Oreo: My Black History Post

oreoI don’t really remember the first time someone called me an “Oreo”. I think it might have been sometime in late elementary or early middle school when these types of labeling phrases really started making their way around the lunch yard, but I do remember, at the time, I had no idea what it meant. When I was younger I wasn’t much a fan of the chocolate cookie that had only a small amount of something resembling frosting in the middle (I have since consumed my fair share of DOUBLE STUFFED Oreo’s though….), but like most kids I would open the cookie, lick out the center, and feed the rest of the slobbery pieces to the birds. So right off the bat I didn’t exactly connect the word with a positive connotation. For those of you who still don’t know/ never heard of anyone being called this I’ll explain it using the Urban Dictionary definition:

Oreo {or – ee- oh}
Someone who might be dark skinned (not necessarily African-American, though is predominately used as such) but have the personality and characteristics of a middle-class, Caucasian person.
Now before everyone gets all “lets kill whitey #blackpower” on this blog it is important to note that this phrase originated in the black community as a catchall word to describe black people who acted differently than the stereo type and was also  less abrasives than “uppity negro”, or an “Uncle Tom”. It wasn’t until later that this word started being used by other races and ethnicities to describe black people who acted just a little too out of character to be considered authentically “black”.
Since I can’t remember when I first got called an Oreo it’s also safe to assume that I don’t remember the color of the person who first said it to me either. Growing up in both sunny San Diego & beach, hippie Santa Cruz, California I highly doubt it was any of the politically correct white kids that I went to high school with, or the 10 other black people I spent my teen years waving to in the halls, so lets safely assume it was indeed in my middle school years in San Diego and we’ll 50/50 was someone who was either a white or black person, #duh. Thinking back over the last 10 years of my life I can safely say that I’ve been called an Oreo mostly by white people who, after hearing me cavalierly throw around the word ubiquitous, drop how I’ve interned on the Hill & The White House, and have seen that I’ve dated my share of pigment challenged guys , have dropped it with a smile as if to say it in the most joking way possible in the same way the might drop the word “queer” with their gay best friend(s) at brunch to show how in the know they are. It’s offensive but in the same way a 2 year old saying “fuck” is offensive, more cute than truly alarming. I won’t speak for every black “Oreo” out there when I say that, for me, I’m not really upset when a white person says that I look, sound, & act like them because they don’t view it as “acting” a certain way (they know all white people don’t act the same #duh). I know they don’t use the word to hurt me, or to downplay my accomplishments, in fact, to them I am an exception to what they think is a rule, someone they can point to that defies stereotypes and generalizations. They don’t know that what typical black person acts like because they’re not black, so all their left with are impressions, movies, TV, and the media in general. Like I said, it’s like when I toddler says a bad word, they just think they’re being grown-up and funny, with almost no understanding of the true meaning. Usually after a Caucasian person uses the word “Oreo” I have two options, and what I decide to do usually is based on 1 thing, will I or will I not interact with this person again? If the answer is no I usually just laugh it off, toss my hair, and say “and everyone loves Oreo’s don’t they” without giving it much more thought. If the answer is yes… well then I have to spend 15 or so minutes awkwardly educating said white person on how that term could be viewed as insensitive, offensive, and possibly politically incorrect. It’s terrible for everyone involved but luckily by the end of it the person who originally used the term is so freaked out about possibly being viewed as a racist they may or may not even eat Oreo’s ever again let alone use the term.
I haven’t been called an Oreo as much by a black person but it irritates me so much that I usually just go dark in the eyes and think about punching said black person in the throat. why the 180 if someone of the same race uses this term? Because they know exactly what it means and unlike their white counterparts they use it to demean and be little my accomplishments. To these people speaking well, being educated, dressing like you’re not  in a Tyler Perry movie is “acting white” instead of acting like a contributing member to society. My “Oreo” status to these people was synonymous with being a sellout, someone who “forgotten my roots”. This notion is straight up bullshit. First of all, not a day goes by where I “forget” that I’m black. When I’m on the bus, when I’m at the bank, when I shop at an expensive store or go out to eat at a fancy place with my very white boyfriend I am inadvertently reminder just how black I am. Just because my vernacular is perfect doesn’t mean that my everyday struggles aren’t the same as some fool right out the hood. I worked hard to become this polished not because I’m quick to leave my culture, my heritage, or part of my identity behind me but because I wanted doors to open for me because of who I am as a person and not just my skin color. I grew up with a single, black, teenage mother just like 1 out of every 3 black kids, but just because I don’t watch BET 25/7 does that make any of that less valid? Does that mean that I struggled less because more often than not my head was in a book or out in a cheer competition? The ignorance of some of the people who share my skin color, who came up with their own word to describe how I act and what I like, is a slap in the face to all the work so many African-Americans have done in this country. Those people are more offensive than any white person I’ve ever encountered, and I wish I had nearly as much patience to blow some knowledge into their minds.
My role models have been and will always be strong, black women who dare to defy how people “think” they should act and do whatever they want anyway. This blog post is to all my fellow Oreo’s out there. Beyonce doesn’t just sing R&B, Kerry Washington doesn’t star on a show on BET, Michelle Obama isn’t the first lady of Nike, and there are too many countless others I don’t even have the time to name.
Plus, everyone loves Oreo’s right.?!They are damn good 😉

2 thoughts on “Oreo: My Black History Post

  1. Pingback: Karyn Washington | God, I Hate My 20's

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