WAYF: I’m Not Your Exotic Zoo

This is a typical conversation when you meet someone new:

White Person A: Where Are You From?
White Person B: I live down the street.

And this is my typical conversation when I meet someone new:

Person A: Where Are You From?
Me: I live down the street.
A: No, where are you really from?
Me: I’m from Melbourne.
A: Nooooo, I mean where are you really from?
Me: Fuck you, I’m not your zoo.

Many have argued that I’m being overly sensitive and that they just want to get to know me.

Fuck you, I’m not your curiosity’s sake.

Before you go on and on and try to derail and deny my existence (which happens frequently too). How about you LISTEN first.

Many continue to define racism as an overt kind of racism. Racism is like the “KKK-type” of racism, right? I’m sorry to burst your little bubble. Racism comes in all shapes and forms. It is embedded, subtle and for many, it’s an everyday occurrence. It’s the racially “jokey” ones. There’s nothing casual about denying or oppressing someone’s cultural identity and beliefs.

“It’s all about the tone and intent.”

Get lost, clearly you’ve never been on the receiving end. Your ignorant and well-meaningful jabs bloody hurts. How would you like it when you get jabbed frequently? Let me take the end of an umbrella and let me poke you 10 times a day, for a week. Please let me jab you everyday for a month. No, no… let me jab you for the rest of your entire existence.

Welcome to my life. My everyday life is dealing with ‘sincere’ and ever-so curious background checks. My life is full of pokes and jabs.

This very question lacks context and sincerity. Here are some of the reasons why the question WAYF is racist:

– the cumulative effect of having your identity questioned

– making that person feel like they are an alien or an exotic zoo animal or strange species
– we’re from somewhere and don’t belong here
– a reminder that I am not White enough

– an innocuous form of denying one’s existence
– it’s such a vague question, I for one never ask a person’s culturally background on the very first meeting.
– there’s heaps of studies and research to back what i said as alienating and racial.
– if you want further proof, read and google ‘microaggressive racism’

There you have it. So when you see an angry lady going off, it’s because someone asked me the ‘harmless’ question WAYF.

I’m not an exotic being. I’m just a human.

-written by Suzanne Nguyen


3 thoughts on “WAYF: I’m Not Your Exotic Zoo”

  1. I just discovered this site and I will be a devoted follower! This describes my experiences on a daily basis.
    I am American but as a person of mixed race, I am constantly asked “WAYF?”

    Words can’t explain how much I hate being asked that. And it is more frustrating when my husband (who is white) tries to tell me that I’m being too sensitive about it.
    NO. I am NOT. I am simply tired of being made to feel like a zoo animal, like this piece says.

    1. Thank you Melinda,
      We’re curious, is it the first thing they ask you when they meet you?

      We love to hear your side of your story. Let us know if you’re interested. Sometimes venting it out helps 😛

      1. Hi,

        sorry it took me so long to reply. You’re wondering what people say when they meet me?
        Sometimes they stare and it makes me very uncomfortable…I don’t know why they are looking at me that way.

        Sometimes they make assumptions about my background, that I am Hispanic/Latina (nope).
        Sometimes they approach me speaking Spanish when I actually speak no Spanish at all.

        Sometimes they ask “what are you?” or “what is your nationality?” I am so very tired of this.
        I simply want to be myself, a human being. I want to live my life without constantly having to explain or justify my place in the world.

        Men often demean me or treat me as a sex object that they can project dirty ideas onto.
        Women (of various races) can be hostile or wary of me because I’m an ambiguous-looking female and men seem to find that attractive. Biracial/multiracial women, like myself, are sometimes stereotyped as “exotic” and people tend to view us in a very sexualized way. I’m OK with some male attention but I’m also painfully shy and hate being stared at or having nasty things said to me. And despite being married and having gained 60 lbs. and cutting off my long beautiful hair that I once had, I still receive this unwanted (and somewhat scary) attention that is usually tied to how I’m perceived racially by others.

        I guess my main problem is the fact that most people fail to see me as a person like them, worthy of respect and kindness…they are only interested in “what” I appear to be in their eyes, not “who” I am.
        I want to feel more accepted and welcomed without having to hide any part of myself to make others more comfortable.

        I want to not be labeled “exotic” or constantly stared at in a creepy way. I want people to accept my husband and I as a couple, instead of acting like we look weird together.
        I want to be recognized as a “real” American instead of people acting like I don’t belong, despite having been born in this country and living here all my life.
        I want to be Melinda…the bookworm, the artist, the music lover, the girl who gazes at stars in the night sky, the hippie who just wants happiness and world peace.

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