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Her Story: My Life as an Oreo

In the 4th grade one of my classmates said “Lanesha you’re such an Oreo”. As a confused nine-year-old I simply laughed and then, later that day, asked another classmate what he meant. She explained that an Oreo was someone that was black on the outside and white on the inside. This was certainly a shock to me because at the time I didn’t understand what the inside of a person looked like. Was I literally white on the inside? What color are other people? I thought blood was red? To say the least, I was still confused. I was embarrassed and I don’t think I ever brought it up to my parents. Along the way my parents explained to me that I was mixed, half white and half black, but it didn’t help with my confusion. I learned two things that day in class:

  1. Kids are mean

  2. I was different

I grew up in a town that I would guess is roughly 92% white. The thing is though, I never noticed that there was a difference between me and all the other students in my classes. Of course that changed as I got older and realized I was the only black person in my AP Language class, the only black person on my high school volleyball team, the only black girl in my group of friends… I could go on but I’ll spare you all the details.

So here I was, nine-year-old me, looking around and seeing that I was different but not different enough. My friends saw me as the black girl but they also saw me as not being black “enough”. I did all the things I could as a kid to try and fit in; straightened my hair so it was sleek and perfect like the other girls, put lotion all over my body because god forbid it’s ashy and someone makes a joke, refused to eat foods like watermelon or fried chicken because every time I would someone would make a comment, and I made sure every single person knew I was on the swim team (trust me I know how ridiculous these stereotypes are now, but try explaining it to middle school kids). I tried to blend in and I did…but it wasn’t enough. I was never white enough or black enough, I was stuck in the middle.

 

I struggled with a lot through high school and I was lost. I didn’t know how I was supposed to act because apparently white people and black people are two completely different beings and have the opposite personalities *rolling my eyes to the back of my head*. I had to slowly figure out who I was as a person and as much as people don’t want to admit race has a big part of that, it does. I was raised by two white parents and they’re amazing, seriously they’ve done everything for me and I love them more than anyone, but they don’t get it (can’t wait until they read this and I have an hour long phone conversation; college kids you feel me). Walking into a classroom where no one looks remotely like you is… it’s just weird. If you’ve never had that experience there isn’t really anything I can compare that feeling to, you just feel out of place. Before you say “oh you’re just making it up in your head, no one else notices that silly of a thing” I beg to differ. My 4th grade teacher noticed when she pulled the only other black kid in my class and I from recess to ask if we were uncomfortable that slavery was being taught, everyone in my English class noticed when we read How To Kill a Mockingbird and each time my teacher read the word N word everyone shot a glance at me. Which also makes me ask: what did you expect me to say? What did you expect me to do? If I react people say I’m being too black and I’m this crazy black girl, but if I don’t react people think it doesn’t bother me. So let me clear things up.

  1. No, talking about slavery does not bother me. It is part of history and while it’s terrible and sometimes it physically hurts to hear about people being whipped and tortured simply because they were black, I understand it’s important and it should be something we learn.

  2. Here’s my thing with the N word: don’t use it as an insult directed at me whether there’s a hard “er” or “ga”. It’s disrespectful and if you say it trying to get a rise out of me you’ll be disappointed. If we’re reading a book in class and the teacher says it out loud do not look at me. It’s a book. I repeat, it is a book. It’s important to understand how the word was used in the past and in my opinion shouldn’t be used at all unless for history purposes. It’s an ugly word and I don’t like hearing it. Tip: stay away from the terms colored and negro as well.

The thing with being mixed is that you see both sides. The growth I’ve had since I left high school has been huge. When I see something in the news I see it from a perspective of someone who was raised by a white family but is also half black. I understand the Black Lives Matter movement but I also see how people who aren’t personally affected by it only see the riots. Every day I feel like I’m being pulled in two different directions and it’s hard to find a balance. Tip too far to one side and the others are scratching and tearing at you to come to their side. It’s a juggling act.

It’s hard growing up and being different. It’s really hard. I’m not perfect and I’m still figuring out how to keep myself happy, but I like the way I am. I like being mixed; I like being white and black. People always say you get the best of both worlds when you’re mixed but that’s not completely true. We’re all living in the same world, we just see it through different lenses and while I get the incredible opportunity to see through two lenses, I also have to see the bad along with the good. It’s not always fun and sometimes I think it would be easier if I were just one thing, or even 70/30, but I’m not and that’s okay. I’m learning how to use my lenses and focus on giving solutions that help both sides because I absolutely love both parts of me.

So stop calling me an Oreo because my race and personality is much more complicated than a delicious cookie you eat after a breakup.

 
Volleyball player and English major at Oregon State!
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