1.1 But Where are You Really From? Part IV: Oh, really? You were born in Guelph?

1.1 But Where are You Really From? Part IV: Oh, really? You were born in Guelph?

Schema Magazine
Schema In-Depth

Araba Ocran-Caesar, Guest Contributor

Perhaps growing up in Vancouver has changed the way I approach the question, “But where are you really from?” There is no doubt that my geographical position in this country changes the climate in which that question is asked. Since I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in Toronto, I have been able to switch gears and not view this infamous question as such a nagging issue. Some might say that it’s a compliment to be asked because that means people are genuinely interested in me and my origins. Hmm. Not so much.

Because so many Canadians are from immigrant families I rarely thought it was unusual for people to ask about my background. It was only when people started to focus on one aspect of my ancestry that I caught on to some other, deeply rooted motivations. My heritage is European, African and Caribbean; I do not place an emphasis on any one culture over another (but let me tell you, other people do). In my case, all components of my heritage make me who I am, and, yes, over time I have felt offended when people pick apart my African and Caribbean backgrounds. Let me explain further: Once my “blackness” is confirmed, the revelation is followed up with labels and snap judgements. It’s painfully evident that my Welsh heritage is not tackled with the same stereotyping determination. Fortunately, every now and again, the odd person appears with whom I can dialogue and we both walk away learning something about each other…

…Perhaps you are all familiar with the “one drop” philosophy, adopted by American slave owners. Essentially, as long as an individual had even one drop of African blood, that individual was considered Black, regardless of what could sometimes be a very mixed lineage. Well, the “one drop” concept is, in some ways, alive and well today and is the unspoken subtext that spurs someone to ask “What are you,” when I am clearly and visibly something other than white. So possibly the question could more precisely be phrased as “What part of you is black?” Not, “Where are you from?” After all, when I truthfully answer with Guelph, Ontario, no one is never satisfied!…

Read the entire article here.

See Also:

Tags: ,