International Need for Oreos

I dug up some journal entries from my trip abroad. Here is one of them.

Dateline: Amsterdam. Even among the pastoral tulip fields and gently twirling windmills, it was impossible to escape the sting of my ethnicity.

I spent some time traveling with a friend to a few cities and here was the conversation I overheard while

I ate my feelings that day. And they were delicious!

waiting on line for dutch pancakes.

Friend: Pardon. Zit hier iemand?

Local: No, the seat’s free.

Friend: Oh, you speak English.

Local: Yeah. Where are you from?

Friend: The states. Los Angeles.

Local: Oh, I hear it’s dangerous there.

Friend: Can be.

Local: Because of the blacks?*

A moment later, I sat down in front of my friend and my new Dutch buddy with a plate of piping hot pannenkoeken. Now, had I not been a practiced Oreo, I would have wanted to pour those piping hot pannenkoeken down the front of my new buddy’s shirt. But, being the Oreo that I am, I supported his point.

Me: Well, you just have to pay attention to where you are. If you come visit, you’ll see. That’s why I moved to Hancock Park.

I could have made him feel suuuper uncomfortable. But instead, I fostered international relations with the right conversation and my appreciation of perfectly pressed pancakes.

*It’s been suggested that I’m making up some of these stories. But no. Really. I’m not.

For other uncomfortable moments I didn’t make up. Check out these posts on phone etiquette, getting out of a parking ticket and talking to kids.

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73 comments

  1. Crazy…I can’t believe that…I think you handled it well. You could have said…”No…because of the mexicans.” JK…being Mexican myself that would definitely make me mad if I heard someone say that…but I think I would likely handle it like you did. ๐Ÿ™‚

    http://www.wutevs.wordpress.com

  2. Weird people those Dutch. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’m an expat living in Belgium but whenever we go camping, is it in Italy,Germany, France, wherever, your flogged by Dutch people.

    Nice post, make some hungry for Oreo pancakes. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. “Local: Because of the blacks?”
    That’s so offensive.
    You know I’m sick and tired of everyone blaming everything on the blacks. Is LA dangerous? Yes. So is everywhere else.
    Are there black criminals? Most likely. But LA has other ethnicities that break laws and murder. Enough with the black sh**.
    That’s some ignorant European crap. Then they’re the first to critisize Americans about how we’re “uncivilized.”
    Yeah people who think in terms like that are not civilized. Sorry, but true.

    1. To be fair, we don’t know that the country wouldn’t be less violenty sans some minorities. I feel like my internal whitewashing is my part in that great experiment.

    1. WHOOHOO!!!! I have been waiting for this for so long!! I am thlirled that you have the film, but alas while I will see it probably about 10 times at your theater Opening night is for IMAX!!! You will see me the next day over and over and over LOL!! I am so happy about Harry and that YOU ARE THE BEST cinema around !!

    1. Thank you. And they are delicious. You can get them with anything on them from creme brule to duck. Delicious! Totally worth an awkward convo to scarf a couple of those down.

  4. I’d just like to chime in here that it’s not exactly the Dutch’s fault. We can thank ourselves and our amazing media for that impression. Just think of how much of that image was created and supported by black rappers. Not to mention our amazing movies and TV shows. We gave the world these images.

  5. Having hosted multiple international students, we run into this type of query every year, especially living so near to Detroit. “Is it dangerous there?” they ask, or make a comment like, “Are there a lot of black people there?” It makes me wonder (1) what’s being said (a) in their home country and (b) at their American school; and (2) what affect their introduction to American racism had at first encounter, and how they’re dealing with it.

    It also makes me think about my own reactions to racism. Do I answer “Yes, there are,” because it happens to be true? Because I know curiosity about population statistics is NOT the student’s motivation for asking. Do I gently tell them it’s impolite to discuss race in America? Because, really, is it? And isn’t the idea that it is a root of modern racism? Do I divert the asker to a real reason for the city’s bad reputation, like poverty, unemployment, corrupt government, and the like? And if I do, how do I without giving them the idea that such things are a necessary connection to a high black population?

