Grey Matter: Don't call me Oreo
All my life, I have been plagued with being told that I am “not really black.”
First of all, what does that even mean?
Another thing people would tell me is that I am “the blackest white girl that they know.” When someone would say that to me, at first I think, “this is funny.”
But I decided that no one should have their identity made into a joke.
I have had peers tell me “you don’t talk black,” “you are like an Oreo — black on the outside white on the inside.”
Oreo — that name ran through my mind.
Am I an Oreo?
How do my peers know that I am something that I don’t even know?
I grew up in a suburban town just west of Indianapolis with the majority of people being white. I was the token black girl in my classes. Some of my white friends would ask me about rap and black culture, but I was unaware of those things, so I would fake it to make it.
As an oblivious freshman in high school, I was conversing about trivial things like makeup, sports and movies — things that don’t matter at all — with some of my classmates. Conversations in high school are shallow and usually about crushes and gossip.
In high school, girls and boys are separated because girls don't want to seem like they like the guys, and the guys don't want to seem like they are interested in the girls.
Boisterous conversations came from the boys about their favorite teams and athletes. The girls were whispering about the guys that they thought were cute. I was in the middle of both groups, just listening like a lawyer because that is what I do.
One of the more conceited guys came up to me and asked me if black people say, “You have mad bunnies?” I was dumbfounded when I heard that question. I had never heard anything like that in my life. I internalized my blindness to this question and acted like the guy’s question was stupid.
“Mad bunnies,” I rebutted, “No black people say ‘mad bunnies.’”
The cocky student retorted, “you aren’t even really black. How would you know?”
This made me seriously evaluate how I look at myself.
How am I not really black? I have a black father. I was disciplined like most black children (spankings). I went to a primarily black church while I was growing up.
In all essences, I am black.
I know that I am more black than the white kid that told me that I wasn't “really black.” He doesn't and didn't have the right to invalidate my answer because he doesn't believe I'm as black as I “should be.”
The rationale for people saying those things to me was that my mom is white and my dad is black. I don’t have the physical qualities of a mixed person. I have darker skin, dark eyes and other features that would indicate to most that I am black.
My good friend and I were at a football game and we ended in the training room with four other persons of color. She turned to me and whispered, “We are the only white people here.”
I laughed off that comment at the moment, but after that comment, I thought to myself, “Where do I belong?”
If I am in a group of white people, I am the token black girl. But when I am in a group of black people, I am not “black enough.”
Biracial people, in most cases, have to subscribe to one race. That isn’t fair for the other race that they are.
I was speaking about white privilege in front of my mom and she interrupted my monologue to add, “you are white too, Mariah.” I had never thought of myself as white.
I am not white and never will be white.
Am I white, or am I black? Or am I just what society tells me I am?