I am asked variations of ‘where are you from?’ constantly.
Last week I stopped a passerby on the street to ask the time, they said: ‘4.45 and where are you from?’ Days before that I was meeting some friends of friends who asked ‘How's your day been? Oh so Mei, where are you from?’
I've become desensitised to the question - it's tiring. It's frustrating that someone needs to place me in a box to engage with me. Their question denotes their understanding of me as an 'other'.
Is being non-caucasian something that causes strangers discomfort? To the extent they need to know my ethnic heritage from the get go? What's the purpose of approaching me in this way? I'd rather ask those questions as a response to ‘where are you from?’
I want white people to learn to question their microaggressions and look into the history and doctrines that has instigated their behaviours. I want them to identify that their entitlement comes from being the default of individualism.
I want whiteness to see how they position people of colour as the opposite to their assumed white identity; whiteness as the one who belongs (as opposed to the one who is from somewhere else); the one who is natural (instead of alien, other, foreign, different).
My preferred answer and my preferred outcome exist in the realm of a daydream, wherein I am not jaded by this weekly event.
In a daydream dealing with this question could be simple. They would ask: ‘where are you from?’ and I could answer ‘why?’ They would be prompted by my question to consider their behaviour and would see how they were positioning non-white people in their social interactions. IRL ‘why?’ only prompts them to become defensive and position me as antagonistic and unlikeable for challenging them.
So at this point my political act is to disengage with their question, to not give them the answer they want and to be literal: ‘I am from Narrm/Melbourne.’