‘Where are you from?’ is a red flag. A warning sign. It prepares me for a conversation I would rather not have. It tells me that white is the default. It tells me that I’m not Australian. It tells me that my presence requires an explanation.
‘Where are you from?’ isn’t really a question at all. It is a statement, heavy with the weight of assumption. It is dripping with confusion. It has the ability to alienate, whether or not the desire is to degrade me. It is othering and tiring. Fuck you. I know what you mean when you ask me that.
‘Where are you from?’ isn’t interested in my answers. ‘No, no, no’, it insists, ‘where are you really from?’ And when I explain that my father is from County Kerry in the South of Ireland, it has the audacity to tell me: ‘You can’t be Irish.’ Fuck you. My grandfather fought in the IRA against Britain's tyrannical rule. I am Irish, despite your preconceived notion of what that should look like.
‘Where are you from?’ is an underhanded opening for heavy-handed men to tell me I’m exotic. For them to tell me I’m pretty - but I don’t look Indian. At least, ‘not that kind of Indian’. Fuck you. I am that kind of Indian. My face is the face of my grandmother, Rukumani. I look like my mother, my aunties and my sisters of South India.
‘Where are you from?’ denotes that I am wrong. That I disrupt the normalcy of whiteness in this country. What it really means is: ‘Why are you here?’ and ‘Why don’t you look the way I expect you to?’ Fuck you. I refuse to make you comfortable with my response. I will not validate your ignorance. You should know better. And if you didn’t know, I’m telling you now. You have no excuses.
Perhaps you should ask yourself why you’re asking that question.