FemmeNoir Online
A Call To Black Lesbian Sisters
Home | What's New | About FemmeNoir | Commentary | Book Recommendations | Leaders & Legends | Who Is She | Articles | Herstory | Arts & Entertainment | Fashion | Multimedia | In Her Own Words | Poetry | Coming Out | Resources | Archives | Message Board | Mailbag | Contact Me | Photos | Entertainment Guide | Org Spotlight and Announcements | Favorite Links | Search | Redbone Press | House of Concern | Pica 12

Sisters of the Sun -- By Carl Owens
A Call To Black Lesbian Sisters
By Terri Jewell

Despite the many Feminist treatises written during the past decade by Black Lesbians concerning issues that keep Sisters separated, a conscious ?skin condition? still pervades among us.  Though this topic has been discussed fervently in many arenas, treatment has been cursory in that we Black Lesbians are reluctant to face the nitty-gritty of our personal vulnerability when dealing with this particular issue.


This piece 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.

During a later ?casual? conversation, this same light-skinned Lesbian was addressed by an intoxicated and dark-skinned friend as a ?half-breed? and a ?redbone?.

The dark 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.

Unfortunate 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 to me??

?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.?

These comments 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
how else can they know we must reach
for them in ourselves/our spirits
roam the skies the soil & the seas
not unlike other deities/we require
homage sacrifice & offerings
those things we must give ourselves

?from ?Box and Pole? ? Ntozake Shange

As Black 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.

All that 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

FemmeNoir (c) 2003