Episode #4: “Yes, but where are you really from?”
Here continues our series of “10 signs you might be casually racist”: in this episode we hear about one of the most casual, and seemingly innocent questions can have deep racial connotations.
The reason the question “but where are you really from?” is racist is due to the history of immigration and naturalization in Australia. There is a myth about the Anglo-saxon as the true native of Australia, therefore, the true Australian. Everyone but the British were intentionally kept out with strict planned migration. This changed when the Great Depression (1930s) and Second World War (1939-1945) lead to high death rates and low birth rates, and slowed migration.
In the end Europeans were encouraged to come, many of them being DPs (Displaced Peoples) from the War. Those from other countries in Asia, the Pacific, Americas (unless of European heritage), Africa and the Caribbean (even those they were British subjects or citizens) were still barred from emigrating to Australia.
Anyone not found to be European (with favour towards Baltic states and Northern Europeans) was classified as an “alien” amongst legal and political terminology. While these were attitudes that ended 40 years ago, they are still in the very recent history of Australian society and therefore, still find their ideas (even subconsciously) within the psyche of the nation.
If you would like to read more about the issue we suggest White Nation by Ghassan Hage, Orientalism by Edward Said, and any book on Australian immigration by James Jupp.