Alene Brothers, Greenwood, SC. Two of the most common questions I hear are “where are you from” and “what are you?” People see dark tan skin, dark brown eyes, and brown/black hair and think I have to be foreign. Although my family identifies as “white,” we’re a mix of different backgrounds, especially on my dad’s […]
Franke Santos, Los Angeles, CA. Despite being born in the U.S., speaking only English, and being given a white-sounding name, I am routinely asked “where are you from?” When I respond, “Los Angeles,” I get the follow-up “where are you really from?”
Lei-Anna Bertelsen, Bozeman, MT. I’ve grappled with this question all my life. My dad told me a story when I was a second grader after a boy called me names based on my skin color. My dad explained that when God made people, it took three tries to bake us to just the right color. […]
Renata Martello, Media, PA.
Esan N. Hassanzadeh, Fremont, California.
Krupali, Submitted via Twitter: @krupali.
Roshni Brahmbhatt, Muncie, IN. It’s probably the most infuriating thing that I hear on a daily basis. I work at an electronics store and I’m an Indian American so most people look at my brown skin and avoid talking to me because they’re fearful I have an accent. Then I speak (without one) and they […]
Katherine Ellis, American Fork, UT. I stood alone by the playground, kicking pebbles. Someone approached me and I glanced up eagerly, hoping for a friend. “Are you Chinese?” the girl spat at me. “No,” I mumbled. “I’m half Hmong.” “Monk? What’s that?” She looked at me like I should be bald and humming in an […]
Bettina Sferrino, Oakland, CA. As a mixed race person, I get these questions all the time. The persons asking have a strong desire to know and place the “other,” and a feeling that somehow the persons asking these questions can’t move forward interacting with me without knowing that information. I can’t help but think for […]
Tina, Birmingham. AL. Nevermind the fact that I speak with a southern accent, that my attire is noticeably of American influence, or that my last name is German. When someone asks where I’m from and I give them the name of my hometown, this answer is somehow unacceptable, so I give them the name of […]
Demetrios Pathammavong, Sanger, CA. I am an American, although my grandparents are from Laos. It is often a repeated questions of where I am from. When I answer that I am from America, people then ask the same question. Sometimes I say ”Oh, I am from Laos.” in reality I was born in California. This […]
Ami Bogin, England. I get “where are you from?” so often (or the polite “Your accent’s different…” of the British, or the more rude “You Chinese? Japanese?” sometimes from everywhere) in my life and thirty years in I still don’t know how to provide an answer, or at least an answer that will satisfy the […]
Cynthia Deras, GA. Are you hispanic? Why don’t you speak spanish? What part of Mexico are your parents from? Say something in Spanish! Your not really Mexican if you dont speak spanish. Basically thats the reaction I get from the latino community when someone finds out I dont speak Spanish. I lost Spanish as a […]
Damme Getachew, Seattle, WA. My parents are from Ethiopia and so I self-identify as Ethiopian. I’m frequently asked “Where are you from?” as if being a person of color means that I was born somewhere other than the United States. Aren’t we past that?
