Month: May 2009

Int./Ext. WhitePal’s and OreoWriter’s Cars

WHITEPAL and OREOWRITER drive on two different stretches of highway, chatting via Bluetooth. STATIC can be heard on both ends of the line. Both strain to hear the other.

WP: …I don’t know. I think I sound like a wigger in your blog.

OW: You may have a way with words, not unlike Daniel Webster, but you’re no elitist.

WP: …What?!

OW: You’re no elitist. Definitely not a Whig.

WP: Really? A Whig Party reference?

OW: I could hardly hear you…Now it’s clear…Is “whig” not what you said?

WP: No. I said “wigger.”

OW: Ohhhhh, right…(pause)..wait…like the porch furniture?

Playing it Safe

I went to see an August Wilson play last night. I know what you’re thinking. Nearly buying watermelon last week, now seeing an August Wilson play, am I giving up on the Oreo lifestyle?

Not at all, friends. Like with any one night stand, I took precautions.preview_600_787

  • I went in the company and at the suggestion of a white friend. Taking someone up on an invitation to an awkward social situation is par for the course for, say, Hampton society, so why not embrace!
  • Pre show, I took care to keep a bubble of unblack patron between myself and other patrons of color. Sitting next to a black person at a play where themes of racial identity will be discussed would tempt anyone to discuss the shared experience of being a minority in America. Such discussions could lead to empathy for and an embrace of one’s ‘culture’, which clearly derails the hard and necessary work one has done as an Oreo.
  • As an extra precaution, before the show started, my host and myself engaged in a rousing discussion of comparative literature.

This definitely helped offset the high ratio of color to Caucasian in the theater.

Then during intermission, I realized: this situation was not as dire as I thought! August Wilson was the son of a black woman and a white man. Not just white, German in fact. Upon this realization, I breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the rest of the show.

To celebrate, I’ve listed some other things that are not nearly as dangerous as they seem, plus how they can benefit anyone looking to hide from who they are.

Scorpions.
scorpionThe fake danger: With half a dozen eyes, a crispy exoskeleton, giant pincers and a tail that means business, scorpions are as terrifying looking as a rerun of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. But it turns out it’s all looks. These tiny horrors are nearly blind and have only a very mild venom. Getting stung by one is only about as harmful as getting stung by a bee.

The Oreo Upshot:
Even better than the fact that scorpions can’t really hurt you is that they are found in places where people of color are not: remote desert campsites, historic Victorian homes and exotic pet stores.

So if you as a person of color do have the fortune to be stung by a scorpion, wear that injury proudly. It shows that you are hanging out where you should be.

Swine Flu
The fake danger: Despite a handful of deaths and promotable nicknames like “Hamthrax” and “Snoutbreak,” the feared 9o5trTSwine flu is not really all that bad. Some experts are saying that it is in fact much less severe than the yearly regular flu outbreaks and the CDC is considering changing the definition of ‘pandemic’ to accommodate the general unseriousness of Swine Flu.

The Oreo Upshot:
Initial Swine Flu cases were coming out of Mexico. Should you come down with fever, chills and diarrhea, just show off your pics from the white sandy beaches of Cancun with the other white sandy patrons and anyone who was afraid of your symptoms will be delighted that they can reminisce with you about how fun it was to have drinks served to them by brown locals whose hovel homes are hidden by the American based hotel chains who give you decent rates by refusing the natives a living wage.

Texting While Driving
Avoid-texting-while-drivingThe fake danger:
Sure there is an accident or two more now than there were pre iPhone, but the frustration incurred by not answering text messages while avoiding pedestrians on the on ramp is the real danger. Gen Y is accustomed to getting what we want when we want it. Even if we want it while operating a 2,000 pound thing that can kill an innocent on contact.

If we don’t keep our hands at 4 and 8 on our phones and not at 10 and 2 on the wheel, how can we tell our dinner date we’re running late, passively aggressively avoid our parents with a digital birthday greeting or find out if the object of our affection texted us back yet…no? how about now?…Now?  NOW?!?

Don’t think of it as creating an accident by being visually distracted, think of it as avoiding the death of our self-esteem, which is way more important than that guy selling roses and oranges by the side of the road who we just grazed.

The Oreo Upshot
Everyone has a cell phone, so that’s not going to make you stand out. But if you can get someone to call you to trigger your Grateful Dead ring tone while the cops are finishing your accident report, so much the better!

Move 10. e5
The fake danger:
ChessThat’s right, chess fans. What was once seen as a problem move in the trusted Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense, is playable after all. Thank to the continued efforts of the folks at Rybka, there are many solutions this seeming stalemate of a move. Including of course, but not limited to: 10. h6, 11. Bh4 dxe5, 12. fxe5 (alt: 12 wfd7).

The Oreo Upshot:
If you understood any of that, you have Oreo points for life, even if you do decide to watch an episode of House of Payne.

