Where are you from? (The Coast) How long have you been here? (I look at my watch and say 50+ years)

More “bad days” ahead. We’re not going to throw up our hands even as social media now shifts to predictable Islamophobia. Notable is that the shooter in Boulder bought his gun on the evening of the  Atlanta shootings. A Brady Bill might have stopped him.

By the end of February, people around the country had reported nearly 3,800 firsthand accounts of verbal and physical harassment against Asians (including in the workplace) since the start of the pandemic to Stop AAPI Hate, a group that formed last year to track incidents and advocate for human rights protections. Another study of police data found that hate crimes targeting Asian people had more than doubled in 2020. The attackers were Black, Latinx, and white.

A growing cry from Asian communities to label incidents like Noel Quintana’s as “hate” has less to do with whether an incident is prosecuted as a hate crime and everything to do with asking American society — people, government, media, advocates — to acknowledge that Asian people are being hurt by hate and racism, and to do something about it. Quintana told me he is fine with the fact that there is no hate crime charge in his legal case because of the difficulties in proving bias, but he does believe his attack was an act of hate and that people were indifferent to it as it unfolded.

Noel Quintana, who was slashed in the face in a random attack while riding the subway.

It’s hard in a situation like this not to feel utterly invisible in the absence of help, which is a painfully familiar sentiment to many Asian Americans who feel few people really give a fuck about the racism we’ve experienced, both during the pandemic and long before that. Perhaps it’s because there are people who don’t really believe that Asian people are targeted for their race. People who believe the model minority myth that claims Asian people are a monolith that overcame discrimination. Or maybe there are just too many people who refuse to help an Asian person.

When Rep. Grace Meng introduced a symbolic resolution last year asking “public officials to condemn and denounce anti-Asian sentiment, racism, discrimination, and religious intolerance related to COVID-19,” 164 Republicans voted against it.


​The bigger question for Kurt Bardella is why did you write for Breitbart? African Americans and Chicanos probably don’t get the same number of questions.

When I asked a group of Asian American journalists how many times they’ve been asked, “where are you from,” their responses mirrored my own experience.

Suzanne Kim, an associate producer at CBS, replied half-jokingly, “Nine-hundred times (give or take another 100 or so)” and if you’re Korean, you get the follow-up, “Are you from North Korea?” As someone who was born in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, I can tell you firsthand that this is 100% accurate.

Stacy Chen, a producer at ABC shared with me, “I’ve been asked, ‘But where are you from?’ more times than I can count. Every time someone asks me where I’m from, I’d say L.A. first and then they’d look at me and ask again, ‘OK, but where are you from?’ I don’t get personally offended, but it kind of just makes me feel perpetually foreign.”

The questions get even more awkward when your first name is German (Kurt), your last name is Italian (Bardella), and you’re adopted.

Op-Ed: The question every Asian American hates to be asked: ‘Where are you from?’


  • March 23, 2021