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Charla Huber: Apple, coconut, banana — from innocent fruit to racial insult

There is no racial group where everyone will share the same opinions, views, and values.
Slurs like apple, banana and coconut are generally used by someone of the same racial background to diminish the other person's worth and identity — basically, suggesting they are letting "our race" down with their actions, writes Charla Huber. ROB STRUTHERS, TIMES COLONIST

In our society, it’s considered unacceptable for anyone to use any type of discriminatory slur. The image in your head is most likely that of a person of one race calling someone of another race an unspeakable name.

A few years ago, I wrote a column about the term “Karen” and how I consider it to be a slur against white women. I received several emails from people named Karen thanking me.

I also received a lot of pushback from people who are not white, shaming me for the column.

I wrote that there was no place for racial slurs, and if “Karen” is a derogatory term for entitled white women, it should be held to the same standards as other slurs.

I write an opinion column, and I understand that not everyone shares my views. The responses to that column shocked me, because I didn’t anticipate the heat I received. I did find it to be an intriguing look at how double standards develop.

In a recent conversation, a colleague shared a story about a man who was South Asian being called “coconut” by another South Asian person.

“Coconut?” I asked. “What does that mean?”

“It means brown on the outside and white on the inside,” my colleague explained.

“Oh, like apple,” I responded.

It was her turn to look puzzled, so I explained it’s a term referring to Indigenous people who are red on the outside and white on the inside.

I started to get curious about this and wondered if there were others. I shared these examples with my Korean friend and his daughter, and they both said: “banana.”

When I shared the term “apple,” neither had heard it before.

They also said “Twinkie” is common and can be interchangeable with “banana.”

In a Google search, I learned “Oreo” is also used as a term similar to “coconut”

It seems these particular slurs tend to stay within each racial group, and people travelling in different circles won’t hear them.

Innocent fruits and commercial baked goods turned into judgmental racial insults.

These are terms intended to diminish someone’s identity, calling them out for abandoning “their people” and perpetuating stereotypes about who someone is, how they think and how they carry themselves.

These slurs are generally used by someone of the same racial background to diminish the other person’s worth and identity — basically, suggesting they are letting “our race” down with their actions.

I know I am biased here. I am Indigenous, but also mixed race. I am a product of the Sixties Scoop and raised in a white home. I haven’t been called an apple (that I know of), but I have had people comment on my “white behaviour.”

In my early 20s, I was dating an Indigenous man and during an argument, he said: “That’s the white part of you talking.”

We all have different views, and people don’t need to agree with us. Just because someone thinks differently, acts differently and has different priorities than you doesn’t mean they are wrong and you are right.

Most things in life are not black and white — there are complexities, nuances, and intricacies to everything. You may know you disagree with someone, but you will never be privy to every experience that brought that person to where they are today.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I don’t share an opinion or view on an issue, and someone will spend 20 minutes trying to convince me to agree with them. We don’t have to see eye to eye to listen to one another, learn from one another, and share space.

There is no racial group where everyone will share the same opinions, views, and values. Calling someone a racial slur because you are the same race, with different opinions, is not OK.

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