29 Aug 2016

Where are you from or where are you local?

Taiye Selasi, in her Ted talk, suggests that rather than ask where we are from, we should ask where we are local? Based on the idea that it is our experiences that shape us, we should discard the concept of a country identity, countries change in name and borders, and instead look at what are our rituals, relationships and restrictions. (The below quotes are taken from the transcript of her Ted talk.) During her talk she suggested:

"First, think of your daily rituals, whatever they may be: making your coffee, driving to work, harvesting your crops, saying your prayers. What kind of rituals are these? Where do they occur? In what city or cities in the world do shopkeepers know your face? As a child, I carried out fairly standard suburban rituals in Boston, with adjustments made for the rituals my mother brought from London and Lagos. We took off our shoes in the

Where are you from? What are they really asking?

Where are you from?
Would you go back?
What brought you here?

These questions are so frequently asked for most migrants. When I was first a migrant, I often wished I had a t-shirt with the answers printed on them. I’m sure the questioner’s intentions are genuine and kind, but I now find myself pausing prior to answering. What do they want to hear? How do I answer? 

‘Where are you from’

I am from England. Images of tea-drinking- weather-obsessed- whinging-poms living in Downton Abbey or Coronation Street appear between me and the questioner. I am not that. If I answer I am from London stereotypes of Camden Market punks, opera and Eastenders pop up. I am not that either. My mother did come from East Ham, and I do drink a lot of tea, but there the stereotypes stop.

I often wonder, when asking where are you from, what are they really asking? It could be: