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#FaceTheRace:WhereAreYouReallyFrom?

Julia Fischer
Julia Fischer Mogul President of UChicago
2y Chicago, IL, United States Story
#FaceTheRace: Where Are You Really From?

"So where are you from?"

"I'm from Pennsylvania."

"No, where are you really from?"

If I were to count the number of times I've had this exchange over the years, I think I would need a few more hands. Seems like an innocuous-enough question, right? It was a pretty normal question to me, as well; that is, until I realized the underlying premise of the inquiry. It was almost a suggestion that because I am only half-Caucasian, I couldn't possibly just be from America. I had to hail from the country that is my other half, Korean, though I've never lived there in my life.

This is a question that countless other people in America are asked in daily conversation. And though this may be a different type of racism from what we see from abominable events like Charlotsville, it is still a type of racism nonetheless. The problem with this type of racism, dubbed a microagression, is not only that it is pervasive in everyday encounters, but also that it indicates an underlying belief of a significant number of people in America. It is the belief that if you are not of a certain race or look a certain way, you must not be an American.

But it is not your race or how you look that determines who you are or from the place you call home. And a step we can take to face the issue of race in this country is to begin to redefine the notion of an American. We are, and have always been, a conglomeration of different people, different cultures, different races. We have no one race, for we encompass them all. We must start to see people in this country, regardless of how they look or what their race may be, as who we all equitably are: Americans.

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3 replies

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  • Maddy Bernstein

    @Julia Fischer this opened up my eyes and I appreciate this perspective. Do you think people ever ask out of genuinely wanting to know where someone is from, or do you think it is always racism? I'm trying to figure this out for myself bc say I run into someone and they have an accent. Isn't ok to ask where they are from?

    @Julia Fischer this opened up my eyes and I appreciate this perspective. Do you think people ever ask out of genuinely wanting to know where someone is from, or do you think it is always racism? I'm trying to figure this out for myself bc say I run into someone and they have an accent. Isn't ok to ask where they are from?

    • Julia Fischer
      Julia Fischer Mogul President of UChicago
      2y ago Chicago, IL, United States

      @Maddy Bernstein apologies for the delay in reply! I definitely don't think that everyone asking that question is consciously being racist, and that is where the micro-aggression aspect comes into play. It suggests more of an underlying notion about race in America as opposed to a direct statement about the person's ethnicity. And that is a great question- I see that a lot with one of my friends, who has been living in America since grade school but has a Korean accent. She considers herself an American because she grew up here for most of her life, but most people assume that she is not American due to her accent. Thus, she often has the same exchange as I have. It can get pretty confusing, but sometimes a better way to approach it is to ask what their heritage is, if you are curious! This way, you can still learn about their ancestry, without any implications that a certain manner of speech or appearance suggests that they may not be American or from America.

      @Maddy Bernstein apologies for the delay in reply! I definitely don't think that everyone asking that question is consciously being racist, and that is where the micro-aggression aspect comes into play. It suggests more of an underlying notion about race in America as opposed to a direct statement about the person's ethnicity. And that is a great question- I see that a lot with one of my friends, who has been living in America since grade school but has a Korean accent. She considers herself an American because she grew up here for most of her life, but most people assume that she is not American due to her accent. Thus, she often has the same exchange as I have. It can get pretty confusing, but sometimes a better way to approach it is to ask what their heritage is, if you are curious! This way, you can still learn about their ancestry, without any implications that a certain manner of speech or appearance suggests that they may not be American or from America.

      • Samantha Der
        almost 2 years ago

        Thank you for sharing your story!  The 'where are you from' question definitely threw me off when I first heard it.  You can read about my weird exchange if you want, lol :)  I agree that it's better to get to ask directly, what's your heritage.  I think cultural assimilation vs identity politics will always be a complex and sensitive issue in any country.

        Thank you for sharing your story!  The 'where are you from' question definitely threw me off when I first heard it.  You can read about my weird exchange if you want, lol :)  I agree that it's better to get to ask directly, what's your heritage.  I think cultural assimilation vs identity politics will always be a complex and sensitive issue in any country.


Julia Fischer
Mogul President of UChicago

I love travel and pretty shoes. If there is a career where I can have both, then I think I've found my calling.

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