I’ve been around for a little over 30 years. And ever since I started socially interacting with people, I’ve found that on a regular basis I get asked the same two questions ALL THE TIME. They are asked by a myriad of folk, young and old, strangers and casual acquaintances, all sorts of backgrounds. I’ve never really understood how some people consider these questions to be ice breaker topics but whatevs.
1. Where are you from?
2. No, where are you REALLY from?
If you ask me in this way, I’m going to tell you the truth. I am a Virginia girl and have been my entire life.
I was born in Southwest Virginia, I grew up in Southeast Virginia, and I currently live in Northern Virginia.
Technically, I’m a Southern girl.(I say technically because personally I do not feel that Virginia is in the South. Geographically, I’m not sure why Virginia was in the Confederacy because when you look at the map, we’re sticking WAY UP compared to the rest of the states). I say “y’all”. I used to watch NASCAR. I drink way too much sweet tea. I am happiest with Southern comfort food. And it could have been worse. My dad turned down a job in Alabama when we were very young. I could have been the Asian girl with the thick Southern accent who had to make a choice between going to Alabama or Auburn.
People get really disappointed when I say this though. But if you ask me where I’m from, this is where I’m from. I’m proud to be a Virginian. It’s so different in each part of Virginia. Southwest Virginia has mountains and the Hokies. Southeast Virginia has the beach, Pharrell and Rudy from the first season of Survivor. And Northern Virginia is where EVERYTHING’s at. Our state is full of history (part of the reason why I did study history) and there’s so many awesome things about it. Seriously I do love my state.
Oh I see. You want to know my ethnic background. You want to know where my ancestors are from. Because Asian looking people could not have originated in Virginia. (I could argue Pocahontas and the rest of the Native Americans.) Well you see, when you phrase it the way I listed above, you’ve basically telling me I don’t belong here. And that everything I just told you about MY life here in Virginia doesn’t matter to you. When you ask it in this way, you’re not interested in issues that I may have faced as an Asian American in predominately white community or discussing stereotypes that Asian Americans face. That is not why you are asking.
I am open to talking about my ethnicity because believe it or not, I DO realize I’m not white. (Maybe on the inside only) Truthfully though, I just look Asian, I’m really more American because that’s all I know. I am respectful of my background and culture and I do try to learn more, but if you’re trying to get the deep lowdown on Asian culture, I am not the best person to go to unfortunately.
To sum this up, if you want to know, it’s perfectly fine. Just ask politely. Don’t demand it. This goes across the board with asking ANYONE about their background. If you’re curious, it’s ok. We don’t mind talking. Just think before you ask. That is all.
And to answer your next few questions before you ask
- No, I’m not an expert with chopsticks
- No, I don’t like anime
- No, I’m not super good at math
- No, I don’t know martial arts
- Yes, I do eat a lot of rice