My family jokes that I’m the whitest person in the family, partially because my mom gets darker than I do in the summers and because I’m not the best dancer and for a whole host of other reasons. I’ve been told by well-intentioned friends that I am the “whitest black person they know” or that I “don’t even seem black.” I’ve been called an oreo, black on the outside, white on the inside.
I’m used to it, I grew up hearing it, so I’m generally not offended, but it is offensive. There’s generally more context to it.
But, I am black. That is an important part of my heritage, my culture and who I am. Saying I “seem white” or that you don’t see my skin color isn’t a compliment. What you are really saying is that I don’t fit in the stereotypical imagery of someone who is black. Since you are intending it as a compliment, you’re really A. insulting anyone who does fit your stereotype B. insulting people I know and love who do happen to fit your stereotype, but are so much more than that and C. implying that I am not a part of a beautiful race and culture that has been through so much. You’re denying me of representing an important part of my life.
That being said, I’m also half white. That is also an important part of who I am, but it’s not one of the first things I identify as. To clarify, if there’s not a “two or more races” option on any form asking about my race, I always check black. I identify as black. I know that might not sound politically correct, but I prefer it. Not only is it less cumbersome and awkward than African American, it seems more appropriate to me. Being called “black” is not a bad thing to me.
Stereotypes suck and they’re incredibly harmful, so just think about what you’re really saying when you use them. I might not fit into the stereotypes that you’ve got for me, but that doesn’t affect who I am.