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Old 07-12-2009, 05:51 PM
lshaw lshaw is offline
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 375
Originally Posted by ShibbOleth View Post
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.
It's funny you mention this, because this happens to me all the time. And usually, the people who do it to me are Asian. They always ask me "What are you"? My first response would be to say that I am human. Then, they'll say, "No, where are you from?" To which, I'd reply that I'm from America. This would be followed by a "No, I meant where are your ancestors from". A lot of non-Asians, especially those from not very diverse areas, just assume that I'm "from China". I once flew to Texas with my sister, and two minutes after getting off the plane, we encountered a white guy who spoke slow, enunciated English to us (as if we couldn't understand) and asked if we were from China. A few moments after this (I kid you not), we passed a white couple who muttered that they thought they were in America and not China. Wow.

Last edited by lshaw; 07-12-2009 at 05:55 PM.