Where are you from? is such a triggering question for me. As I was born in Australia and definitely feel most connected to this country out of anywhere else in the world, when someone asks me that question I feel it is implied that I am not from ‘here’ as in Australia, but from somewhere else.
The last time I was asked the question I was riding my bike home and was stopped a traffic light. I made eye contact with the lolly-pop man that was waiting to escort people across the crossing and he looked at me a bit strangely. Out of nowhere he asked: ‘Where are you from?’
I replied: ‘What do you mean?’
He then said: ‘Like you know…where are you from?’
At this point he was a little uncomfortable—which I wanted him to be. Hoping that he would understand the assumptions he was making about me. I responded again: ‘I’m from here.’ And rode off.
I felt that the man’s question wasn’t malicious, but definitely ignorant of the fact Australians come in many colours/descriptions etc. Clearly, I didn’t fit his stereotype. The question does make me a bit angry because coming from a mixed-race background, I have always felt a bit displaced. And this question is always a stark reminder of how I’ve never quite fit in. I could have been a little bit more compassionate but to be honest I do hope the guy thinks a little more before nextime assuming where someone is from.
The negative connotation is definitely the assumption that you are from somewhere else. Sometimes I do feel it is asked in a respectful manner, but often when it is worded differently such as: what is your background? The way in which the question is asked makes a massive difference.
When it comes the Australian-cultural-identity, I feel that the dominating accepted identity is pretty whitewashed, as you can see by looking at the cast of a show like Neighbours or Home and Away. I don’t think I have seen a PoC on either show, ever. Which is pretty reflective of how mainstream Australia sees itself. Also, often the person fielding the question is a ‘white’ Australian. This has a pretty negative connotation to me as it seems so exclusive of many Australian people. The question itself is pretty problematic, as to be honest, we are all immigrants unless you are First Nation. Which is something that seems to be forgotten all the time...