Ellen DeGeneres’ controversial question to “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu back in April has reignited discussion on social media after the film’s release.
For those who missed it, DeGeneres asked Wu the perennial question many American citizens of color encounter: “Where are you from?”
The actress simply responded, “Richmond, Virginia.”
As the response somehow elicited laughter from the audience members, the host, seemingly unconvinced, questioned her again, “Richmond, Virginia?”
Wu simply nodded “Uh, hmm” and the conversation moved on to how long she had been living in California.
Earlier, DeGeneres asked the same question to CRA lead actor Henry Golding, complete with the kicker “originally.”
Golding gave an incredibly detailed response, explaining that he is half-British and half-Malaysian, with roots from the Iban tribe.
His answer, which noted that his mother is from the state of Sarawak in East Malaysia, is noticeably too detailed, probably because he has delivered the same response numerous times in the past.
When the interview first came out, DeGeneres’ “Where are you from?” questions sparked varied reactions from Asian Americans, ranging from utter rage to mere annoyance. It should be noted that White actors are not typically asked this question.
Seriously! Thought I was the only who noticed. Smh 🤦🏽♀️ that @TheEllenShow ‘s fans laughed at @ConstanceWu ‘s replied that she was from Richmond, VA. Regardless, I was SO glad & proud that @ConstanceWu didn’t FEEL OBLIGATED to map out her “where are you from” lineage.
— M. Sebastian (@MKX00) April 29, 2018
Shout-out to fellow Asian Americans who feel indignant on Constance Wu’s behalf every time an interviewer expresses surprise that she’s from Richmond, Virginia
— loudlysilent (@loudlysilent) April 25, 2018
ellen: and constance, where are you from?
constance: richmond, virginia.
why did that remind me of mean girls lmfao “i’m from michigan”
— shayne (@wotchershayne) April 24, 2018
For many asking the seemingly innocuous question, it can be an expression of genuine curiosity and an actual effort to learn more about someone. However, the truth can’t always be said for those on the receiving end.
Sure, a lot of people can shrug this off, but those who were offended or annoyed have every reason to feel frustration.
To be regarded as a foreigner in a country you consider your home simply because of one’s looks has been a burden shared by many. Some have lamented that being viewed as “The Other” is especially problematic in America, where racial hierarchy persists in some areas.
For those who are constantly faced with such a question, a popular YouTube video from Ken Tanaka shows one equally annoying way to respond: