The last time someone asked me ‘where are you from’ was only a couple of days ago at work. It makes it so much harder as you’re there to do your job and be polite to people, but it’s not a polite question. It’s really presumptuous and personal, and to feel so entitled to ask a person of colour that question says that they’re trying to put us in a box. They are judging us just by the colour of our skin, and thinking: ‘oh they look different, they’re surely not from Australia with those curls and brown skin!’
That day it was a white man in his 50s, he caught me by surprise as I was dropping off some food to his table when he asked me: ‘where are you from?’ Shocked, I said ‘Australia.’ Then he said: ‘no where are you REALLY from? Like what’s your nationality?’
I regretfully huffed and puffed and sighed, making it really obvious that I didn’t want to answer that question and went the long way around: ‘my mum has a European background but is born and raised in Australia and my dad is from Jamaica but grew up in England... but I am 100% Australian.’ Afterall, he was very intrigued and obviously felt like he deserved to know. He said something like: ‘That’s different.’ And I said ‘Yeah well the whole world is very multicultural and mixed now isn’t it?’ and walked off. I was pissed off that he’d asked that question, as most Caucasian people unfortunately do. I was angered that I answered it but I didn’t have the energy to actually educate this ignorant man at the time.
I wish I had of replied: ‘oh that’s a very personal question!’; giggled and walked off, which is probably the nicest way I could have shut she conversation down in a work environment. If I wasn’t at work I would have just responded: ‘Australia’, very bluntly or I wouldn’t have said a thing. Everytime I get that question it still shocks me, and it can be confusing to known how to react in the moment. I know a lot of people are generally interested, but it is still a very personal question that we shouldn’t have to answer.
The other side of me is annoyed because as I was born and raised in Australia and have only been to Jamaica once. When I went there they called me ‘white gal’ and knew I wasn’t from there either. It makes you feel like you don’t actually belong anywhere and in your own home that’s very disheartening!