Originally Posted by JacquelineR
I guess I just don't see it as being a "loaded" question. It's just a part of who each of us is, right? Why should it be a big deal?
Maybe it would be more of a big deal to me if I were more "visibly" a minority? Of course, I kind of get offended that people assume I'm "white" because I look the way I do, so...
Just my two cents:
I think that its a big deal to ask someone "where are you from" because that assumes a cultural identity or affiliation that might not exist. Two examples:
1. A family friend (caucasion) adopted a baby girl from china. She only lived in China those first few months of her life, and when she was 3 or 4, and didn't really understand the concept of nationalistic affiliation, people would ask her "where are you from?" She would answer with the name of her midwestern town where she lived. "But where did you come from?" and she'd say "the library" or "the backyard" or wherever she had just been. She was born in China, but is a US citizen and has no affiliation to China other than it happens to be where she was born. The assumption that she must not be "American" is hurtful to her.
2. In college I had a friend who was born and raised in Maryland. Her dad is white-Irish and her mom is Puerto Rican. My friend has light brown skin, lots of freckles, and big curly "ethnic" hair. She speaks spanish, visits her family in Puerto Rico, eats and cooks puerto rican food, and loves her Abuelita, but for all purposes identifies as "American". For her, when people ask her "Where are you from" and "Where did you come from", or other probing questions, she responds "Do you mean why am I brown?" It is loaded because it assumes that if you don't fit a particular physical stereotype, then you must not belong in America.
To me, "American" is a nationality, not an ethnicity, and to assume that if someone is not white, they must not be from America is just not accurate, and can be offensive. Think about kids who live in a setting where their looks make them stick out already, where they might feel like they don't belong. To then question that they "belong" to their parents or their country could be terribly upsetting. This obviously doesn't apply to every person who looks "different" and it probably doesn't bother some people if you ask them questions like that. But I'd rather be safe than sorry when it comes to insulting strangers while making small talk, so I try to just stick to normal, non-personal topics unless they are raised by the other person first. (not trying to attack anyone- just my POV)
I started reading this topic because I am pregnant with my first baby. I am white- dark hair, light complexion, green eyes, but tan pretty easily and people always ask me if I am Italian, Puerto Rican, Argentinian, Spanish, etc. (could be the Cherokee in me) and my husband is Peruvian- he has very Andean features- broad forehead, prominent nose, high cheekbones, dark hair, eyes and skin, and I always wonder what it will be like when I go out in public with the baby- will people assume its not my kid? Can't wait to see what this baby looks like!