Is it racist for someone to ask “where are you from originally”?

Answer by Rory Young:

I am an African of European decent. I was born in Zambia and am fifth generation African. I suppose I am what is sometimes called an Anglo-African.

Passing through the US immigration one day I handed my Zambian passport to the officer. He took it, looked at it, looked at me then looked hard at the passport again and then clearly confused, asked me, "are your parents missionaries"?

Quite obviously he could not comprehend that white people have been living in Africa for generations.

I  answered, "no". I did not see what my origins have to do with my status as a visitor to the US and felt this was rude on his part, so wan't going to make it easy for him.

He paused then said it; "how can you be from Zambia if you are European"?

"I'm not European, I'm African", I answered.

He looked annoyed, like I was being a smart-Alec. "You're white. How can you be from Africa if you are white?" he said.

"Well, let me put it this way", I said. "Are you an American Indian?"

He stamped my passport and, handed it to me and called out "next"!

As I was walking up to the luggage carousel an African-American man walked up next to me. "I was behind you back there" he said, "man, it's tough being nigger ain't it"?

I laughed till I was hurting.

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4 thoughts on “Is it racist for someone to ask “where are you from originally”?

  1. What on earth did that man think he was talking about? In that job of all jobs, he should know that people of all colours live in all countries. His ‘missionary parents’ question was particularly ignorant, and too personal.

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