I am Indian American, and it’s 2017. But I still get asked ‘What are you?’
Washington Post

Are you upset of the “privilege” you receive if you adopt a more “exotic” ethnicity than you might actually be? (Like my white friend who falsified a german accent in high school to pick up girls.) Are you upset that you are being denied privilege, or that you are receiving it, or that there is a flip side to the “privelege” others insist you may or may not have, or that you’re upset at the notion that America, arguably among the *least* racist countries in the world, still asks the question “What are you?”

Speaking as someone who has a fascination with ethnicity and demographics, please allow me to fill you in on why *some* people ask the question: simple, personal curiousity. NOT to place you in a box of my own making. And even to properly identify your ethnicty. Perhaps in the interests in reading up on your ancestry because most of us “plain ol’ white folk” will likely never leave the country, and reading about where you or your family actually camre from is a vicarious experience of another culture. I have personally asked the question (not to someone walking by, but after some personal rappor has become evident) simply becuase I’m personally curious. I want to know, for no other reason than personal curiosity, if the asian that I’m working next to is ethnically: Chinese; Korean; Vietnamese; Malasian; Japanese; etc… I’m just curious. And if I know they’re foreign nationals, I can use that little bit of information to prompt a question when my interest in international politics and culture come up: for example, when I know Chinese New Year is coming, I would wish my Chinese co-workers a happy new year.

Some of us seek to better understand how people from other countries think about a plethora of topics with which we are aware of our own “experiential shortcoming”. I’ve gained tremendous experience in discussing various notions with friends an co-corkers from: Afghanistan; Jordan; Greece; Vietnam; New Zealand; Ghana; China; India; Pakistan; Mexico; Brazil; Panama; etc…

I realize that some people ask because they want to put you in a box. FOr that I’m sorry. Truly. But if you’re upset at people doing that to you becuase you’re brown, do I have the right to be upset when people criticise me simply becuase I’m white?

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