By Teka Lark
Often middle class formally educated Black people tell stories of woe of how other Black people call them things like “Oreo” and how people say they speak like a “white girl.”
I would like those people to just STOP IT! I am so sick of that story.
I am a radical. I am not a Democrat. I hang out in circles on the far left and yet I STILL hear this narrative from some Black people.
In my head I am rolling my eyes.
Why should working class and poor Black people trust a Black person that speaks like the person who calls Department of Children and Family Services on them, raises their rent for random reasons like greed and arrests their kids?
As a radical when a Black person doesn’t automatically trust me, because I “sound” “white” and act “weird” that gives me faith that this oppressive system is breakable.
It’s proof that someone is thinking.
My pattern of speech isn’t about knowledge. Most speech patterns are obtained by mimicking your parents. Your parents obtained their speech by mimicking their parents. My speech is not an indication of my intelligence, it is an indication of my privilege. As a person who is unaffiliated (just think far left) why would I want people to trust me just because I have inherited the costume and mannerism of institutional oppression?
I love that I have to work my way into the good graces of the most oppressed in the Black community. I should have to. I got my privilege on their backs.
People say, “Well, we’re all Black, they should just automatically like me.”
To those people I ask, “You like people in the projects? They are Black like you, so why aren’t they automatically your sister or brother?”
They often respond, “You have to earn respect.”
Admiration to these Oreo cookies should go only one-way.
Poor Black people should be oh so grateful that after failing in the white community and being forced to be the Black representative at a white run and owned organization to those very Black people that they can’t stand, that those same Black people should be grateful to be in their omnipotent presence, because they went to school and speak formal English.
No, they shouldn’t be grateful. It makes perfect sense to me that someone who is poor and Black might not automatically embrace me or anyone who sounds and behaves in a manner that reminds them of people who oppress them.
I am confused how anyone who is on the left can’t see the conflict of being insulted that someone doesn’t view them automatically as a friend when they clearly are coming off like a bourgeois asshole.
Imagine if middle class Black people embraced that concept. The concept of wait until you listen to what the person is saying before we viewed a person as a sister or brother. We could critique Obama, we could call the NAACP out on its incompetence, we could say aloud that the Urban League is a whore to corporate America, but middle class Black people won’t do that.
Middle class Black people RESPECT the costume of oppression.
They admire it.
If you’re murdered and you have a Ph.D. and a closet full of suits, it’s real tragedy. A much bigger tragedy than if you’re a high school drop out from Oakland shot by a cop on public transit.
I was raised in a two-parent home. My father had a good union job. My home had an extensive library. I was given access to test prep for college entry exams. I applied to colleges with no concern to the admission fees or tuition. I went to prom. I attended summer camp. I got a car when I was 16-years-old. I went shopping every weekend and sometimes Black people who didn’t have all those things called me an Oreo.
It’s hard for me with all my life experiences to view the little bit of extra work I have to sometimes put in with a select few in the Black community as a story worthy of an essay that paints the picture of me as the oppressed.
I would rather give you a story about how my white Biology teacher refused to write a me a letter of recommendation to college, because she said I was “uppity.” I would would rather give you a story of how I had to stop riding my bicycles in Los Angeles, because the LAPD couldn’t believe that a Black woman who is a pedestrian didn’t necessarily mean a person soliciting men for sex. Those stories are much more entertaining to me and doesn’t add to the pathologization of not only poverty, but Blackness.
I refuse to be a willing participant in the exceptional narrative. The narrative that says that in order for Black people to be viewed as human they must be extraordinary, perfect, brilliant and 10 times better that white people to get in the door. I would rather not go in a house that makes me work that hard just to step on the carpet.
The tales of “people called me white” or an “Oreo” are never actually tales of sadness. The truth is, they are humble brags. A humble brag to the world that a person is not like the “other” Black people. That they are exceptional and that they are a different.
In 2015 I have grown tired of the over 100 year-old stale perspective on the class divide in Blackness that is often told from the perspective of an unknowingly unreliable narrator.
2 Comments Add yours
too much solidarity coming back later with a better comment
YES! Oreo tales are humble brags! I never felt the need to share those tales as a kid or as an adult, because I always somehow got that it was not the issue. Feeling slighted will never be the issue. The issue will always be racism and misogyny, internalized and external.
I do have a story about when I was working. I had to go to my department head to tell her about multiple situations where my immediate white male supervisor was harassing me. He had a history of harassment and went on a campaign of retribution after I reported him. Nothing was done about it. I went to the union, and to her for over a year and was refused a transfer out of the department. She told me I invited conflict, and that I thought I was too good for the job. She wasn’t Black. I’d love to tell you that story.