Why Calling a Black Person an ''Oreo'' Is Offensive
It is incredibly toxic and damaging.
They said I was Black on the outside, white on the inside. Black but not too black, a perfectly poised token for you to blindly glorify me as. The term ''Oreo'' was assigned to me and lingered on my mind for years. Some may think it's a compliment, when in fact it showcases society's narrow and monolithic view of Black people.
The term ''Oreo'' was assigned to me because those around me saw me as the Black girl who had stepped out of their pre-assigned stereotypic characterisation of those who looked like me.
What is an Oreo in society?
Being an Oreo is associated with being well-spoken, ''speaking proper English'', getting good grades in school, liking music that isn't Trap, Rap, Hip Hop and R&B and having a diverse group of friends. But why should Black people be perceived as one? When, in fact, we all boast minds that hold a vast range of ideas and opinions. It is quite ignorant to say that there is one specific way Black people should act.
‘’The idea that black people have to act a certain way to be black is damaging as it limits the potential for young black children to follow their genuine interests and dreams.’’
Firstly, who is to say all Black people just like the same music, food and hold the same experiences. The major issue with this is that it limits the potential for growth, it boxes us into societal standards and expectations. When in reality we deserve the opportunity to venture off into new practices and interests. Just as any other person would be able to do.
Secondly, when you call someone an Oreo do you take into account that you are centring whiteness? Placing it as the prized possession of humanity, further encouraging the belief that whiteness is the highest level of society. The Oreo complex doubts Blackness as it centres whiteness, as it blocks our society from seeing Blackness as diverse.
My personal experience
I went to schools that were predominantly white, often having very few Black students. In my personal experience, I heard the term Oreo thrown at me on a regular basis, so much so that from a young age I took it as a compliment. At such a tender age, I was yet to realise the true connotations of this implicit insult. The way in which Black people were spoken about around me created a negative view of the race, leading my young mind to fall into the traps of these misconstrued perceptions of Black people. Unfortunately, leading me to believe that Black was bad, that Black wasn't beautiful instead undesirable.
So you can imagine being called something so sweet and innocent as an Oreo made me take it as a compliment, soothing the brewing self-hatred that society had cut out for me.
I was told that I was 'acting white', but as I got older, I thought to myself, how is being myself white. This has such an impact on how you can impact a person's sense of identity. Since you are essentially alluding to the fact that you are different from other Black people signalling that there is something wrong with that person's race. This can ignite inner-hatred and cultural shame.
I soon realised that my classmates said this because the carved out sight of Black people my classmates saw on TV didn't match my personality, so they decided to parade me as the golden token that stood out from what they saw being portrayed in media.
I was repeatedly told that I sounded white, over and over again. First of all, no one in a race will sound the same. There is no identically set acoustic, pitch or bass in our voices that we all possess. Furthermore, saying that I 'sound white' is a narrowed view, once again Black people are not monolithic. An accent is an accent, it is associated with an area, whether that be a country, city or a specific area, it is not always tied to one's race.
Where do we go from here?
Disband the use of this phrase, you shouldn't use it and if you hear someone use it to educate them on why it is offensive.
Another way to progress in this area is for you to begin to see Black people as diverse, as a race that has a wide span of languages, cultures and unique customs, start to see us as something other than a monolith. This will help you broaden your view of us, allowing you to expose your mind to the spectrum gleaming lights we reflect onto society.