Wednesday, September 05, 2012

the Oreo

           If children conform to the standards set by their peers, in the seventies and eighties the peer pressure for black children to keep with their own was intense. Before desegregation, "acting white" was a phrase no one had ever heard with regard to school involvement or academics. Yet in the wake of busing, it rose to become one of the most hurtful insults one black student could level at another. Talking white, dressing white, being enthusiastic about anything "white" was forsaking one’s own. For the thirty-eight black students at Vestavia, there was the black cafeteria table and there were the other cafeteria tables, and it was one or the other. There was no going back and forth.
          Unfortunately, to sit at the black cafeteria table was to cut yourself off from 99 percent of what the best public school in the state had to offer. For someone in Tycely's position, crossing the color line wasn't a choice. If she wanted to be a part of all those activities you're supposed to have on your college resume, she had to be the sellout, the wannabe, the Oreo – black on the outside, white on the inside - and suffer the consequences. "The black kids were horrible to me," she explains. "The only saving grace was that Vestavia [Alabama] was still so internally segregated that I never had to be in class with them. Otherwise it would have been a nightmare. They treated me like, 'You're trying to be something that you're not.' Or, 'She wants to be white,' they'd say. But I felt like I wanted to be in activities where I had the most in common with the people. Being on the debate team and student government, doing community service-that's how I saw myself, and so those are the things I wanted to do. But why does that have to mean I don't want to be black? I do want to be black I am black I can't not be black."


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