“ One of the most common race-related experiences that nearly all Asian Americans share is being…
Nathan Emmett
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Unintended consequences of innocent curiosity

Interesting observation, Nathan Emmett.

The thing I wonder is, even in the benign case, what does knowing a person’s ancestry ‘tell’ the person asking? Most white Americans (and potentially Americans of other ethnicities who aren’t first generation) have only stereotypes or the vague info about any country in Asia. For instance, my geography is so poor I’m not sure of the three groupings (South, Southeast, East) Jason Shen uses, nor do I know what characteristics other than geography have relevance.

Innocent and friendly questions have their own unintended consequences! It means we need another level of awareness, a meta-level, and at least some sense of proportion I guess? How much do we really learn from such questions? 
for instance, what’s the follow-up question that takes us to a good/better place? Or, maybe better, what’s the lead-up that enables such a question to take us where we want to go?