Totally relate. I’ve been speaking up on LinkedIn recently, but in truth, very few people I actually know use that platform. After reading your article, I think the reason I don’t feel good about my public service on LinkedIn is that I have yet to speak up on Facebook where my actual friends live online.
It’s easy for me to explain racism and colorism and bias to a stranger. I’m an educator, after all!
But it’s so much harder to admit to my childhood friends that calling me an Oreo in middle school really hurt my feelings — and still hurts today. I’ve been holding onto it for more than 20 years.
I talk about it with black friends who’ve been called an Oreo, too, but never to my white friends whom I know deep down in their hearts really thought they were complimenting me.
I haven’t been a very good friend to them as I’ve silently resented them ever since then.
I have also been unkind to myself, as I haven’t allowed myself to fully accept genuine friendship from people who hurt me that one time in middle school over 20 years ago.
It’s just that the one time cut so deep I still invisible scars to remind me.
And every time I found myself in a token situation yet again — every new school, every new fellowship, every new contract, and (almost) every single job I’ve ever had (except the few where one of my few black mentors hired me) — every time I became a token black friend or token black colleague, it was like they reopened the wound and poured salt on it. And every time it happened, I thought about my best (white) friends and that one time they called me an Oreo.
This comment is the first time I’ve publically acknowledged this wound and the pain I still feel. My next step is to tell my real life friends and colleagues. On Facebook.
And when I’m ready, I’ll follow up with an actual conversation the close friends I should have confided in a lot sooner. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if they would have understood before now, but there’s never been a better time than now.