Oreos: A Definition

It was an overrated cheerleader flick. I remember nearly falling asleep, bored to tears while my cousin stared rapturously at the screen, picturing herself one of them. For some odd reason, the cheerleaders were talking about Oreos, and not the cookies that had the tendency to blacken your teeth. It seemed so alien, so out of context that I was convinced the word “oreo” represented something else.
Being an inquisitive person by nature, I did my necessary research. Apparently an oreo is a someone black who acts white; in other words a black person that does not fit the stereotypical image of someone dealing drugs and generally being a troublemaker. The symbolism tickled me; I could imagine some witty person commenting on how a person appeared black outside but was white inside, and magically the term “Oreo” was born. They probably didn’t realize they were marking someone for being just like the rest of us, taking the time to worry about our lives and our futures.
Being born and raised as an Indian in the UAE, I realized I could be loosely labeled by some as an oreo as well. I am proud of my heritage and culture; yet I know that as humans, we all seek acceptance in others’ eyes and I am no exception. However, this revelation opened my eyes to an aspect of our world that I was otherwise unaware of. I say unaware for no other reason than the fact that I was never conscious of it; it was simply another part of me. It is no mean feat trying to carve out an identity from what seems to be two different people to others, but for me is something innate and natural as breathing.
Yet it is a precarious balance, trying to maintain a firm grasp of the customs and traditions that I hail from and yet living the life a normal teenager, immersed in all things modern and western. When I was younger, people used to ask me, “Where do you like more? The UAE or India?” It seemed unfair to choose between them, it was like asking me to choose which one of my parents I liked the most. The UAE is my home, a safe haven that I feel most comfortable in but India is where I come from, a part of me that is so deeply ingrained into my bones that I could not ignore it even If I tried. It galled me to think that society lays down such strict perimeters to every nuance of our identity. If a black person dresses or talks differently, they are deemed unsavory and dangerous and yet if they don’t, they are deemed false, not embracing their true culture. Are people supposed to project their culture in every way possible, disregarding the consequences and allegations or should they try to fit in with society’s rules and regulations, seemingly try to blend in with the multitude of the world’s population?
I suppose that is one of the reasons I have always been interested in biology. At that minute cellular level, nobody cares where you are from or who you are. For all their devoted attention, our atoms don’t actually care about us. It is a simple, objective method of viewing the world and a perspective I find refreshing. It is a natural science, one that we can all relate to and understand and one that is not subject to any segregation. It is the history of the land we all share, the air we all breathe and a glimpse of the future we all belong to.
Occasionally words like these can make you feel like you are trapped between a rock and a hard place. But what I have come to realize is that no matter the skin color, the race or the background we belong to; underneath all the layers we construct to protect ourselves, our dignity, our titles, our degrees, our status and our needs to be seen certain ways- underneath all that remains the authentic, essential self. I am not afraid to call it a soul. Some may think of it as a conscience or our voice of reason. Whatever it may be, that inglorious, humble, magical feature that governs our individual choices and dictates who we are; it is what ties us all together.





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