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The Forum > Article Comments > Where are you from? > Comments

Where are you from? : Comments

By Ramesh Fernandez, published 29/6/2012

Do you realise that the question 'Where do you come from?' immediately sets in place a structure that excludes people, rejecting them with a form of passive racism?

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I'm sorry you feel this way. I feel that Australia has done very well in creating a diverse and creative society in which people from different backgrounds live and work together. My interest is not so much in appearance but in language, so my question tends to be about where that form of speech comes from, though I have certainly asked the question you dislike. Sometimes I have been to where the person comes from, and we talk about that. And, in closing, I usually say 'Welcome!', unless the person has been here for forty years or so. As far as I can tell, all of these encounters have been friendly and supportive of the Other.

I attended a Citizenship Ceremony yesterday and felt the same eighty of so people from thirty or so countries became Australian citizens. Everyone was happy in their new status, and I was happy for them.

There is a bright side to this encounter. I feel sorry that you haven't experienced it.
Posted by Don Aitkin, Friday, 29 June 2012 7:39:03 AM
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I get ask if I am Australian and I don't feel offended.

Asking a person about themselves is a way of starting conversations plus also gain information about that person.

"Do you have children?"
"Where do you live/work?"
"What is your occupation?"

etc etc.

I love hearing about peoples experiences from other countries/cultures.

There is another form of discrimination where for example a person from one culture is not allowed to have a relationship with a different culture.
Posted by JamesH, Friday, 29 June 2012 8:50:15 AM
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I get the impression that the bulk of the passive racism in these encounters is the authors negative assumptions of the motives behind what is more likely people trying to be friendly.

There may be good reasons for the authors sensitivity on the issue, perhaps its one of those questions thats past its use by date but I was left with the impression that the encounters the author describes have been attempts by others to reach out which have been met with a response derived from the authors own sensitivities rather than any sense of community. I've been guilty of the same myself at times when something is weighing on my mind.

Perhaps the more culturally sensitive and enlightened person will know when its better to avoid such questions and have the skills to reach out without the risk of giving offence but its probably safer to assume that such a query is well meant rather than some kind of racist power play.

R0bert
Posted by R0bert, Friday, 29 June 2012 9:20:32 AM
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I can understand someone less forgiving than I am provoked into saying to this newcomer who is exploiting the advantages of living in Australia, "go back where you came from".Leslie
Posted by Leslie, Friday, 29 June 2012 9:24:20 AM
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This is ridiculous. You choose to make assumptions about the reasons for certain questions, and then blame others for having made those assumptions. Grow up.

Everyone in Australia comes from somewhere else originally. Even aborigines were from somewhere else if you go back far enough.

Get over it and start thinking like a normal person
Posted by DavidL, Friday, 29 June 2012 9:28:43 AM
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...The author of this article is more evidence that Multiculturalism breeds an inferiority complex, with a design towards victimhood; outcomes of which are used against the balance of society to achieve unfair and disproportional recognition from Politicians.
Posted by diver dan, Friday, 29 June 2012 10:03:38 AM
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