But where are you really from?
As someone who was born in the US but ethnically Asian, I often get this question when I tell people that I’m American.
It’s happened all over Europe, in Africa, and sometimes I am conflicted about how to feel.
On the one hand, someone has made an assumption that since I look Asian, I cannot possibly be American.
On the other hand, it’s not 100% false.
I have also spent years of my childhood in Taiwan. Therefore, I do also identify with being Taiwanese. But the majority of my value and belief system developed while I was in America, and my primary language is English, so I generally consider myself American.
Anyway, when they ask this question, they don’t know all this context, so ultimately they are just making a judgement of my origins based on appearances.
Is a question like this a microaggression, or is it just ignorance?
They don’t have bad intentions — so am I just too sensitive?
I find that to avoid the awkwardness of the interaction and to spare myself the guilt of potentially being too sensitive, I’ve started to offer the information they are looking for without them even asking
“I’m American. Oh, but my family is from Taiwan.”
I can see the satisfaction on their face. Ah, it all makes sense now. All is well with the world again.
Sometimes I even just say I’m from Taiwan to end the conversation quickly.
The Oxford dictionary defines microaggression as “a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.”
With unintentional being the key word, when someone does not take my answer of my origins at face value, they are showing their inherent bias and committing an act of microaggression.
I should not feel shame for recognizing their aggression for what it is. I do not need to make the interaction easier for them by filling in the missing piece in their incomplete world view.
When I do that, it’s on me that I am reinforcing their outdated assumptions. While I don’t know if it’s necessarily my responsibility to educate…