Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does the term “Oreo” always haunt the Urban Chameleon?

by today's Urban Chameleon contributor

Growing up living in a predominantly Black neighborhood and commuting to an all white neighborhood where my parents sent me to school I definitely experienced the “confused years.” I was considered neither Black nor white enough. I can remember clear as day the first time this little Black girl from around the way, whispered “Oreo” at me under her breath after my mom shouted out the window for her to put down a toy of mine she was mishandling. The connection? She was embarrassed and felt the need to taunt me. I can also remember the white girls at school telling me that I was not like the “others.” Cut to 20 years later- same sh*t different century

I was recently out to dinner with a friend of mine who came to meet me after wrapping up his last day on an acting job. He was telling me how the white people on set asked if he was from the suburbs. We both busted out laughing knowing that his designer John Varvatos shirts, slip on suede shoes and pronunciation of his “i-n-g-s” is what was throwing these folks off. But we both knew this Harlem-ite, reformed drug dealer, damn near high school drop out whose version of anger management growing up was to shoot different kinds of guns off the rooftops of the projects was NOT from the suburbs. However, his second identity was born when he was accepted to Yale on a drama scholarship and for the first time had to exist amongst white folks. What was at first an uncomfortable (to say the least) adjustment for him to make eventually turned into him mastering the ability of being an Urban Chameleon-but now what? What did that mean? Especially if white people are STILL so curious to know where the hell you’re from.

The reality is- it doesn’t matter where you’re from. At the end of the day it comes down to where people think you’re from and you can choose whether or whether not to correct them. He said that he enjoyed eventually telling them folks that he grew up in the projects in Harlem – it was his attempt to shake up their perspective of what they think they know about one particular group of people. It’s then that I realized that being an Urban Chameleon is a state of mind where hopefully you are no longer confused as I once was growing up- where you’ve experienced enough worlds that you’re the one that’s now clear.

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