“Coconuts,” “Oreos,” and “Uncle Toms”

The Recipe for Success is Not a “White” Thing–It’s an American Thing

When my husband and I started dating as high school sweethearts, I remember telling a Hispanic friend of my new-found affection, to which he opined, “He’s a coconut.” Seeking clarification as to this never-heard-before term, the friend quipped, “You know. Brown on the outside, but white on the inside.” Puzzled by the remark, I drew the ire of my then-boyfriend when I recounted the conversation.

My husband was born the oldest son of a hard-working migrant worker. Having grown up in significant poverty, even having worked the fields himself as young as eight, Blas decided by the time he reached junior high school that he would strive for economic success, which for him meant very hard work, and ultimately, a college education. Driven by ambition, he was folding papers at 5:00 A.M. most mornings for a large paper route at the age of eleven, stocked grocery shelves at thirteen, flipped burgers at fifteen, and continued employment through high school whilst maintaining good grades, playing sports, and participating in the marching band. While in college he oftentimes held several jobs simultaneously, graduated with honors, and eventually earned an MBA. Blas is an American success story.

Considering Blas’s ambition and the simultaneous embrace of his Hispanic culture, I found it curious as to why my high school friend would indict him as a “coconut.” I recollected this very event some decades later, after having been married and discussing with a Hispanic family member the plans I had for our toddler sons regarding their education. To my surprise the family member asked, “Are you going to raise them white, or will they even know they have a Mexican heritage?” I asked, “What comprises a Mexican heritage, exactly?” Silently I wondered, “Why is planning for my son’s success, which included college, a necessarily white thing?” Many people’s opinion of a successful minority in America is that one must “sell out” their own culture and embrace “whiteness” in whatever form that might take.

Sadly, in the era of raging multiculturalism, such pejorative labels are not limited to Hispanic communities but find a very comfortable home in African American ones as well. Countless times we have witnessed the marginalization of remarkable African American men and women who were branded as “Uncle Toms,” or “Oreos.” It would seem that black communities would embrace and celebrate these heroes. What is there not to appreciate about such exemplars, who, having pulled themselves from the dregs of poverty through dogged determination and brilliance, achieved objective greatness? But instead, people such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, economist Thomas Sowell, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and businessman Herman Cain, are branded as “sell-outs” to the dominant “white” culture. Attorney and documentary film-maker Larry Elder addresses the poison and impact of these designations and the dogma driving them in his newly released movie Uncle Tom.

The pressure brought to bear on minorities to embrace elements of their culture which are not conducive to economic or familial success is exacerbated by these pejoratives. Because the religion of multiculturalism preaches that all cultures are equally valid, they are consequently sacrosanct against any efforts to change them. Thomas Sowell in his book Intellectuals and Society[1] tells us these dogmas then:

“. . . simply complete the sealing off of a vision from facts – and sealing off many people in lagging groups from the advances available from other cultures around them, leaving nothing but an agenda of resentment-building and crusades on the side of the angels against the forces of evil…”

Objectively, not all cultures are equal in their ability to foster familial or economic success. In the United States, economic success is formulaic: acquire a skill set through training, work experience, or a valued college education, save, and, invest. This formula is not a “white” cultural construct, but rather an American one, and one that should be embraced by all who seek economic freedom.

For the health of a nation, cultural formulae that guarantee economic and familial despair – no matter their origin – need to be recognized, identified, and expunged. When the Black Lives Matter movement openly states that one of their tenets is to undermine the “western” construct (they might as well have just said white) of a nuclear family, they are advocating for a formula that guarantees misery. This is evidenced by our 24-hour news cycle providing seemingly endless coverage of the anarchistic acts of its most zealot adherents, malevolently feeding on resentment and engaging rhetoric that sets “us” against “them.”

I am grateful that my own husband did not drink the bitter poison of multiculturalism. Thankfully, its dogmas were not as established in the 1980’s as they are today. As a very proud though a poor young Hispanic, he did what Thomas Sowell recommended by “availing [himself] of the culture of others around him” to achieve life success. He carefully noted what worked for economic success around him as a young boy, and followed a plan, not a white plan, but one that is uniquely American, and one that is available for appropriation by anyone willing to embrace it as their own.


[1] Sowell, Thomas. Intellectuals and Society. Hachette, UK. 2012.

Emily has had a lifelong appreciation for science, teaching, and research. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno with a BS degree in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted summer research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics; she also published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and co-authored a chapter on scanning tunneling microscopy. She is currently completing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology at University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Emily has had the joy of teaching high school chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy & physiology, and pre-engineering classes over the last thirteen years. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily enjoys stating the case for intellectual agency, considering the arguments posited by the intelligent design movement as much more credible than those proffered by Darwinists.

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