If I got a dollar for every time someone has asked me that question, I would be a millionaire!
These automatic assumptions really make me frustrated, in 2017, with so much immigration and travel, why do people still judge others based on their appearance?
I am born in South Africa, moved to Canada then to Ireland and now in USA. While I LOVE to talk about my background and all the places I’ve been blessed to live, I don’t like being judged or attacked with multiple questions – especially not when I am travelling and trying to get from point A to B. It’s like I’m getting cross questioned in every taxi I get into, sometimes I just want to be in my own space, you know?
Whenever I am curious about a someone else’s background/heritage, I just ask them so where were you born? What’s your cultural heritage – usually I get a straight forward answer like I’m from NYC but my heritage is Brazilian – but I’m not one of those people, like the many that annoy me, that will dive down into all your ancestral history and past forefathers.
Especially when I am travelling, there is always someone who has to comment either calling out ‘Namaste Miss’ or ‘hello Miss India’ or say something on those lines, like why? I’m not born nor have lived in India, while I have travelled there >10 times because I simply love the country, I don’t appreciate being labelled or have names called out at me.
My answer has evolved over the years depending on what question gets thrown at me. I used answer politely and educate people but honestly, over the years, I’ve just become sick of having to explain to strangers about why I am not from India, how I got to Africa, why I moved blah blah plus, who cares where I am from, my main goals are where I am going.
Usually I find it’s Indians from India who suddenly get super activated when they see another brown person and their FIRST question out of their mouth, is ALWAYS, so you’re from India? No. Oh but you look Indian. Yes ancestors. SO where in India? All over. But like your family has to be from one place, no? I’m born in South Africa so yes, they are in that one place. Oh SOUTH Africa, yes yes but you look very very Indian? Yes again my ancestors are Indian. OH yes yes, so like do you speak Hindi? No, I speak English. Oh but why don’t you speak Hindi, that is the language from your forefathers. UGH!- the questions go on and on no matter how irritated I try to sound or how short my answers are, they continue and continue. Like I get that it’s nice to see other people with the same heritage as you in another country, but with India having a population of 1.25 BILLION people, don’t you think you’re going to come across other Indians in other countries, why is it such a shock to see fellow brown people!?
Non-Indians either start off by asking where I am from, so I say Canada, then they say oh but you don’t look Canadian – UH I didn’t think ‘Canadians had a LOOK?’ then they get majorly confused and ask so where were you born- I was born in South Africa and at this stage they are super confused because I apparently don’t look white enough to be Canadian or black enough to be an African. So without even asking more, they go on to say they thought I was from India and continue to talk about someone they know who recently visited India and how they want to go too… Besides having brown skin, I don’t have an accent, don’t wear Indian cultural clothes 24/7, so why can’t a person with brown skin be from some where else? I am a global citizen.
After living in Ireland for 7 years and being told that I don’t “look South African or Canadian”, I started to ask them the same questions based off the same mentality that they asked me, “so then it would be safe to assume that since you have white skin – you must be British.” A lot of them get offended if you assume they are British despite them being undoubtedly Irish – but it’s really the only way to get the point through.
One time in Amsterdam, a guy asked me where I was from, so I said Canada. Oh you don’t look Canadian. (grr!) I didn’t have any patience to go through my life story so I just said yes, I am native. While that really confused him, it seemed to make more sense to him since I didn’t have white skin and he was excited to have met a Native Canadian haha! he’s probably still confused about that one. Plus the poor Natives who have their own cultural names, have been called “Indians” for years because of Christopher Columbus, the idiot who thought he was in Asia. Why hasn’t this huge mistake been rectified, again it’s 2017!!
Sorry for the huge rant but don’t get me wrong, I am honoured to have Indian ancestry and I have the utmost respect and admiration for Indian culture – all I’m asking is for others to respect my actual background and that while I appear Indian on the outside, there is a lot more beneath the shell.
The next time you look at someone and judge them based off their external appearance, just try to remember that everyone has their own story and sometimes, it may be something completely different than what you were expecting. So be respectful, travel more to expand your horizons and educate yourself.