Where Are You From?

By Courtney Elop, Seattle Foundation Philanthropic Associate Advisor

bao tram do headshotFor many this is an easy question to answer. When I receive this question, I answer “I’m Canadian”, and for some reason that isn’t enough. 

When people ask “Where are you from?” followed by “No, where are you really from?” they seem to be searching for an answer that aligns with their superficial presumptions about my identity, when in actuality my origin story has far more layers to it.

I was born in China, adopted by a Caucasian Canadian family as an infant, and immigrated to the United States where I have now gained citizenship. When people meet me, all too often they are surprised when my face doesn’t match what they expected from my European last name. As people have made assumptions about me because of my race, I have learned the deep importance of not making assumptions about others without first hearing their stories and lived experiences.

As a child, I was accused by other kids and parents of cutting in bathroom line as I walked to stand next to my Caucasian mother. People assumed, with no Asian woman in sight, that I was alone. When out with my older Caucasian brother, we were told “what a cute couple”. People tended to assume we couldn’t possibly be siblings.

Despite assumptions strangers make about me, I have accepted that while my family may look different from others I’m proud of the attributes make us unique. Wherever one calls home and whomever one calls family and whatever nationality one calls their own, my upbringing has instilled in me the belief that every person should be afforded the same opportunities regardless of where they’re from or how they identify.

As such, I am proud today to work as an Associate Advisor in the Philanthropic Services team partnering with philanthropists who want to strengthen our community. I’m honored to be a part of a team that is committed to deploying resources into the community and an organization that embodies what it means to stand behind and advocate for increased equity as a catalyst for change.