The Best of Dayton Youth Radio: Black Enough
In this Best of edition of Dayton Youth Radio, we observe Black History Month with a story that originally aired in 2017. It's about the baggage that comes from going to private school, being middle class, well educated and a person of color.
Taylor Felder: My name is Taylor Felder. I'm 17 years old. I'm African-American, and I go to the Miami Valley School. I play soccer run track and I'm a part of my school's a capella group.
Marc Williams: I'm Marc Williams. I'm 16 years old. I'm also African-American. I used to go to Rosa Parks Elementary School, which was a Dayton public school. I moved to Miami Valley after my fourth grade year because my parents wanted me at the school that challenged me more academically.
TF: And we're here to talk about oreos.
MW: Not a snack.
TF: An oreo is a person who is Black on the outside, but acts white. Some examples would be the character Hillary from Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
MW: Barack Obama,
TF: Junior from Black-ish
MW: It's like when people say, "Oh, Obama so articulate." It's like they're shocked that a Black man can speak properly. So society has this stereotype on how Black people should talk and act, like saying the n-word. And when you don't fit into that characterization, they look at you like you're not Black.
TF: Right. How can someone sound Black or sound white? When someone tells me I sound white, I hear that speaking properly makes you white, which implies that Black people are incapable or not expected to be articulate. I've mainly heard the word coming from Blacks talking to other Blacks, but white people say it too. From my experience, they don't use the word oreo necessarily, though, to say something like "You don't sound Black." I can recall many times being called an oreo, but a couple months ago I was talking with my friend Gabby, who is also Black. We were at school having a conversation, but she stopped and was like, "You're such an oreo." I wasn't sure how to respond to that. I just kind of brushed it off and continued the conversation like she didn't say it, but I was just confused.
MW: It's like people don't understand that there's more than one type of Black person. We don't all act and/or talk the same.
TF: I guess one of the benefits of being an oreo is that white people think that I sound more intelligent. There are positives to coming off more white in all aspects, not just speaking. There's actually research that people who send in resumes with Black sounding names like...
TF: Yeah. Names like that that they are less likely get called in for an interview. It makes me sad that people perceiving me as a race other than my own can be positive, but it's true.
MW: Now Taylor and I don't necessarily think it's hurtful, but at the same time, I would say it's more subtle stereotyping.
TF: Someone asked me the other day, like we were trying to plan a vacation together and they're like, "Yeah, but I should let you know that the place that I'm thinking about going, everybody is white. But all the workers are mainly black." But I mean, I told her I'm kind of used to it at this point. I don't know, which probably factored into me becoming an oreo.
MW: So basically what we're trying to say is calling someone an oreo is maybe not offensive to them individually, but it's still offensive to the Black race as a whole because speaking properly, does not make me or Taylor or anyone white.
TF: And neither does listening to music that isn't rap or R&B or wearing preppy clothes. Identity is more complicated than skin tone, so stop defining me by my skin color.
Marc Williams and Taylor Felder are graduates of the Miami Valley School. They're both now sophomores at Butler University. Marc is studying finance and marketing, and Taylor is studying strategic communications. Special thanks to Lindsey Cummings, social studies teacher at the Miami Valley School. Learn more at the school's website: http://www.mvschool.com/ Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, the Vectren Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.
This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.