Letter: Another view of the question

Published: 06-06-2024 1:48 PM

I found Nisa Simila’s column on the question “Where are you from?” (“A complicated question,” May 28) to be enlightening, and I applaud her for sharing her perspective, with several pertinent examples. It was thought-provoking and I benefited from hearing it, so I thought I would do the same.

“Where are you from?” is often my default question when I meet someone because everyone has an answer. How someone chooses to answer is illuminating. The open nature of the question is the key; in fact, often people will respond “How do you mean that?”

For example, a response might be “I live in Antrim,” or “my heritage is Indian, but my parents moved to New Jersey after they were married and that is where I was born and raised.” Another response might be “I’m from MENSA” or perhaps “I’m from the LBGTQ community.” Or “I went to Exeter and then Harvard.” Maybe I would get “I’m from the IRS.” It’s fascinating that the same person could give all of those responses.

The beauty is that the question invites the respondent to self-identify in a way that tells you both a factual detail as well as what is important to them, their self- image. “Everyone has a story” is one of my favorite dictums, and I find it invigorating to hear what makes people special.

I recognize that sometimes that question might be perceived as a microaggression and Simila’s examples certainly present some cloddish behaviors. But the question is not inherently racist or insensitive. Perhaps it is intended to lead to a meaningful conversation with the goal of making a deeper connection. Use the question to take the conversation to the next level and with luck you might have a new friend.

Jim Curtis


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