situated in.

Sometimes I kindly save them from this trip and retort with a friendly smile, and short giggle, as I spit out -I’m Canadian.

What normally follows?

You guessed it.

No, no, no, I mean where are you REALLY from?

…oh vay

Or even better

What are you?

…umm what am I? What am I studying? What am I eating? What am I doing this weekend? Incredibly vague question when you think about it- haha.

OK, OK, even though I am aware of what you’re implying, “what are you” is such a terrible way to inquire about someone’s cultural background.

Luckily I’m not one to be easily offended but, c’mon how uninviting!

Ugh... Here we go again, dominant class (at least 9/10) attempting to define me, yet they never seem to have to define themselves.

My ethnic roots are not from here, but I am very much so Canadian. My parents are Jamaican, born and raised. Never living there, myself, I have only ever known the site as a vacation destination which Is why I cannot call it home. If anything, I am more of an alien to that country than this one!

Stereotypes, how I love to hate them. I routinely get the same few remarks from people I always get asked, when I reveal that I am of Jamaican ancestry.

Do you listen to Bob Marley?

Not really, I do have a t-shirt with his face on it though

Can you do a Jamaican Accent?

-no, and I’m probably not going to try and preform one for you.

So you can dance then, can’t you?

Yes! I can dance. Not because of the stereotypes attached to the historically hyper-sexualized black female body. I actually just grew up a dancer, mostly in classical ballet actually, but I digress.

Or some reference to Usain both or the bobsled team.

Yes, I have seen the movie, and share a heritage with a fast man, but no, I am not gifted with sprinting genes.

You must love spicy foods

Sure I do! if spicy means mild to medium on the Nando’s hot sauce scale.

What truly bothers me is when people are surprised about the lack of Jamaican history and culture, I am versed in. I would never assume that they know all of American or Canadian history, just because they were born there.

…Furthermore what even is Canadian culture haha? I digress.

I may as well add that this conversation also often results in me having to state that Africa, is not a country, but a continent; English is my first language; and no, I do not know your friend on your siblings’ sports team, who also happens to be Jamaican.

Dual levels of ignorance to debunk here.

Unfortunately, these questions aren’t one of those “the more the merrier situations”.

I know this all seems comical, (I truly am laughing as I type this), and it’s not a HUGE deal, but I hope it is obvious how much of a nuisance addressing these stereotypes are.

You may even think I’m being dramatic.

Fair. Admittedly I can often be dramatic (we all have our moments).

But the purpose of this piece is to denaturalize, one of many micro-aggressive comment that I readily come across.

You see, the thing about cultural hegemony is; when systems are in place (in this case discourse), when left unchallenged, then by default they are maintained, even supported. Make sense?

Furthermore, for a question linked to identity, it’s interesting how it’s often the first thing that comes up during a conversation. Obviously, humans are naturally curious beings, however, cultural background is generally tied to one’s life story, history, and upbringing.

What if someone doesn’t want to unpack all of that within 2 minutes of meeting you?

Don’t get me wrong I too, was once slightly guilty of this, until I saw the discomfort on someone’s face when they where explaining their story.

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All I’m trying to do is call into question they way in which we inquire about someones identity.

Simply food for thought. That’s all, no hard feelings. Just smiles and a little lesson :)

Where are you from may seem like a harmless question? But adding the word “really” and then emphasizing it to an extreme makes the curiosity condescending.

A part of it is not what is asked but how said.

...I would avoid assuming I have the right to determine who you perceive who organically- naturally -fits into the nation or not.

If the topic comes up naturally, go for it! If someone offers up the information then, please ask away! I know I will!

BUT…

Avoid trying to define someone else’s narrative.

This is my PSA: to remind everyone to be careful what you say. Next time you feel the need pose this question hesitate, and ponder the implicit implications that may come from your inquiry.

but that’s just me..

SimplybeingSam.