Are You an Oreo?

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Oreo – Disparaging and Offensive

A black person who is regarded as having adopted the attitudes, values and behavior thought to be characteristics of middle class white society, often at the expense of his or her own heritage.
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This is the definition given by dictionary.com of the epithet used by blacks against each other in an attempt to strip one another of their “blackness”. The word that sticks out the most in this definition is the word “thought”. It is ironic because anyone who gave the meaning of this word any “thought” wouldn’t use it in the first place. I have had friends who have been called an Oreo and, at one point in time, I was stamped with this label. I gave myself a thorough self evaluation and listed all the reasons I would be called an Oreo. Here is the list I came up with:

  • I speak proper English
  • I am well educated
  • I love to read
  • I grew up in a fairly decent neighborhood
  • I strive for success
  • I listen to an eclectic mix of music
  • I stay away from clothing that has someone’s name plastered across it

When I thought about it, I realized that an Oreo was not a bad thing to be called. What I did realize was that African Americans are so accustomed to these achievements only being obtained by whites that a person with these characteristics must not want to be black. On the contrary, this could not be farther from the truth. Because I LOVE my people, my heritage and my ancestors, I thrive to be the best I can be in order to uplift my community and prove that being black does not mean I must be raised in the ghetto, use slang 24/7, only wear urban inspired clothing, don’t value the worth of a good education and can’t see myself ever leaving the area I was raised in. Why is it that anything associated with ambition, success and proper etiquette is considered white? I am a 24 year old black woman with dread locks, a college degree and I was raised in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn, New York. I can articulate myself very well and I love a range of music from R&B and rap to soca, pop and jazz. Does this make me any less black than a person who was not blessed to have the same privileges I did?

It is a shame that when one black person calls another an Oreo, that person instantly dumbs down their speech and begins to feel ashamed of the many accomplishments they worked HARD to achieve. I thought Black was Beautiful; not dumb, illiterate, loud, always in a state of stagnation and in trouble with the law. Our President, Barack Obama, has been called an Oreo numerous times. If he is the definitive representation of an Oreo, then I will gladly claim the title. I love my people and everything I do is for the betterment of my race. I was taught that there is a time and place for everything. In order to grow, one must be able to analyze their situation and act accordingly. The way I behave when I am hanging out with my friends is not the same way I conduct myself in a business meeting. It must be understood that everyone was not exposed to the same situations growing up. As long as you love, appreciate and acknowledge your roots, then there is nothing wrong with being a successful, well spoken and open minded African American. Let’s really put some “thought” into the words we choose to label one another. It’s time to build each other up, instead of tearing each other down.

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  • Thank you for this article! I can totally relate. I was born and raised in PA suburbs. My parents are Puerto Rican. And when I moved to CT, in school I was asked why I spoke “white” or why if I lived in the inner city, I didn’t speak “slanged out”. I would just say where I was raised to end it. But it did make me feel weird. Even my ex called me an oreo because at the time I dressed gothic and liked metal. I dress kind of like a hippie now, but I still get the vibe that I’m considered an oreo.

    The point (that you so said so well) is that if we don’t act like our stereotypes, our “blackness” or “hispanic-ness” is taken from us, just because we choose to rise above. I hope more of us rise above from the stereotypes and keep moving forward.

    God Bless you sister!

  • Nikota

    I’m so glad I found this article. I grew up in the Air Force, so I’ve been blessed to be able to experience a host of different cultures and try on different ways of life. High school is when the trouble started. I got hit hard by the label because I spoke articulately, politely, and did well in school. I always strove to follow my heart, and it led me to fields of musical and stylistic culture that were a few continents apart from the mainstream Black stereotype. I was never black enough and my black peers accused me of being racist against my own kind, having an identity issue, and all sorts of other nasty things. I didn’t hate my heritage; I hated my peers for treating me so horribly, not letting me in, laughing at me for reasons I could never fully decipher, threatening me with violence, tons of verbal abuse… I was a social pariah because I didn’t listen to rap, r&b, douse myself in “Buyme” cologne and wear name brand clothes three sizes too large… I didn’t trouble myself with assimilating into that subculture because I was too busy being myself. I find that people are so busy buttressing the barriers that separate us humans from each other than tearing them down with new perspectives, that any sort of anomaly that threatens our pointless separatist agenda simply must be crucified. Groupthink is one of the most dangerous afflictions culture can bring. I will always remember my ancestors, I will always honor the history of the strong, powerful blood of the survivor, the endurer, that courses through my veins, and if other people can’t see past my style to the spirit in my heart, then it’s because they’ve somehow forgotten the spirit in theirs, and that’s, like, so totes not my prob anymore bruh. :P Thank you so much for writing on this topic!

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  • Kyla

    There is a difference between ethnicity and race. Ethnicity is your culture and what you celebrate while your race is your biological ancestry.When they call you an oreo, they mean it to damage your ethinicity, not your race because while any one with African ancestry has to have a race of African American, you choose whether you want to act like one which is part of the cultural aspect.
    -as stated by a fellow African American