I'm disappointed in the responses declaring this "overly sensitive" or chalking it up to well meaning intent. The impact of these words is what matters, as does the lived experience you're sharing. I hate that whiteness and internalized racism is so pervasive it needs to be questioned and minimized. As the granddaughter of Korean immigrants, I know the true meaning behind a seemingly harmless, "Where are you from?" The coded language is digging into details strangers, to be frank, don't need to hear. And these backhanded compliments of "Oh, you look exotic," or whatever else is a racial microaggression, plain and simple.
Thank you for this heartfelt piece. It was emotional for me to read and reflect on, not only because of the impact of your words but also because of the frustration that you have to fight so hard to validate your story in the eyes of others.