Where are you actually from? And other micro-aggressions

On Wednesday I was at my college’s BOP – a party where people wear costumes. And at some point as I was out of the club talking to a bunch of people, a first year asked me where I was actually from.

I didn’t get offended. I’m not from Britain even though I’ve been living in the UK for the past 5 years. But I found it weird that she would ask me that.

The guys who happened to be part of the conversation were shocked and apologized profusely for her actions. I don’t even know if she remembers, or if she was too drunk. But anyway this debacle made me think about the instances of micro-aggressions people face.

Micro-aggressions are a fact of life for many people. Do they piss me off? Absolutely. So I’ve decided to make a list of the most common micro-aggressions I’ve faced so far in my life.

1.  Oh my…you speak Italian so well?/So where are you really from?

I’m Italian. I have an Italian passport. I was born there and lived there until I was almost 17. I go back whenever I can just to see my friends and my dad who still lives there. I love Italy. Following Italian politics infuriate me and I wish things were different there. Hopefully they will improve in the future.

I know my national anthem, I have a distinct accent having lived in Brianza all my life. I am skittish about trying new foods and I move my hands quite a lot when I speak. I understand the dialect of the Lombardy’s part where I am from.

I’m Italian. And it just annoys me when people question it constantly.

Until a week and a half ago I was home, in Italy. My dad and I went to the supermarket to buy a bunch of last-minute things and a random looked at us surprised and ‘complimented’ us for speaking Italian so well. I looked at her, mastered my best annoyed expression and answered in a duh tone “I was born here.”

People may think what’s the big deal? She was just curious! (See here why micro-aggressions actually hurt)

Yes, she was curious. But at the same time she questioned my identity. I don’t think if she had seen two white people speaking Italian she would have said anything. It’s the disbelief and the back-handed compliment that I cannot stand. She was assuming, like many of them, that I was not from there, because in her mind black is associated with being a foreigner. There is no way that an Italian can be black, and hence if I see a black person speaking perfect Italian I’ll automatically assume that they want to be praised for having made an effort to learn the language.


So I appeal to all those who happen to read this and happen to be in Italy. Please don’t ask me where I’m really from or why I speak Italian so well. You’re basically calling me a fake Italian, and I do care about my nationality. You’re making me feel like I don’t belong, and I know for certain that I feel more Italian than Ivorian.

2. You’re such a coconut/an Oreo/ You’re white inside/ You’re the whitest Black girl I’ve ever met and etc.

I have to admit that I was once upon a time guilty of this as seen in my post on my relationship with race. But no more! I educated myself and understood what was wrong with using any of those expressions.

It’s the use of the stereotype. ‘Black people are like this’, and ‘White people are like this’. There is no possible overlap.

I’m educated,  I like Indie music more than I could ever like rap and hence I’m white inside.

Please stop saying that. Don’t reduce me to a stereotype. I’m a complex human being who enjoys music from Côte d’Ivoire, loves pizza and risotto alla milanese. I speak roughly 4 different languages with my parents and I prefer reading to clubbing.

3.  You’re not really black because ______

You don’t know who he is? Oh my God, you’re not really black if you don’t know who he is! You haven’t listened to this latest song by her? Gee, what is wrong with you? I’m seriously more black than you.

What I said above counts here too. I beg you to stop making me a freaking stereotype. And don’t say that I ain’t black just because I don’t fit your preconceived notion of what makes someone black or not.

This list is clearly not exhaustive. There are instances when they want to touch my hair….I’m not an animal to pet at the zoo.

Here is a final message to all those who might be perpetrators of micro-aggressions and may not know it. Stop. Don’t make yourself look like a fool. And please for crying out loud…don’t ruin my day.

I leave you here with an amazing video that should give you a bit of perspectives on micro-aggressions.

Have you ever faced any micro-aggression? Let me know in the comment section!

11 thoughts on “Where are you actually from? And other micro-aggressions

  1. Yes! It is so infuriating when people either question where I’m from, because I am mixed race (African American and Caucasian) and look “exotic,” and when black people criticize me for liking things that are usually associated with whiteness. I was actually bullied really badly in middle school for speaking “white,” because I can’t speak ebonics and for getting good grades. What is blackness, anyway? It cannot just be the one U.S. inner city stereotypical version of blackness that we’ve come to expect. I also get the question, “what is your nationality?” When I answer that I’m from the U.S., people are dissatisfied and keep prodding me about my race, which is really what they meant. After I told one guy that I was from the U.S., he actually said in a weird whisper “But, aren’t you black?” I just can’t.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Me too. Thank you for sharing your experience. I learned some new things as well. I think that sometimes I make assumptions about people and that can be hurtful. I want to be more mindful of that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. HIGH FIVE . I was born id South Africa and I live in Europe now and people have asked me how I can be a South African because I am white! These are usually the same people who ask me if I ride elephants to get around. I always say yes to this question

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lols. The whole misrepresentation of Africa is another can of worms. People keep repeating the images they see on tv without even one day asking themselves whether there is a bigger picture.


  3. As in the infamous compliment “You don’t even look/sound gay!”

    Here is the point. Jokes/satire is all about micro-aggressions. They rely on stereotypes in order to sound familiar and release tension upon the punchline. That’s why I’ve grown to enjoy “homophobic” jokes: if you are able to make a witty joke on a stereotype, it means you’re pretty much over it. It does not affect you “in real life” anymore, at least to a certain extent. So when I tell people I don’t know what the new Nicki Minaj single is, and they joke at me and say “Who gave you your gay licence?”, I just laugh and eff them off because I know that in order to say that, they must be aware that it is a stereotype – otherwise it wouldn’t be funny.
    (I’m not talking about those ignorant cunts who make jokes in an insulting way, of course. Note that these people usually don’t tell these jokes when they’re with the ones their jokes are intended to denigrate, and might take a fairly hypocrite attitude on the matter).

    I think a distinction is due for those cases (jokes and satire). As far as Italy is concerned, most people just cannot conceive that you may have black skin and not be a political refugee or extremely poor. They just assume things, and that’s where prejudice becomes hurtful.
    A single micro-aggression may cause no harm to a single person. But as a component to a culture, as they are in Italy, they contribute to the diffused discrimination in a more subtle way.

    To sum up: put the joke on me for being gay and I’ll laugh at you, but compliment me for NOT looking gay (i.e. acting as you think it’s more compelling, therefore denigrating a big part of my identity that is solid even though I’m not flaunting it), and and I’ll punch you in the face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Preach! I don’t mind the jokes. But at times, people will say that they’re just joking to safe face after being challenged for their ignorant ways.
      And I agree with what you say in regards to Italy. It’s sad, and it’s even more sad that people needs to get used to it. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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