Apples, bananas, coconuts and oreos. To most white people those are simply the names of food,but to people of color, those are names you get called for "acting white" or "not being (fill in the minority) enough". "Acting white" means you don't use slang when you talk, you want to get an education/get ahead in life and basically you don't fit in with the stereotype people have about your culture. Some examples: An African American who likes metal music, a Latino who doesn't speak Spanish, etc. These are all examples of people who would be accused of "acting white."
An apple is what Native Americans are called when they "act white", "red "on the outside, white on the inside. Banana is what Chinese people are called, "yellow on the outside, white on the inside." Coconut is the similar term for South Asians (I think it's only South Asians, correct me if I'm wrong) and Oreo is the term used for African Americans. I don't know what the name is for a Latino who "acts white". Besides the fact that the terms red and yellow being used to describe people's skin color can be seen as offensive, these terms all essentially mean that you are a sellout, someone who does not embrace their culture. Let me make myself clear, I'm no expert on these words and the meaning behind them. I am basing this off of my own experience as well as things I've read/heard/seen. I don't want anyone to think I'm an expert on this subject, but I do want to help readers understand these terms and why we shouldn't use them.
There's nothing wrong with being white. But it is an insult to be accused of acting white if you aren't white because it means you aren't proud of your culture. Not only that, it implies that only white people can be educated, listen to certain music, watch certain things, etc. Why is a Native American child called an apple simply because he or she wants to make something of themselves? It's ridiculous to accuse people of "acting white" who want to get ahead and lift up themselves and their people. Why is a South Asian who doesn't speak Bangla, Urdu, Hindi, etc. considered a coconut? Why can't an African American not like rap music without being called an oreo? Furthermore, why is wanting to better yourself considered something that only white people can do? At the end of the day, that's what's really troubling. The fact that POC seem to think that when you do well in school, volunteer, get a job, etc. you are "acting white" and not "acting black/Latino/Asian/Native American". What a low standard. Based on that thinking, there's no point in ever trying to get ahead because if we want to become presidents, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, nurses and have success in our careers, then we have to give up our culture. Well I refuse to accept that. Isn't it obvious that a POC with a strong work ethic is not "acting white", they just have a strong work ethic. Honestly, the naysayers who say that successful minorities are "acting white" are just trying to hold their race/culture back, they may not know it, but it's true. In fact, wouldn't you say that the successful minorities are making our race PROUD?! Regardless of how you feel about him politically, you have to admit that President Obama is a smart guy. I bet he was called an oreo when he was younger (I read his autobiography a really long time ago so I don't remember for sure) because he got good grades and went to college and then law school. Now look at him, PRESIDENT. Do you hear anyone calling him an oreo? (if people are still calling him an oreo, they are just dense). Instead people are expressing pride in how far he (and we) have come. There are many more examples of people like him, leave some names in the comments :)
I've been called an oreo before. As a former dancer I can hold my own, but I have a diverse taste in music. I love hip hop and some rap, but I also like some old school rock and I love salsa and merengue. I also listen to reggaeton, jazz and during my dance years I listened to classical a lot. I was called an oreo for knowing the song "Living on a Prayer", not only that but apparently, my singing along with the song with my white friends meant that I wasn't "black enough." *eye roll* I know people who have been called oreos for not using slang. Being a minority in this country forces you to learn two languages of sorts. As a Black American teenager (I'm also half Latino but I don't speak Spanish that well), I've learned that I can relax and use slang with my friends. We can talk about the subtle racism occurring in our school and laugh at the ignorant comments people ask ("why do you wear wigs everyday?", "why don't you talk black?"). Then you have to learn the language that everyone else speaks, proper English. When I'm not with my Black or Latino friends, I lose the slang especially when you are talking to an adult, but I don't use slang with my white friends either. I don't use a lot of slang to begin with, coming out of my mouth "finna" sounds ridiculous. I also don't know all the slang, once my friend called me a cluck. I had no idea what that was. Apparently, a cluck is someone who is clumsy. No idea where that comes from. I strongly disagree with the notion that not using words like "finna" and "cluck" means you don't know or respect your Black culture. It means you speak proper English.
I'm writing this post to explain and (lamely) apologize. The fear of being called an oreo is what holds me back from telling my friends about my blog. My friends don't even know that I like to read. It's why, though I may accept your friend request on Facebook, I will not talk about books or book blogs on my account. My Facebook account is basically for my friends that I see face-to-face. So I apologize for not joining your book group or becoming a fan of your blog, etc. on Facebook but I'm tired. Tired of being called an oreo simply because I refuse to let a stereotype box me in. I'm not perfect, I have thought the word oreo in my head when I meet Black people who don't want to associate with other Black people. I'm working on not thinking like that, it's not easy but it's necessary. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me", I can handle being called a nerd and a bookworm, those terms don't hurt me as much. But accuse me of not being Black or Latina, of not respecting or making my culture proud? That hurts more that you will ever know. I may laugh it off but believe me, "oreo" is deeply branded into my mind and it has left scars.
I'm half Black and half Latina and I don't fit in with either. I don't speak Spanish so I'm never fully accepted by Latinos and Black people don't always accept me because of my class and the way I talk and the music I like, etc. I was once told by a Black person that the reason I couldn't get Double Dutch was because of my "Hispanic blood" (I think it just comes from me being clumsy), so I shouldn't "worry about it." So I'm not "Black enough" or "Latina enough" (it doesn't help that I don't have an hourglass figure), I can't win. But the trials of being mixed-race, biracial and multiracial are for another post on another day.
PS I wasn't born knowing most of these terms! I learned about apples from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and coconut from Shine, Coconut Moon by Nessha Meminger (and banana from the comments).
PPSS Never call a POC an apple, banana, coconut or oreo if you are not of that race. Obviously, you shouldn't use it in general but believe me, if a white person calls a Black person an oreo (or a Native American person an apple, etc.), they will beat you down (verbally or physically). Seriously people, how can someone who is not of that culture tell someone else that they are not "Black (or any other minority) enough"? Doesn't even make any sense and yet I know some white kids at school who talk about Black people being oreos (we don't have enough Asians or Native Americans for them to comment on), as if they even have a clue as to what being Black means. Oh please.