You Don't Owe Anyone An Explanation About Your Ethnicity

America is filled with people from different countries, cultures, and ethnicities. We are a mix of people from different places, and we are all unique because of it. Some of us have heritages that are fairly straightforward and easy to recognize, while others are considered “ethnically ambiguous”. You might not even know where you get your features from, but know that they must come from somewhere outside the U.S. This means your ethnicity can be a bit harder to define, which is totally fine! It can be frustrating though when people start asking you where you’re from as if you owe them an explanation for why you look the way you do. Newsflash! You don’t owe anyone an explanation!

So in case you don’t know, I am a second generation Iranian immigrant. I am very proud of my culture and am not shy about telling people where I am from. That being said, it has been getting on my nerves how often people ask me where I am from. It’s not so much about them asking, it’s about the way they ask. Some people just assume I am Latina and have even just started speaking Spanish to me out of nowhere. A lot of people will just outright ask me where I’m from, and if I reply, “I’m from Salt Lake City,” they start getting frustrated and will ask where my family is from as if I should explain myself. Other people will be more indirect about it, asking for my name first and then asking where that is from. And finally, I get people who don’t ask either of those questions but will instead start talking about different ethnicities and wait for me to claim one as my own. The last one I will admit is a pretty funny approach. I feel like it is a little game where I just watch them guess over and over where I am from. Regardless, it’s been an endless cycle of having to explain who I am and what my ethnicity is.

Living in Utah, there isn’t much diversity when it comes to ethnicity. The majority of people in Utah are Caucasian, and in 2017, only 20 percent of the population in Utah was a different ethnicity. This means that there isn’t much exposure to people with different ethnicities, which can make it seem like people who aren’t obviously Caucasian are a rarity and should be examined. It can be hard to confront people you don’t know about acting this way so you might just tell them anyway even if you don’t want to. But it’s important to remember that you don’t owe them an explanation on where you are from! If you are fine with talking about where you are from then go for it. Sometimes, however, it can be a bit irritating to constantly have to talk about my ethnicity. What I’ve been doing is just emphasizing that I was born here and have always lived here, and the more people ask me the more I tell them the same thing. 

My ethnicity is a huge part of my life and I love it. I also love how I’ve been able to learn more about different cultures and ethnicities by living in a country that has such a mix of people. However I also recognize that not everyone wants to keep bringing up where they are from. People are complex beings and have more to them than just their ethnicities. It’s important to realize that you have so much more to you than how you look and when people only focus on one part it can drown out the rest. So next time you get irritated about a person asking you where you’re from, talk about where you live now or change the subject! You don’t need to give an explanation, and no matter how hard they try, they don’t deserve one.

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