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Old 07-12-2009, 02:39 PM
ShibbOleth ShibbOleth is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Schlaraffenland
Posts: 20,611
Originally Posted by Green Bean View Post
Because it's interesting. I'm interested in knowing what anybody and everybody's ethnic and/or regional background it. I'll always take the opportunity to find out if I can. It's yet another way of learning about world cultures and geography.
If you're getting to know people as people first, and then come to find more about their background and heritage, that's one thing and that's fine. If, as some people do, you first slot them into a category of Chinese, Filipino, Korean, etc., then that's just weird. No white person goes up to every other white person that they meet and insists to know "what they are"? Even if you're curious and interested it's still at least vaguely offensive. Especially if that person is just as American (or English or Australian) as you and just happens to have different facial features. That girl working at the Starbucks is not your geography lesson and you're not going to learn anything about Sri Lankan culture just because she's making your coffee.

Now if these are your friends and colleagues whom you've known for a while and taken some time to get to know them, that's an entirely different issue. But I've seen strangers ask these kind of questions, and it's just wrong and helps to point out to the person being asked that they are somehow different enough to be asked questions about their heritage that others don't have to field.

Don't mean to single you out, Green Bean, because I really don't know your situation. I just want to point out that until you know someone fairly well that this can be a really insensitive question, even when it's not intended as such.