A Poem for Friday: “Where are you from?”

“Where are you from?” by Alex Cena, Gowri Koneswaran, and Jenny C. Lares (collectively, Sulu DC)

Where are you from?

Where are you really from?

Where am I from?
Your question makes me flinch
Makes me narrow my eyes
At your narrow ways of defining me
Suspecting me of being foreign
‘Cause this phenotype doesn’t match yours
And my answer’s not what you were expecting

I live down the block, across the state, past the river
Inhaled American air in my first breath
I speak English in my dreams, out loud
Lies in the depth of my parents’ arms
Outstretched to their history
And the one we share in this country

So tell me where are YOU from?
Where are you REALLY from?

Asked by strangers, I used to say “the Philippines”, now I simply say “Jersey.” I was unaware such a simple question (when asked one too many times) can cause offense.

Now I know, thanks to an eye-opening talk by Fil-Am psychology professor Kevin Nadal.* And now I have a word for it: racial microaggression, covert or subtle racist behavior that causes psychological confusion (“Did that really just happen?”). I realized instantly that I have been on both ends of the deal. The question lingers, what do I do about it? What would you?

(Full poem here via Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry.)

(*Prof. Kevin Nadal teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY, and is the author of the research handbook “Filipino American Psychology“– the first of its kind.)


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One Comment on “A Poem for Friday: “Where are you from?””

  1. Ronx says:

    Hmm, I never thought there could be anything wrong with that question, other than it being annoying after being asked so many times hehehe!

    Interesting term, racial microaggression ha.

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