Thanks Sherry for your thoughtful comment and I’m glad this conversation has encouraged you to consider the broader context to the question of “where are you from?”
I don’t think most people mind when asked in a spirit of genuine inquiry — as you get to know someone, you typically learn where they grew up, what their home environment was like, what their parents do, etc. It’s the generally high frequency at which this question is directed at Asian Americans (the unintended consequences of communication) is what can make it challenging.
Imagine you were born with a head of green hair. Of course people would be curious and you’d probably get many comments and questions about your hair — “how did your hair get green?” or “What’s it like having green hair?” And while that curiosity is genuine and not malicious, it still is a constant reminder you that you look different from everyone else and there’s something “off” about you.
Of course race is much more complex than hair color, but that thought exercise is an interesting one to explore.
I recently tweeted a couple statements that might also be interpreted more positively than where are you from, including:
- Have you always lived around here?
- Where’s home for you?
- Did you grow up in this area?
These questions empower the other person to own their narrative and share what they would feel is the relevant information to help you understand where they from.
Thanks again for reading and sharing!