When people ask me what my dessert of choice is, I will never tell anyone “cookies.” Cookies are nice, of course, but I am much more of a cake and ice cream gal, with a special love for sweet potato pie. Desserts are usually sweet and have little to no nutritional value, and they’re usually eaten at the end of the day to pick someone up. When I think of cookies, I think of the burnt bottoms you get if you ever so slightly over cook them, or the hardness they gain after cooling. Now, I know all cookies are not like that, and I have appreciated a few in my very short time on this earth. But the cookie that has come to my mind today is one of the most favorite cookies on the planet: Oreos. Oreos are the cookies that have crème separating two chocolate cookie rounds, they come in many different flavors, and they’re vegan. Many recipes claim to get the same taste via the homemade method, but few succeed. These cookies are so often associated with good times and happiness. For me and for many others like me, the Oreo symbolizes much more than junk food or dessert. It symbolizes who I am in this world, and how people see me.
Growing up, my family was never rich, but we were rather well off. My siblings and I had everything that we wanted, my mom would always be on Ebay looking for more. We were comfortable, and even owned our own two story house in a “good” neighborhood for a few years. As a result, I was not exposed to many people of color until the second semester of my eighth grade year. I grew up going to a predominantly white elementary and middle school, and didn’t think otherwise. In fact, I thought all schools were the same, the diversity of the people and all. But of course, as I got older, I learned otherwise.
Something to understand about me is that I have a light complexion. I get a very nice tan in the summer months, but otherwise I fit into the “high yella” category of blackness. I was the lightest out of my entire immediate family, and I was often teased and called the “white sheep” of the family. But of course I never took it as anything more than jokes, because my parents taught us that all complexions were to be celebrated, something I also learned later was not universal.
Being light-skinned, I’ve gotten people throughout the years asked me if one of my parents are white, or what whiteness am I mixed with. As a child I didn’t really think anything of it. Both my parents were black, and when I was younger, I didn’t understand the concept of being multi-racial. As far as I was concerned, I was black.
I grew up alongside the same people for years, and I always found myself attempting to fit in, as if I was still that brand new first grader. I was a floater, having had my hand with the “popular” kids and getting tired of them really quickly. I always liked to consider myself different, and I never could quite keep up with trends anyway. I could definitely say that was a nerd and proud of it: I was part of the gifted and talented program, on the tract to doing “better” than some of my classmates.
Growing up in this environment was a challenge. I can’t compare it to anything else, because I have no other experiences of being a young child and going to school. I often found people telling me “I don’t consider you as black” or “It doesn’t matter what your race is.” While celebrating their culture with no issue. I always felt uncomfortable when it came to the few black studies we had, because students would often turn to me or one of the other few black students in the class for explanation, as if we could explain our whole race. It was really daunting.
When we hung around black students outside of school, I heard “You act white,” or “You’re too white.” I never quite could fit into any particular niche. As I once told my dad, I was to black to be white and too white to be black. It was a difficult balance to find, and I often felt like I was falling.
One thing I heard from people of all races that I will always remember is “You’re an Oreo.” An Oreo, a cookie. A cookie that was white on the inside and black on the out. It often left me wondering why couldn’t I be black on the inside too. Why did my education and the way I conducted myself associated me with whiteness rather than blackness.. I felt more out of place than anything.
Being an Oreo has taught me that being black is beauty, and that I shouldn’t allow someone to put me into a race box just because they’re uncomfortable. I am black, I will always be black, and I will always be proud to be educated and black. I have the privilege to do things that would have gotten my ancestors killed years ago. Blackness isn’t less than anyone else. Being ashamed about my blackness and my education is a waste of time, because there are so many black people who are educated. I will not be defined by a stereotype of blackness as negative.
With all that being said, though, I will never eat another Oreo again.