Being an Alien in Your Own Land
I was born in Australia to parents who arrived as refugees to Australia and escape the war in Vietnam. I considered myself to be more Australian and I have encountered everyday racism.
When we hear the word ‘racist’ or ‘racism’, we often visualise images of bigotry at its most extreme. Racism is neither black nor white, the racism I have unfortunately becoming more familiar with, are often grey in colour.
Here is my all time favourite question: WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
This question drains the shit out of me. If you had to ask and be curious, ask in a way that provides context. If a white person asked another white “Where are you from?”. It becomes a conversation about where you live. When the same white person asked a non-white, the same question, it moves on to being a heritage background check.
I also understand that this could be a genuine interest about learning about my who I am as person and it can lead to interesting conversation. If you like to know, I have only been to Vietnam about four times. It’s a lovely country, with the most freshest food and the people are friendly. Even then it’s not my motherland, it’s more like a holiday destination where I have a lot of extended family there.
These days I have responded in kind by saying “I’m from Melbourne. I’m sorry if I’m not white enough for you.” Now you’re wondering how is this question considered racist?
To be exact, it fits under the umbrella, ‘racial microagression’, or simply said ‘everyday racism’. This form of covert racism represents the assumption that all Asian Australians are foreigners or born overseas. For me personally, this question is not a “compliment’, they make me uncomfortable and awkward. Unintentionally and minor it might be, when asked often enough, it comes to the point that I feel like an alien in my own country.
Want to stay on my good side, I suggest you avoid the question altogether, and ask “where do you live?” when asking for locations. It’s all about context.