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Letters to the Editor: ‘I am from Los Angeles’: Asian American readers on ‘Where are you from?’

Demonstrators gather in Alhambra to protest against racism and the increase in violence against Asians on March 21.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Like Kurt Bardella, I am Korean American. The problem that I have with his op-ed article is that he does not mention exactly who is asking him the dreaded question, “Where are you from?”

I will tell you that throughout my life it has always been Caucasians. I have never been asked this question by a person of color.

Ignorance must be bliss, because the question is rude, especially when they ask where you are born and you tell them Los Angeles — because that answer is not the one they want. I’ve gotten to the point where I will just make up something random, and the amazed look on their face is enough.

People need to think before they speak.

Chris Peterson, Valencia

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To the editor: I have been living in the Highland Park-South Pasadena area since the 1980s. Being an Asian but so close to Chinatown, I normally do not get hit with that question.

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However, I was working in Calabasas for 20 years until 2017. About 20 years ago, I was in a video store during my lunch break, and I came across a young white male in the foreign film section who asked me, “Where are you from?”

Being ticked even thought his tone was somewhat friendly (maybe dismissive?), I responded, as his question was a surprise, “Why do you ask?” He said, “I am from Denmark, and I’ve seen people from all places here.” So I told him with a smile, “I am from Los Angeles.”

“Why do you ask?” and “I am from Los Angeles” are my honest responses when someone says to me, “Where are you from?”

Kin Lam, South Pasadena

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To the editor: Bardella painted a broad brush in saying all Asian Americans are offended by the statement, “Where are you from?”

I am a first-generation Chinese American, and I do not feel slighted when someone innocently asks me for my country of origin. It is often just an attempt at making friendly conversation, and I don’t think we need to feel insulted when no insult was intended.

Go ahead, ask me where I am from. I am more than happy to share with you my cultural heritage, of which I am quite proud.

Charles Lu, Diamond Bar

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To the editor: Like Bardella, I heard this question asked many times growing up in Los Angeles. My standard reply was this: “Where are you from? Gee, you speak good English.”

Sharon Kumagai, Torrance

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To the editor: Being asked the question Bardella dreads is a reality not only for Asian Americans, but for all of us who speak English without an American accent.

You don’t need to look different, but as soon as you utter a sentence, there will be a pause on the other side, and then comes the question, “Where are you from?” The sad thing is, very often, the communication stops there, almost as if what you were saying loses its importance.

I agree with Bardella: Why does it even matter?

Diko Markarian, Whittier


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