    So many questions, so few answers. I’m glad someone around the web is willing to discuss this so openly.

    1. I say show them Training Day and tell them it’s a documentary. Then say you’re kidding and see what happens.

      Or show them this blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. brave post, and really hmm annoying experience!
    some people don’t realize human are basically all the same everywhere

  7. I think this sentence summed up your attitude: “But instead, I fostered international relations with the right conversation and my appreciation of perfectly pressed pancakes.”
    How you handled this situation proves you are a class act!
    Thanks 4 posting!

  8. Whoa, lots of new commenters. ๐Ÿ™‚
    But yeah, I think that was the perfect response.
    Plenty of tact!
    I’d have been much less, ahem, diplomatic. XD
    Yay for self control. ^_^

  9. Oh many people in many places all over the world are just… ignorant. I have had many such awkward experiences from a slightly different point of view though. (I’m a wheelchair user and I live in Greece). Whatever…
    By the way, the word oreo exists in greek language!! And it means ‘beautiful!!’ So you just keep being “oreo” both outside and inside! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. I think you did a good job handling that situation. Now, me?? hmmmm, I would have just had to walk away lol j/k. It’s good that did not make him feel uncomfortable–it would have been awkward for you both.

    1. Thank you (all) for the supportive thoughts. Keeping the peace is all part of being a good Oreo. Also, I was being helped by a promised piping hot plate of pannenkoeken. Which always always helps.

  11. I think you handled it very well. What better way to prove the point that his stereotype is baseless than to show him how nice and personable you are?

    The world is full of stupid biases. We have to confront them one person at a time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. You definitely learn to ignore. I had a few brushes with racism when I was in Russia. You just walk away (quickly sometimes) or, if they are nice, continue on with the conversation as though nothing’s happened. Those usually aren’t the time for in depth cultural lessons.

  13. When I started reading I expected this to be a post about actual Oreos. Racism is never okay, but you handled yourself with more grace than I probably could in that position.

    Just don’t let that color your perception of the Dutch as a whole, I lived in the Netherlands for a few years and they are a wonderful people.

    PS Your header is sooooo cute/clever!

    1. Thank you!

      And my opinion of the Dutch has not been marred. One of my best friend is Dutch, which is how I got to know the country in the first place.

      I love it there. Where did you live?

  14. You’re much nicer than me, I’d probably go into the making them uncomfortable realm. I think that you handled the situation better than I would and I think it’s always a great way to bond with people when you add food… yum.

  15. I often came across the same “Because of the blacks?” sentiment when I traveled in Europe a few years ago. However, upon striking up conversation most folks made the distinction between “their blacks” and “American blacks”. I was really very surprised at how casual and unguarded people were about it, up to and including their (infrequent) use of the word “ni**er”.

    1. They’re not all like this by a long shot. One of my best, dearest friends is Dutch and I’ve taken many trips to visit her there without incident. This one just reminded me of how important it is to keep up the Oreo fight.

      Where are you headed to? Amsterdam is great, but I like some of the smaller towns better–mainly because I’ve almost always lived in big cities and so I like to feel something different when I’m away.

      Do have the pannenkoeken! They are so so worth it.

  16. Oh no, how uncomfortable! My friend once used the n-word in the States (we’re foreign), thinking it was the cool thing to say… she learned her lesson rather quickly!

  17. Very cool post! Have overheard a lot of those kinds of conversations in my day as I am half black but look white. I guess not so much overheard as said directly to my face! I like the way you handled it.
    Your blog is hilarious – I’m going to start following it!

  18. Very interesting blog you have here. I feel like I can relate, but, then again, I feel like I can’t. I guess I’m a little torn about this whole “oreo” thing.

    Anyway, nice post.

  19. Actually, the notion that people in other countries have that black people are prone to violence and crime comes mostly from watching Hollywood movies. A more โ€œbalancedโ€ view would be to understand that the US, given its social inequalities, is a very violent prone society. Americans are jaded to their own violence, which continues to surprise Europeans.

    Cheers.

  20. Keep your dignity and reply with wisdom. I like your post, and the pictures are wonderful. Sorry your meal was spoiled by someone who doesn’t seem to care.

