The Asian American Man Study-2015 Results
Jason Shen

“ One of the most common race-related experiences that nearly all Asian Americans share is being asked the question “Where are you from?” in a situation where the asker is looking to identify their country of origin. The presumption is that the person isn’t from “here”.”

It’s not clear from the above article how the intentions of the ‘the asker’ are being determined.

Presumably, the question has a situation in mind like the following:

A): Where are you from?

B): Boston. (Let’s assume we’re in America for the sake of, well, NOT having an argument…)

A): No. Where are you REALLY from?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the preponderance of the evidence in the case of this example dialog would indicate (but not ‘prove’…) ‘othering’ (as it is currently called, I believe. This may have changed by the time you read this…YMMV) and as suggested in the article. No problem here.

However, the question ‘Where are you from?’, presumably, also has an (or, at least one) entirely benign possible motivation. Partly connected, I am asserting, to another data point presented above whereby a substantial majority of those surveyed either agree or strongly agree with the statement “My Asian origins are an important part of my personal identity.”

It seems to me that getting to know someone without asking about ‘an important part of their personal identity’ is actually kinda…rude.

So, we actually have TWO problems. We clearly want to reduce the number of occasions when people face the first context (which is clearly unfriendly and exclusionary) and increase the number of occasions where people face the second (which is clearly friendly and inclusive).

This is difficult to do in one survey as any question intended to elicit information about the first case is likely to frame and/or prejudice any answers to the second, and vice versa.

One good step might be, in a future survey, to include the question ‘How often do YOU ask people ‘Where are you from?’ instead. That would provide a useful context to place alongside the data from the question already asked. No?

The reason I think this is important is that this survey, as constructed currently, is at risk of (and in a very small way, it must be said) chilling BOTH behaviours. Unintended consequences methinks… And actually counter-productive if your goal is one of promoting an environment of understanding, compassion, interest, edification, and inclusion. Which is definitely what I think the author, like me, has in mind as a worthy goal.

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