I Have a Dream…That White People Will Tell My Story

Thank you to Dexter King for doing the right thing.

This week, the son of civil rights icon MLKing, sold the rights to his father’s story to director Steven Spielberg. This is the first time that anyone has been allowed to purchase the rights.

dexter-king-e

Dexter King

Good on you, Dex. Way to uphold the Oreo spirit. Who better to tell the story of a black man of  modest means and constant struggle than a white bazillionaire?

The fact that Spielberg, in order to justify his need for the rights, produced neither a script nor an outline for the film should raise zero eyebrows. Though he hasn’t proven to Dex that he has the right story, he has proven to the King heir that he has the right amount of cash to put down for it, and what is more Anglo-tastic than capitalism.

Besides, a movie about a black person that is also written and/or directed by a black person suddenly goes from “Oscar contender” to “niche film.” And that’s just not marketable. Unless it’s done by Tyler Perry who is a marketing machine, but is doing nothing but hurting the cause.

Another debt of gratitude then to directors of color like Spike Lee (who has done quite enough, thank you), John Singleton, F. Gary Gary (The Negotiator, The Italian Job, Be Cool),Carl Franklin (One False Move, Devil In A Blue Dress, Out Of Time), Clark Johnson (SWAT, The Sentinel), Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four 1 and 2) and Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur, Tears of the Sun, Shooter) for not picking up the MLK helm and running with it.

Why settle for the predictable nuance, verisimilitude and personal experience a black director could bring to the MLK story when a sweeping John Williams score and a perfectly timed push-in can tell us exactly how to feel and will guide us out of the guilt and toward a sunny, unchallenging ending.

Stephen Spielberg

Steven Spielberg

Also, Spielberg has proven that we don’t really need black people to tell black people’s stories. After Amistad and The Color Purple, I say let’s turn over all of “our” movies over to him. That way, we can concentrate on how the powers that be see our struggles and learn to more accurately adhere to their vision.

The best part of this puzzle: A rich, powerful white man now owns the rights to a black man’s life. Makes you nostalgic for the old days, doesn’t it.

Plausible Deniability

I almost bought a watermelon today.

I know excuses are pitiful, but it was hot, I was hungry and the allure of a lightly sweet, hydrating fruit was mighty and powerful.

But I was strong. I left the display, went inside and bought a bushel of figs instead.

The whole experience made me realize there are some things that even the most devoted Oreo will have a hard time avoiding. I’m listing some here for your reference, hoping that you can forgive me my trespasses and looking for a program, 12 steps or otherwise, that can help.

lotions-wholesale-privateAshy Knees. When one has higher levels of melatonin in one’s skin, one should also have higher levels of lotion with them at any given time. We do our best, but sometimes extra dry weather, a sudden fall to the ground, or time spent genuflecting and praying to be released from our ethnic bondage will sap the skin of moisture. Don’t worry, we’ll reapply as soon as possible.

Hairanoia. As discussed earlier, hair is a very delicate subject for an Oreo. We go 6046through great pains to keep it in line….a very straight line…and stray jets of water, rainfall or the beach or a public pool can be disastrous. It’s not that we can’t swim, it’s just that like a Mogwai, water has the ability to replicate things about ourselves that are best left alone. Specifically, the curls that give away our true identities.

blackjesusLooking Bad by Comparison. If you watch movies, you will see that black people are relegated one of to two roles. They are either the obligatory thugs/criminals/ ganstas , or they are what is affectionately called a Magical Negro.

These MNs are found in movies like The Green Mile, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Shining, The Hudsucker Proxy, Because of Wynn Dixie, Two Weeks Notice, Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby, Driving Miss Daisy (oh, hell, the whole Morgan Freeman oeuvre), The Matrix, O Brother Where Art Thou and The Stand, just to name a few.

These black characters exist to help white characters with whatever their problems may be without taking any reward or benefit for themselves.

The truth is, every black person is a Magical Negro. If you’re a scuzzy looking white person, you’re not nearly as frightening as that black man in line behind you, so consider the loan yours. If you’re a white lady with a few baby daddies, well at least those daddies don’t come from Inglewood, so line up for county services. If you’re a high school dropout with suction cups for hands, your resume is still more readable than Harvard graduate DeShawnda’s so get ready to roll over that 401K.

Sickle Cell Anemia. This disease exists only in persons of African descent. 76520-004-27CD47E9The upside: It renders us immune to Malaria. The downside: It exists only in persons of African descent, so the blood test that’s part of a yearly physical forces us to reckon with who we really are. Why must you betray us, biology?

gritsGrits. No excuses here. Grits are amazing. Small. Grainy. Filling. Delicious…and white. So hopefully that counts for something.

Angels and Inner Demons

In preparation for the opening weekend of Angels and Demons, I got caught up on my Dan Brown canon and watched The Da Vinci Code.

