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“Are you an Oreo?”

January 3, 2012

Partying, as I sometimes do, just a few nights ago, a white woman who I had never met before stopped and asked, “Are you an Oreo?”

For those of you who don’t know what an Oreo is, beyond the delicious and nutritional cookie, of course, it’s a derogatory term that gets tossed out at African-Americans who are perceived to be “black on the outside” and “white on the inside.”

Now, this isn’t the first time someone has ever alluded to me being less than black, or however you want to frame it, but this was the very first time someone just out and asked me if I were an “Oreo.” She felt the need to ask me this because I was wearing a pair of khakis and a sweater. I guess she hadn’t read this Grantland article, either. Well, there goes post-blackness.

This sort of thing happens from time to time. So you have a young white woman who feels she has her finger on the pulse of what it means to be black and whatever deviates from her perceived reality is to be called into question. I also happened to be just one of two African Americans at this party. The other being the world’s most interesting man, Lionel Foster. And of course, we got this question a few times during the evening: “How is it that you’re ever the only black guys around?”


The answer is pretty obvious: You, don’t have a diverse set of friends. That is, you don’t have any black friends beyond me. And that’s OK. You’re socially segregated, I get it. But don’t go putting the onus on your lack of diverse friends on your one or two minority friends. Look inwardly.

This also brings me to my recent storytelling event, in which I discussed how race helped shape my life growing up in Baltimore City. I abhor listening to myself speak. But perhaps you don’t.

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