Being Biracial in America

Why I am Not Okay With Being Called an Oreo.

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Madison

Madison Baltimore

Racism is alive and well, both inside the United States and around a world, but an aspect of this type of prejudice that often isn’t talked about is the discrimination against biracial and mixed people of color. As a biracial person who looks somewhat ambiguous, a lot of people try to guess my ethnicity. Am I Hispanic? Middle Eastern? South American? It’s a guessing game new friends and people who don’t know me very well like to play. But over time, it gets annoying and a little frustrating. When I find myself in these situations, I politely tell the person or people I’m that I’m mixed: Black and white. Then they stare at me, as if they just had an epiphany, and go “Oh, that makes sense,” connecting the dots inside their brains.

Looking ambiguous comes with certain experiences that others do not have. Even though I am Black, people around me regularly say “You don’t count as a Black person,” as if me being half-white completely erases my African American background and of half of my family. Another comment I’ve heard people say is that they “didn’t know Black could be so pretty” before they met me, implying that darker-skinned people aren’t as pretty because of their skin color. Comments like these oftentimes make me feel invalid as a Black person, regardless of how light my skin is. Specifically, the comment “You don’t count as a Black person” is especially degrading because it makes me feel like my worth and value as a human being is solely dependent on my race and ethnicity.

However, the most common comment is that I am an “Oreo,” in reference to the famous cookie that is both black and white. Over time I’ve gotten used to this one, simply because I’ve heard it so many times. But it’s still frustrating that people like to simplify my ethnicity into nothing more than a popular cookie. Another comment I frequently hear is that I “act white for a Black person,” implying that people of different races behave differently. Sometimes people say is that they wish they “were as tan as me” as though my skin pigmentation is just a temporary tan I got after spending a weekend at the beach.

Another thing that makes me really uncomfortable is when some people like to fetishize biracial and mixed people and say how they would only date a person of another race so their children would be mixed. Some people comment that biracial people who are mixed with white are more attractive and desirable than mixed individuals who are not mixed with white and identify as other ethnicities. Multiracial people do not exist for the enjoyment or fantasies of others and should be treated with respect. Personally, I find these types of comments to be both hurtful and invalidating, and I’d like to think that other biracial and mixed people agree with me.

I try to not let these comments and ideas affect me because sometimes people don’t know any better. Maybe people even have good intentions with their words and are simply ignorant. But it still hurts when my ethnicity is dumbed down to a cookie you can buy at the grocery store or that just because I’m mixed I don’t count as a Black individual.

Something that I hope non-mixed people understand is that you shouldn’t assume someone’s ethnicity based on their appearance or complexion. Biracial and mixed people come in all varieties and oftentimes don’t look like both of their parents equally. For example, someone who is both Chinese and white may look fully Chinese or fully white or somewhere in between, and that is completely okay. Some may say that biracial and mixed individuals don’t experience racism and discrimination, especially those who are half-white, and while that may be true for specific individuals, that shouldn’t discredit microaggressions that multiracial people do experience on a daily basis.