What’s great about this film is not Tom Hank’s proverbial portrayal of a nice guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Nor is it Ron Howard’s sensitive and dramatic direction. Nor is it the compelling story that allows for intelligent questioning of age old institutions that often go unquestioned.

What moves me the most is a scene about 8 minutes into the movie. The albino Silas zips up his leg in a terrifying razor belt, slicing open his skin. Then, bows before a crucifix, and whips the mess out of his back, bringing up welts, tears and penitence.

An appreciation of self-punishment is vital to the Oreo experience. Pain is a perfect reminder that you are not quite good enough. And if you can bring that pain on yourself, so much the better!

So once a month, I schedule a little masochism called a relaxer touch up to keep myself in check.

No natural hair for me! No dreds or even heat processing. Instead, I spend two hours and nearly $200 to have caustic white goo poured on my scalp to force my naturally kinky hair into beautiful, luxurious submission.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing a relaxer, let me walk you through it. The stylist spreads a thick white salve on your head that smells of sulfur. For the first few seconds, the naturally cool ointment feels almost calming. Then, it does its work and your head feels like it ate 4400 habanero peppers while being digested by the acid of 2300 angry angry stomachs.

First degree burns are not uncommon. And not unnecessary. Because in the end, my hair is as straight and as silky as any shampoo model’s. Fingers ready world! Run them through it. After all, I did this for you.

As my skull is still tingling from my latest salon adventure, I thought I would pay homage to some other self-punishers. Here’s to those of us unafraid to let the demons out…or rather to keep them in where they can do the important work that personal demons are meant to do.

A tip of the hat goes to:

1701164207_933ca62bafThe Classic: Vincent Van Gogh.

His human crime: Falling in love.

The punishment: One ear removal, sans sedatives.

The Creepy: Cathie Jung.

Her human crime: Having organs in the right place.

The punishment: Forcing intestines, lungs and other vitals into a 15-inch flesh tube. Yep, this lady took the brave step of corseting her once normal waist into something that Tim Burton will use to mocap his next movie.


The Contemporary: Daniel Witwicky

His human crime: I’m not sure what poor Danny Boy did wrong, but whatever it was, the punishment seems to be having to endure all of his bones breaking into bits as his gift of a robot carcass must transform into a very non-human-shaped car every time the Autobots decide to roll out. (sorry for the long video, you can see his self-sacrifice at 3:12)

Now that’s committment. Puts my relaxer to shame. Anyone know where I can get an exosuit?

Self Loathing in Space…It’s logical, Captain.

Science fiction often involves the colonization of new places and the enslavement or eradication of the alien species found there. Thus, a fairly Anglo-Saxon genre. And consequently, a genre any good Oreo should learn to enjoy.

So I went to see Star Trek this weekend and was pleasantly surprised to find a fellow Oreo welcoming me to the fold.

Officer Uhura (NOTE: Mild spoilers ahead)

While the actress playing Uhura, Zoe Saldana, is mixed race and therefore ineligible for Oreo status, Uhura herself clearly is.

Three indicators make her penchant for non-ethnicity delightfully obvious.

  1. Physical profile. Urhura’s rail thin body as depicted in the film happily erases any hint of ethnic curvature.
  2. Her mother tongue. Uhura is clearly in the top first or second percentile of her class and speaks many languages and dialects. Not included in her language list: jive, ebonics or urban.
  3. Identity safe sex. According to the latest film, Uhura is romantically involved with Commander Spock. While there were no other cadets of color on board the enterprise, there were a host of cadets of color at the academy. Uhura could have unwisely chosen one of these young men to bed with. However, she rightly chose interracial, nay interspecies love, just like a good Oreo should.
  4. Bonus points for chosing a near Vulcan version of an Oreo (Voreo? Vuloreo?). Spock is half human, half Vulcan and his decision to have emotional relations anyone betrays his Vulcan (minority) side.

Whitewashing knows no planetary bounds. And thank the cosmos for that.

A Super Rat All Along

AUDREY_HEPBURN23I was invited this weekend to an Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed party. We were to wear our little black dresses and pearls and be quite fabulous about the whole thing.

I worried for one naive moment that I would not be the only person of color in attendance. And as you know from the Are You Safe chart, being one of two black folks in a room can be deadly for the Oreo.

But I arrived and saw that the room was as white as the pearls we were wearing. I knew I had done well.

Until…..

Mickey Rooney made his trademark and incredilby offensive appearance on screen. The meaning of the quickly stifled laughter from the other guests was clear. It was the “I-normally-laugh-at-this-but-there-is-a-minority-in-the-room-so-I-probably-shouldn’t” laugh.

Had I been playing my Oreo card correctly, the laughs would have flown as freely as the liquor at the Derby.

I let my people down. I can only hope I can make up for it by hosting my own Song of the South party.

Who doesn’t love Disney?