But here’s a handy reference list to help you help your of color friends help themselves though alienation. Simply use the guide below and we Oreos will see our numbers grow!
1. Ask us about our hair. Apart from skin tone, nothing sets blacks and white apart like hair. While non colors can get up, run a comb through their locks and be on their merry way, prepping black hair for the day is a 20-60 minute process. During this time, with our arms in the air, salve under our fingernails and more and more curling iron burns on our necks, we have time to think about just what bum luck we got cursed with. It would be wonderful to take a shower, jump in the pool or stand in the rain without worrying that our $100+ hair treatment is about to get ruined.
So to keep our self loathing in check, ask us about our hair. Ask to touch it. Ask if something is…”different” about it (this is especially useful after an Oreo has a relaxer) or how often we wash it.
Variations on that theme include saying things about how you “would love black hair” because it’s so “different,” “cool” or because “it doesn’t move once you get it how you want it.”
If an of color has braids or locks, get right up close. Much closer than you do when Jennifer at the office dyes her hair a lighter blonde. Reach for the roots and ponder aloud how exactly that works.
That sad, awkward feeling that will well up in your of color colleague will probably be just what that person needs to ditch the natural styles and go straight for the relaxer.
2. Discuss how the word nigger is offensive, but the word nigga isn’t. This is a conversation you will only have around the least threatening of of colors. So it’s a sign to that person that they’re nearly an Oreo anyway, so they may as well commit.
The discussion around the n-word is old and boring now, but that doesn’t mean that with the right planning, you can’t make it work. Maybe describe how that time you lived in that very ethnic neighborhood–you know, when you first moved to LA or NYC and were just staring out. And the people in the fast food joint/gang/church found you so cool, that you got to say the a version of the n word and no one was upset.
You can always also throw it into your facebook wall post to an of color like this friend did: “nigga boo, I need ur Euro number again.” Double Oreo points go to this of color recipient for a) living abroad and b) writing back.
For the record, any variation of the n word is perfectly fucking horrible**. But throw it into a quasi intellectual conversation and watch the Oreo population rise.
You can also make someone crawl inside their Oreo skin with variations like “what’s my ninjas!”
3. Tell us about that time you went to a black church and how fantastic it was. I was raised in a black Southern Baptist gospel church and I absolutely credit it for my turning into an Oreo. In that environment, I was treated to 4-hour long services with preachers singing call and response sermons. Church members got happy and fell out. And on a good day, we got a prophecy or two. And then after church, we were all treated to massive Sunday dinners of fried foods, sweet potatoes and hollerin’.
It was a culmination of every scene from every movie about black churches ever. And surprise, surprise, I didn’t fit in.
What’s Oreo-spiring to hear, however, are stories where non colors talk about the one time they went to a black church, usually for a school project or because mapquest did something horribly incorrect. Sure, one day of all of the above is just fine. But every Sunday for 52 weeks a year for 17 years, makes me long for my quiet Episcopalian chapels.
***There are times when the n word isn’t so fucking horrible. Like in the right jokes (more on those later). But not the wrong ones. (yes, if you click that link, you’ll find some off color of color jokes! C’mon. You know you want to).