Is it racist to ask “What’s your ethnicity?” “Where are you from?”

Though this is blog is most often a beauty blog, today…

RicaIsHungry for knowledge. 

I wanted to share my thoughts on why asking for someone’s ethnicity can be offensive in certain contexts, and get insight into why some people are very curious on my background… all while not sharing my ethnicity.

As an Asian-American growing up in the states, if I had to do a poll on what question I have been asked the most in the my ENTIRE life… It would be some variation of: “What is your ethnicity?” And yes, this includes other contenders including “What do you want to eat?”, “Did you have a good weekend?”, “Why are you constantly hungry?”

In most cases these have been in professional situations… so I can’t respond with “Why the hell is it any of your business?”, but I’m thinking of changing my default response to “I would rather discuss things more pertinent to our conversation.”…. that sounds fancy and I don’t sound offended, right?

The one thing I really want people to understand is why it can be frustrating for minorities to get asked this question every day, multiple times a day. The biggest reason I get offended is when this question is asked completely out of context

Example A:
My friends and I are at a bar/restaurant/outing. A guy smiles and walks over to me, he leans in and asks “What is your ethnicity?”

Implications of Situation A: 
My ethnicity is more important in this situation than things such as introducing yourselfmy namewhat kind of person I am, and literally anything else. 

What to do instead:
In this situation…. just shut up, and keep that question in your brain. It’s none of your business. You might have visited East Asia on a cool summer trip and learned 3 words in a foreign language. Maybe you like pho and sushi (which are foods from completely different countries by the way) Literally no one gives a hairy monkey’s backside about your mis-understanding of Asian culture.
Walk away bro. 

 

…. maybe that was a little bit of a dramatic example, and a dramatic response (but totally has happened to me… multiple times). But let’s create a golden rule shall we?

If you wouldn’t ask the question to someone who wasn’t a minority, just don’t ask the question.

Example B:
I am talking to coworkers about foods that we like during a lunch break. A co worker looks at my lunch and asks what it is. I respond with the name, and the co worker asks if I identify with the nationality of the country that food is from. I respond yes.

Implications of B: 
I’m getting to know this person in an organic way. My co worker has generally enough cultural competence or googling skills to realize that the food in question belongs to a specific country. The co worker is curious about if I identify with that country, possibly in the hopes that I bring them food that also belongs to said country. This is a person I know, so I am comfortable with sharing my personal information and I might reciprocate with questions regarding their tastes in food and their culture.

 

… This situation follows the golden rule. Because ethnicity is not exclusive to minorities. Everyone has a different “culture” they identify with, and sharing information about culture with people that you know and spend time with is a normal social interaction.

 

Conclusion

Obviously there are situations that lie on a spectrum between the two that I have mentioned. Personally, I just want to feel like people are looking at me like I am a human being… not just someone to categorize in a box.

I used to be in the camp of being an open book about my ethnicity. I would tell everyone anything they wanted to know and wanted to teach everyone about all of my vast knowledge on the differences in Asian culture…. but I found that most people just ask about my ethnicity, and once they find out… there are no follow up questions! They usually maybe list 1 other person they know who is also my ethnicity. (which I thought was always the most random thing to do…like “yea… my cousin used to own a pug”…. we’re not breeds of dogs. We’re people.) Like they have a box in their head with me and this one other person, compare our features, IQ, and personal traits. I don’t like to be put in a box.

And yea… I was very briefly a psych major, and I understand that prototypes and stereotypes are sometimes how people learn, by grouping into categories. But we’re human adults with fully formed brains. Can we have a filter? Or at the very least consider that someone living in the US, who just looks different could spend their entire lives being asked essentially… “So… why do you look different? What is that?”

 

I would love to know your thoughts on the topic in the comments section below! Am I being too easily “butt hurt”? Do I have valid points? And to make things fun… what is the most ridiculous/inappropriate situation in which someone asked you to identify your culture (ethnicity, sexual orientation, age/generation, socioeconomic, etc)

 

Stay happy and healthy!

-RicaIsHungry

 

 

PSTT! What more lifestyle posts? Check out my other posts below!

 

 

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Confessions of a monolid beauty blogger
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