Saturday, June 30, 2007

What is an Oreo?

I thought it was a cookie. But I called Cat today, simply to tell her “I LOVE Black men.” As we engaged in this conversation, I find out she doesn’t like them at all. She says, maybe it’s the men she’s around, but she has nothing in common with them. They don’t like to do the things she does. They call her an “oreo.” You know, Black on the outside, White on the inside.

Apparently, this doesn’t make her a good candidate for southern Black men. I’m exactly the opposite. I LOVE Black Men and can’t see myself with anyone else, but I’ve dated all sorts. But that “ain’t” the discussion.

The discussion is: How do you act White? I’ve been asking this since my days in college. My kids tell me all the time that I talk White or “proper.” I explain to them that I speak correctly in appropriate situations. You’ve got know when you can act “hood.” You can act one way with your friends, but in public and on the job you must act in manner that is appropriate. You must act “civilized” to be acceptable in our society. You must speak correct English to be understood. Moreover, why is unacceptable for a Black person to like or sing opera, dance ballet or ski. I don’t even understand why this is even a problem in America. I think it has a lot to do with poverty and the invisible class system that exists here.

I don’t think my kids know that my family is from the same “hood” that they are growing up in. I didn’t grow up there, but my mother did. I am a “mound” girl. Thus, I can be “down” with the best of them, but I choose to be “lame.” I choose to be “proper.” Miss CF says that I’m ghetto and I don’t talk “proper.” She’s right because when I’m with her I let go of societal norms. I don’t have to been an example for anyone. Conversely, Miss CF is White and Lord knows, she is super ghetto. If they saw her with me they’d say she was “tryin’ to act Black.”

I don’t know why there is so much pressure to be ghetto if you are Black. It is a stereotype that African American’s should not have. I think that these stereotypes are what continue to breed and sustain racism. Unfortunately, this blog ain’t gon’ haf to much o dat hood o country stuffs cause I wanna be propa xample for da chirrens AND I ain’t green, really, I ain’t. I’m out cause I gotta go to da Durry Queen.
In response to Betsy's comments: Yes, being called an Oreo is racist. These are fighting words. No matter the circumstances--however, it seems that African American's can say things about their own and the sting is not so bad. This was one of the major issues with Imus a few months back. African Americans say these types of derogatory things all the time, but no one else can say it. It is funny how it works. No, these types of things should not be said. I agree with you. Its highly inappropriate, but unfortunately racism and stereotypes didn't die with Dr. King. They still live. After reading your post, it was November 6th, I realize we must stand up and say something when these comments are made. I generally stand up when these types of comments are made. I can't stand these types of words--including the N word. When it happens in my classroom, it's unacceptable. But the sad thing is that these kids go home and it is said all around them. Somehow, my students (or the African American community in general) has made these words affectionate.

Yes, my friend is hurt b/c she is thought of as an oreo. But, I get the sense that she is used to it. It doesn't sting as much. It doesn't sting when I'm told, "you're acting White" anymore. I generally laugh and say, "how do you act White?" No one ever has an answer. These are hard social issues. Especially, here in the South.


Betsy said...

I have a question. Excuse my ignorance.

Isn't being called an Oreo, no matter the circumstances, racist?

I broke up a fight between two black girls at my school. One of my coworkers called it an "Oreo" situation. I didn't know how to respond- I thought it was SOOOOOO inappropriate and racist. And coming from this individual, I believe it was intended that way.

I wrote about this on my blog when it happened- October, I think? It has bothered me ever since.

Eric said...

I cannot stand this double standard that exists in society. Yet so many African-Americans do not understand how their desire to continue using the word perpetuates the racism.

While in the military I was an EO Representative for a unit and for one of the classes (mixed races) we talked about this after watching "White Man's Burden". Oh boy, talk about fighting! Whew, it got tense in there. But it was good to air it out. I don't know if anyone came out better for it, but I sure got a deeper appreciation for the issue.

mr. e said...

Sorry to be late to posting, but.. this is one of the reasons I enjoy blogging. This was a great post and thanks. I think there's a big divide between Whites and African Americans and I'm personally getting tired of it.

ms-teacher said...

As a white teacher, I think one of the biggest challenges we (as in our nation) continues to face is divide that exists between the races. Part of the problem is that we are afraid to have open and honest debate about race. It's scary and uncomfortable. However, I think that until we are willing to have these conversations, we are doomed to be stagnant.

FYI, I have had my Asian students called "Twinkies." Also son #1 was accused of "acting black" when he was in middle school because many of his friends were black and he listened to rap. I wish we could get beyond labeling people!!

Midwest Teacher said...

I agree w/ ms-teacher...if we continue to label people, we perpetuate the problem. My student teaching experience was at a predominantly white, upper middle class school. Even though I'm white, I didn't feel quite as if I fit in (I'm not comfortable w/ the upper middle class, esp w/ the current broke-ness brought on by student teaching). My school for next year will be vastly different--lower middle class and I believe predominantly black. However, I believe that as people we experience much of the same stuff. We just approach things differently sometimes. Not sure if I'm making much sense here, but...
Oh, please go check out my blog & leave your opinions on book, ok?

Anonymous said...

I am shocked after reading your post. For Europeans, the USA is the example of the (almost) perfect democracy. I've just taught my students about the Bill of rights and the Gettisbury address. I am shocked to read that the American society is devided by race, some 150 years after Lincoln.

Bethany said...

Grr... I just wrote the longest comment and it just got deleted!