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Episode 132 — Where Are You From?


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#1 Earwolf Admin

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 11:00 PM

Is it racist if the first thing white people ask you is where you’re from? Andrew Ti & Amrit Singh share their thoughts about the frustrated caller’s question. Everyone be more polite and keep up with leaving a message at (323) 389-RACE.

#2 Shariq Torres

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 05:01 AM

I am sometimes guilty of this, especially when talking to people of Southeast Asian descent. The caller is right to assume that it is racist when people do this. They do this because they're trying to put you in a box, so that you're easier for them to deal with. I definitely have to break this habit.

#3 Michael Wo

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 06:52 AM

I once worked at a large corporation's "global HQ" where people from various offices would come and go. This was pervasive there, but I think in that case it was the default icebreaker question, because chances are you were not "from" Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Still, I would feel awkward watching a whole lot of fools try to act "open-minded" by asking lots of ignorant questions about the person's country of origin.

#4 pfchangs

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 08:41 AM

Hari Kondabolu has a great bit about this.


#5 Kevin Irmiter

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 12:13 PM

I feel it's worth pointing out that asking about nationality is a big things with white people and other white people. White people love going into detail about how "I'm half-Irish, and Italian, and part Portuguese, etc." So it is possible that they just thought the caller was another white person. based on self-description, probably not, but still.

I think this is a very situational thing. There are lots of situations in which asking where someone is from (or about their nationality) is natural and not at all racist, but a lot of situations where it is clearly racist.

#6 Shariq Torres

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 06:22 PM

View PostKevin Irmiter, on 18 April 2013 - 12:13 PM, said:

I feel it's worth pointing out that asking about nationality is a big things with white people and other white people. White people love going into detail about how "I'm half-Irish, and Italian, and part Portuguese, etc." So it is possible that they just thought the caller was another white person. based on self-description, probably not, but still.



Caller said he was racially ambiguous. The people asking him the question where are you from was there way of trying to fit him in box, so that could deal with him. There are a few times where this question is not racist, but if you make it the first thing you ask someone, then you are clearly trying to deny another person their humanity and fit them into one of your predefined boxes.

The video clip above with the stand up comic is a perfect illustration of that.

#7 manobon

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 12:56 PM

I usually respond with, "New Jersey". Then the person says, "Oh, that's not what I meant" Then I get to say, "Yeah, I know."

I'm not a part of your human safari!