Hi, I’m Sarah, welcome to The Daily English Show. Today we’re studying a scene from a movie called Precious. Actually I think the official name is: Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire, which is quite long.
And it looks like an interesting movie, I’d quite like to see it.
In this scene two women are talking. And one of them is a girl who has had a very difficult life and the other one is a social worker who’s in charge of her case.
And one of the things the girl says to the social worker is: What colour are you?
I think it’s normal to be curious about a person’s ethnicity, so it’s a fair enough question to ask, but the way she asks it a bit odd, she says: So are you Italian? Or … what colour are you, anyway? Are you some type of black? Or Spanish?
But it made me think about the issue of how to ask someone what their ethnicity is. I searched: how to ask someone their ethnicity in Google and I read some of the blog posts and comments and it seems like it’s something that a lot of people are unsure about.
For example, if you meet someone in New Zealand who looks Asian because of their features, but they have a New Zealand accent, then they were obviously born in New Zealand or moved here when they were really young, but you might be curious about their ethnicity – well, I would be anyway, because I’m really interested in Asia, so I’d be interested in talking about that, but how do you ask?
Do you say: What colour are you?
No, I don’t think that makes any sense.
How about: Where are you from?
Well, if they have a New Zealand accent, then the answer is probably somewhere in New Zealand.
How about:Where are your parents from? Well, their parents might be born in New Zealand too. So, that might not be such a useful question either.
So, how about directly asking: What’s your ethnicity? I think it makes the most sense to ask directly like that. But then some people worry, is that rude or offensive.
I think if the reason why you’re asking is just because you’re just curious, then it shouldn’t be offensive. And if someone is curious about my ethnicity, then I don’t mind being asked directly.
Of course, if you have a nasty reason for wanting to know, like you say: Oh, good, you’re Korean, I’m glad you’re not Japanese, I can’t stand Japanese people – well, obviously that’s offensive.
So what do you think about this? Have you ever been worried that you asked someone the wrong way? Or do you have a preference for how you would like to be asked?
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And that was Stick News for Tuesday the 9th of March. Kia ora.