The Arrogant Rudeness of Asking Me Where I’m From

Let’s call it what it is: Your constant interrogation about my origins is racist

Vincent Garcia
LEVEL
Published in
5 min readJun 9, 2020

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Image: Nisian Hughes/Getty Images

There’s one particular racial microaggression that really gets to me. I’d say it gets under my skin, but it’s all about my skin. It simmers exactly at skin level:

“Where are you from?”

I secretly delight in seeing discomfort on the asker’s face when I tell them that my mom is from L.A. and my dad is from Texas. But I wish that I didn’t have to deal with this question at all.

I get it. You’re not racist. I’m just interesting to you. The thing is, when White people talk about their ancestry in front of me, other White people in the conversation will say, “Oh, cool, that’s interesting,” and move on. But when the discussion comes around to me, everyone leans in close to get a good look and listen. If they didn’t already say it with words, their body language says, “He’s about to tell his story!”

All the Spanish I know is from my required high school language courses, where my Brown friends would call me ‘coco,’ meaning coconut: Brown on the outside, White on the inside.

But when you react this way with your words and eyes, all I hear is that you think I’m exotic. Different. Other. Once again, I am not the default, the standard. Not normal. Everything that I do is colored by the fact that I’m a person of color.

If my first answer doesn’t satisfy your curiosity, your questioning continues:

“But what about your family’s family?”

“Where are your ancestors from?”

Honestly, I didn’t know for most of my life. The most precise answer I ever knew was the vague “Mexican.”

“Aren’t you curious?”

“Why haven’t you asked?”

“Why didn’t your parents tell you?”

Of course, I’m curious. Who wouldn’t want to know their past? But I’m hesitant to ask because my parents never talked about it. Could it be that they’re private people, or maybe even ashamed of their past? I don’t buy it for a…

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