Stop Agreeing to Disagree

  1. I recently got into an argument with a white friend about the phrase "where are you from?" The argument ended in her saying: "let's agree to disagree on this."
    This is a friend who rather than white people will say American people.
  2. Now, we have had this argument in the past. I've had this argument here in the past. And I always get the same response from people who aren't Asian American:
  3. "Everyone gets that. They just want to know where you're from."
  4. But here's the thing. It's not the same for everyone.
  5. When someone asks me where I'm from, they're not satisfied to know that I was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey.
  6. That's not what they're asking me.
  7. They're asking, "where are you *from* from?"
  8. "Where are you really from?"
  9. "Where are your parents from?"
    New York, by the way.
  10. "What are you?"
  11. "What kind of Asian are you?"
    I don't care that you like Chinese food. Really.
  12. The fact of the matter is that when we think of America, and especially middle class America we think white.
  13. It's what's on television. It's what's in the movies. It's everything that we see.
  14. The nuances of life as Asian American are not visually represented in any kind of mainstream way.
  15. The inconsistencies that young Asian Americans feel unaddressed and even ignored because their stories are not told.
  16. Many young Asian Americans grow up feeling white and yet know that they're not, know consciously and societally that they are not.
  17. You compartmentalize your Asian self and your American self as two different states of being.
  18. The question homogenizes Asian Americans.
  19. No, were not all Chinese.
    I am Chinese, half. But that's not the point.
  20. There are 56 different ethnic groups in China.
  21. Not to mention a plethora of other countries in Asia all with distinct cultures and languages and peoples and histories.
  22. The question is a micro aggression.
  23. In 2016, there is still a culture of Asians don't belong here.
  24. This question invalidates Asian American lives as being American and having American experiences.
  25. It portrays Asian Americans as being foreigners despite America being the only home many of them had ever known.
  26. It forces Asian Americans to qualify their identities.
  27. Asian American is not American. It is Asian American, we are not blessed with the privilege of being simply American.
  28. The question creates a fear and distance toward Asians.
  29. It draws reference of the Chinese and Japanese exclusion.
  30. "Why don't you just go home?" culture lives on.
  31. It generalizes Asian Americans into stereotypes with weird food, people who all look the same, with names too hard to pronounce, people who are all communist and out to steal your jobs.
  32. Yellow peril is real.
  33. "Where are you from?" realizes traumatic and dehumanizing experiences of the foreigner trope.
  34. Fosters racism and xenophobia toward Asian Americans as normalized and sometimes expected.
  35. Maybe you still don't get it. Maybe you're still curious.
  36. Where are you from has implications that I am an outsider.
  37. It implies that I, because I am not white, am not, cannot be American.
  38. That is the only identity that I have known.
  39. It is not an innocuous question.
  40. You have challenged my status as an American with this question.
  41. It is offensive.
  42. Asian Americans are not foreigners in America.
  43. They have no other home, no other place identify with but here.
    Even if they speak a different language, even if they have dual citizenship, they are American.
  44. The persistence of the Asian American as a foreigner is offensive and hurtful.
  45. Do not invalidate my experiences or theirs.
  46. So we can't just agree to disagree.
  47. Where are you from for you is not the same as it is for me.
  48. No one thinks you don't belong and no one wants you out.
  49. That's me. That's my experience.
  50. It is valid.