Although a seemingly simple question to most, these four words can drum up a lot of stress for people of colour that have been raised in western societies like Australia: “Where are you from?” Classic casual racism.
It’s a common issue for Millennials who happen to be second or third-generation Aussies, or are of mixed race, but we identify with the geographic location of where we grew up, rather than the origin of our DNA.
By now we’ve all seen at least one comedy skit demonstrating the gruelling process Australian people of colour when asked this dreaded question.
As a racially ambiguous person myself, I can vouch for the fact this question is raised almost daily. I’ve been stopped in the street, tapped on the bus and even approached by fellow punters at the bar to ‘end the debate’ they were having over my genetic makeup. Then there are those ignorant strangers who compliment people who look like me on their ability to speak English “so well”.
The experience only worsens when you’re faced with disappointed frowns of confusion, after you reply with a local Aussie location. Which is then, of course, is followed up with the infamous: “No, where are you frooom?”
In order to make sense of the world people are hardwired to group and categorise everything, so it’s no surprise they’re intrigued. However, these sorts of acts continue to highlight serious issues of racial ignorance within society. Every time an individual is questioned, their right to belong is also questioned. Which in my experience can lead to all kinds of identity crises.
Don’t worry George, no one’s trying to take away your curiosity. Like most, I’m proud of my heritage. But why can’t we be both? We identify as Australian for the exact same reasons you do. We went to the same schools as you, were taught the same national anthem as you, and probably even ate the same Weet-bix you did. So why is it still so surprising that we feel the same sense of national pride that you do?
In 2013, National Geographic published ‘The Changing Face of America’, a series of images depicting their prediction of what the average American would look like in the future. The images reflect the multicultural individuals that make up the melting pot of America. Although people of Anglo Celtic origins remain the largest population in Australia, the country continues to diversify as residents of other ethnicities increase. So why are people still so shook when a non-white face claims Australia as home?
Who’s to say what the average Australian should and will look like in the next few years. Will we continue to box ourselves and others in, through this non-existent criteria? Or will we finally become more accepting and challenge these ignorant stereotypes?
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