is in response to ?casual? remarks addressed to a light-skinned Black
Lesbian friend of mine by darker-skinned Black Lesbians at a Woman of Color Dance. The
lighter-skinned dyke was asked by one darker-skinned newcomer to the community whether she was Cape Verdean Portuguese or
not. When the light Sister said no, the dark Sister insisted that she MUST be
Portuguese ?or something? to be so fair-skinned and still have the grade of hair (coarser than expected by this
woman) that she had.
a later ?casual? conversation, this same light-skinned Lesbian was
addressed by an intoxicated and dark-skinned friend as a ?half-breed? and
Sisters seemed to have no idea of the pain they had inflicted. As a result, the
light-skinned Sister silently withdrew from them. I was alarmed by the ease with
which the dark-skinned dykes essentially excluded my friend from being Black by emphasizing her light skin color. All four of us are in our 30?s. When I attempted to explain
to the dark-skinned dykes that they had hurt the light-skinned Sister with their labels, they each denied any malicious intention.
occurrences such as these are commonplace. Admittedly, oppressive forces surrounding standards of beauty and acceptability
are at work and continue to wear Black women out. Nevertheless, we must stop
using this as a convenient excuse to avoid the extraordinarily difficult work of setting ourselves free. Unlike white people, who refer to distinctions among themselves by hair and eye color, we do indeed use
our many skin colors as an initial reference point. This is of no consequence
until we begin to attach malignant judgments and prejudiced perceptions to our own diversity.
We Black Lesbians are all too aware of another?s miseries:
?Who does that high-yellow bitch think she is? Too pretty to talk
?I am the darkest one in my family and I was always made to feel
ugly and apart from my lighter sisters.?
?I see my fair skin as the mark of the slave master and I am very
ashamed of that.?
?She was a beautiful woman but too dark for my tastes.?
?I feel more comfortable with white Lesbians. With my light skin,
I do not stand out as much as I do with other Black Lesbians.?
?When I go to the women?s bars, only the other dark-skinned
dykes ask me to dance. We are usually relieved we can accept one another long
enough to enjoy dancing together.?
and a wide variety of others on the same theme indicate that we Black Lesbians carry some level of self-loathing that may
never leave us unless we undertake some serious self-examination and honest sharing. We
bring these negative perceptions into our relationships with one another, living them out in acts of emotional and sexual
game-playing and cannibalism, in which we consume the ones we claim to love most in instances of treachery, gossip and deceit.
It is important
that we begin to really listen to how we speak and refer to other Black Sisters, to how we critically judge by color before
we give ourselves the precious chance to learn what miracles we all are. We must
cease addressing our skins first as others outside our culture do, and strive toward self-understanding and self-love. This can be gained if we only take a step toward that goal on our own.
we must make totems
how else can the spirits feel us
can they know we must reach
for them in ourselves/our spirits
roam the skies the soil & the seas
other deities/we require
homage sacrifice & offerings
those things we must give ourselves
?from ?Box and Pole? ? Ntozake Shange
Lesbians, we must begin a hard journey toward ourselves. The excuses of the past
grow weaker for us as the present time advances. We cannot afford to continue
the dance into the fires of misconception and psychic self-mutilation. White
Lesbians cannot carry us. All that is required of white Lesbians is their recognition
that we are also dykes, but of a culture and spirit different from their own.
is required of us Black Lesbians is the recognition that a Black dyke with very light skin is STILL BLACK and belongs among
us, and a Black dyke with darker skin is NOT ugly and belongs among us. We must
stop waging war against ourselves. There are too few warriors among us and too
few lovers. We do not have the numbers to be so careless with our own.
Article was originally published
in "Black / Out" a publication of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays (NCBLG) - 1988