  21. I saw your post on Freshly Pressed (CONGRATS), but since I’m an Oreo Cookie fan I got curious… and I ended up being REALLY SCHOOLED by your post!!
    DAAAAANG, you handled that statement like a political queen! I seriously bow down to you.

    I’m sure the person didn’t mean to sound ignorant. I think us commenters are only labeling him or her as ignorant because WE are also ignorant of how “casual” people are in other countries.

    P.S, i like your headline pics. Retro

  22. I say whatever raise, color or religion one has, it is not proper for someone to say such unpleasant things or assume such idea to others. We are all living on the same planet, therefore we are all EQUAL. No raise is greater than the other.

  23. Hi,

    I just stumbled upon your wonderful blog. What you wrote reminded me of my trip to Scotland to visit a friend and his family. Every time we saw a little argument, he’d comment, “If this were America, she’d take out a gun and shoot him.” He constantly made offensive remarks about Americans and their guns.

    We drove near a city whose name seemed familiar. He said that some years ago, man came into the school there and started shooting the teacher and second graders. I said that I remembered that story. He then responded with, “I guess in America you’re used to that sort of thing.” I finally let my anger out, “You never get used to it, especially when a child is killed.” He didn’t say anything for a little while and then he apologized.

    I’d like to add that I never tell people I’m Jewish. When you tell people that, you are “branded” and treated like dirt.

    So, your piece really touched a nerve. Thank you for writing it.

  24. I believe most Europeans are about 30 years behind in their U.S. perceptions, so I don’t TOTALLY think he’s bigoted. However, he should know it’s a stereotype to lump all people of a race into one (esp. bad) label.

    I normally don’t just walk away, but I do bring up some quick counterpoints. Ex. My ex-husband (still friends) is Hawaiian. He asked me “Why do Black women have an ‘uh’ at the end of their name? Like Kesha, Tasha, Monica, Gina…” So I said “Probably the same reason White women have an ‘uh’ in THEIR name, like Sarah, Lisa, Julia, Jessica…” He just laughed and said “Ok ok, you got me!”

  25. They get there skewed view of our world and our culture from the press and the news just like we do. There are plenty of US citizens living in this nation that have the same perception of LA and other large cities.

    The nightly news doesn’t make it easy to try to see the bigger picture.

    and yes, I agree with the comment somewhere above, that we too are labeling the Dutch when we assume they all think that way.

    Wonderful post and be safe in your travels, can’t wait to read more.

  26. Europe unfortunately does not have the same kind of experience with multicultural societies as we do in North America. Most of it stems from the lack of contact and ignorance. I’ve had my share of moments when I just want to kick someone in the teeth for the dumbass comment they thought was appropriate to even think about.
    As a Canadian, it’s in Europe that I really appreciate the society I grew up in.

    1. I’m afraid I really have to disagree with you there, it’s absurd to claim that Europe lacks the diversity of North America. France, Spain and Italy have a particularly large African contingent, and Britain has a huge Asian Presence. I’d argue that you can find ignorance anywhere (indeed, many Europeans would associate southern USA with racism), and while I apologise for any bad experiences you’ve had with Europeans, I believe it is extremely unfair to tarnish us all with the same brush.

  27. I hate when people say that kind of stuff >< it pisses me off so much. I would have most definitely poured it down his shirt! Then again…no one should take advice (seriously) from me. Hahahah.

  28. I wonder if the language barrier made it sound harsher than what the comment was meant as… however, it does not change the sentiment.

  29. haha. sounds like the office!! i agree, there needs to be tons of black people! why? because they’re awesome

  30. Wow! I am unsure what I would have said in a moment like that! Love how you handled it with sophistication & grace.

    xo

  31. Wow! Congratulations on your self-restraint. I would have empathized if this story had ended with pannenkoeken on a Dutch lap, but instead you probably changed this person’s mind and wiped away their racist stereotype.

  32. Hey, I just hopped over to your webpage via StumbleUpon. Not somthing I would normally read, but I liked your thoughts none the less. Thanks for making something well worth reading.

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