Amal Nazeem, Shrewsbury, MA. My parents are Muslims from Southern India. Growing up, I had many friends from all over India. They were mostly Hindu and they only knew other Indians to be Hindu. When I told them that my parents were from India, they thought I wasn’t a true Indian. I might have been […]
Christopher Allen, USA. As far as we can go back thanks to grandparents, my family were farmers. More often for survival than profit. Now my family includes electricians, train operators, postal workers, teachers, military men and women,lawyers, one doctor, one engineer (my father), corporate drones, business owners. We’re an enormous and close extended family that’s […]
Salah M. Abed, Moses Lake, WA. I grew up in small towns in the Pacific Northwest; I quickly got used to being the only Arab-American. Every day somebody would ask me, “Where are you from” or “What are you?” This variant came from one of the first people I met when I moved to the […]
Lex, Syracuse, NY. I’m originated from Shanghai, China, currently doing a PhD at Syracuse University. Unavoidably, I have been welcomed with the question “where are you from” on a daily basis. It seems that not many people actually cares about the real answer: Shanghai — people generally don’t care about that corner of the globe […]
Rabab Ahmed, Stamford, CT. “Where are you from?” is a question I used to proudly answer to when I was younger. Although I always had to clarify, “no, it’s not in India. It’s a small country right next to India.” But as I got older I found the question tedious and sometimes puzzling. It wasn’t […]
Michael Kenji Yamasaki, Rio Rancho, NM. OBSERVATIONS – Where are you from? No really … Where are you from? I can relate to Mr. Marc Quarles (African-American, with a German wife and two biracial children). There were times when I too have been asked, “Where are you from? No really where are you from?” However, […]
Ivan Vazquez, Sacramento, CA. Although I was born and raised in San Diego, CA ; I grew up in a household that comprised of both the English and Spanish language, about 60% English and 40% Spanish. I am a child of second-generation immigrants and even though I received my entire education in English, I came […]
Reed Atlanta, GA “Where is your family from? No, but where are YOUR PEOPLE from? I mean, what is your HERITAGE? Like, your ancestors. I mean … where do your features come from?” That was one of the more polite conversations that someone has initiated about by race. Although I was raised white and generally […]
Hanne Nielsen New Zealand Wherever I go, I’m always from elsewhere. Born in Canada, with Danish heritage, and living in New Zealand, every place assumes I’m ‘really’ from one of the others. What does ‘really’ mean? In New Zealand, everyone came from elsewhere at some point, usually from many elsewheres.
Barry M Toronto, Canada This six word combination together with two other six word combos (Are you from Jamaica or Africa? — No. Where were you actually born?) formed a common conversation I had throughout the 1990s. In Canada the attitude for a long time was if you are Black, and born before the late […]
Bessie King Boston, MA I don’t think I have been offended by being asked “Where are you from?” before. I was raised to know that I am a Mexican with an American passport in a country where everyone is from somewhere. Until the USA truly embraces diversity and it’s own history, there will be no […]
Tony Moody Germany I am a retired Military Officer and Civil Service Employee. I live in Germany. A few times people assumed I am African because I am dark-skinned. In some parts of Europe there is prejudice against African Immigrants. When I say I am American or was a soldier then the conversation normally shifts […]
Abhishek Mehta Seattle, WA Why is it always assumed that non-whites or non-blacks are from another country first? I’m always asked where in India I’m from.
Christian La Mont Los Angeles, CA It’s just another way of saying, “Well, you don’t look like you’re from Colorado, what nationality are your parents? What’s your race? ” It used to bother me. Now, it’s a part of who I am. Born in Mexico, raised in Colorado. And very happy to live in Los […]
(Ms.) Kamakshi P. Murti Fairfax, VA I have been a citizen of the US for several decades, yet whenever I am in a public space, the question invariably arises, especially when I speak English with my ‘original’ Indian accent: “Where are you from?”
Keith Gatling Syracuse, NY I’m black and from New Jersey. At least one of those makes me nosy. Or is “curious” the better word to use? I want to know everything about you. I want to know where you’re from whether that be across town, across the state, across the country, or the other side […]
Ananya Kepper Santa Monica, CA I walk around feeling like myself, not like an Indian woman in a sea of white people. It still catches me off guard when people ask “Where are you from?” “Santa Monica,” I reply, every time. “I was born in St. John’s Hospital on Santa Monica Blvd.” I make them […]
Jennifer Lindsay Los Angeles, CA I get asked some variation of this on a fairly regular basis, about once or twice a week. The conversation usually goes something like this: OP: where are you from? Me: Los Angeles, although I was born in Orange County OP: well where are your parents from? Me: My dad’s […]
Mike Chen Chicago, IL My wife and I were both born and raised in New York. Our parents immigrated from Asia in the 70s, and are all naturalized citizens. We speak fluent English without an accent. We have always identified ourselves as Americans. This question comes up disappointingly often, typically asked in a few variations […]
Joel Rodrigues United Kingdom I am ethnically Indian (from Goa), a Portuguese citizen, was born and grew up in Kuwait & Goa, and have a slightly North American accent. People don’t seem to like not being able to put me in a box and it makes my life a little more complicated than it needs […]
Aliza Hirani Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan I am a Pakistani-American, born and raised in Texas. When people ask me where I am from, I proudly tell them Dallas, Texas. Then, without a fail, I get the response, “No, where are you actually from?” I have realized when some people ask […]