By Prashob Menon, Class of 2017
At a recent TNDC I was introduced to someone who, after hearing I had grown up in Canada, promptly asked, “Yeah, but where are you really from?” Taken aback, I decided laughing and walking away was the most appropriate response. This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with this question, but I’ve been asked it at an alarming rate since starting at Booth. To be honest, I don’t quite understand the question because, well, are you accusing me of lying? If so, why would I lie about being from Canada? Sure, Drake, maple syrup, and this Mountie are pretty cool, but c’mon… Before answering where I’m really from (I guarantee the answer is worth it), let me answer a more pressing one: why does it matter?
I’ve lived a peripatetic life thus far and attending Booth will only give me more opportunities to continue this lifestyle. We are being trained to become global thinkers and executives who can traverse different cultures with ease. Simply put, we’re in training to become global élites. You’ll likely find yourself working outside your home country one day and indeed some of you already have. The natural conclusion here is that you (or your children, should you choose to have any) will one day face the question: “So where are you really from?”
Broadly speaking, this is a core result of immigration: people moving to places where their names are unfamiliar. Asking where people are ‘really’ from only serves to emphasize their ‘otherness’. It serves only to divide and isolate. “Where is your family from?” - what might seem like simply a more polite formulation - is actually far more accurate. It lets the respondent own their origin story. If they choose to reveal that their family is from somewhere different, then that’s fine. But where we’re really from doesn’t really matter. America is a land of immigrants who came here precisely to recreate themselves by shedding their inherited identities in favor of created ones.
So, now that we’ve dispatched with the secondary question, let’s move back to the primary one: where am I really from? Well, the answer depends on how far back you go. Personally, I prefer to go back about 5,000 years to when my ancestors lived in Africa but you may prefer to go further back. One of my distant relatives was actually a single-celled organism but, to be honest, we don’t mention him much since he also transitioned into a two-celled organism (we’re not biased just uncomfortable).
Prashob spent the last 5 years as a management consultant focusing on telecommunications, media, and technology. He also has an unhealthy addiction to Netflix and HBO, but what do “doctors” really know.