Where do you come from?

Tayie Selasi's Ted Talk and why you should probably not ask this question

You probably have been asked this question. ‘Where do you come from?’ Sometimes the person asking is just curious. Friendly curious.  Maybe they like your eyes. Or your voice or better still, your long neck.

 

But this is not always the case. The question ‘where do you come from’ is often a loaded question. An acquaintance  recently lamented how people automatically reach for their car keys as soon as he tells them that he is from Poland. (There is a long running joke/prejudice in Germany that the citizens of Poland are master car thieves).

Even though I laughed when he said this, I completely understood where he was coming from.

 

No single question feeds prejudice as much as this question.

 

When Kenyans ask ‘where do you come from?’ What they often mean is, who do you support politically? Are you from a ‘friendly’ or ‘enemy’ tribe? Can I trust you?

Needless to say, it is often an aggressive judgmental question.


In this brilliant TED talk, Tayie Selasi explores the reason why this question is so limiting; why where one comes from, rarely tell the whole story.

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