by Dani (Allecto)
(Note: I’ve been trying to write down my thoughts on this issue and have found it incredibly difficult. I seem to be only able to discuss my truths in prose or poetry. My grandmother is Papua New Guinean. She and her sisters were taken from their parents during the second world war by white nuns. My grandmother cannot speak her language. She identifies as a white person although her skin is black. I do not see her as a passive victim of assimilation but a woman who has survived the battle of two patriarchies. I get very confused and angry when black women attack white women as being the agents and benefiters of black oppression. I really loved Catherine MacKinnon’s article (I read it in Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed). Anyway this is a poem I wrote which was inspired by MacKinnon’s article and by something I read of bell hooks’ which attacked Radical Feminism.)
and in speaking of my skin as raped down to almost white, do I not afford that every woman has been raped down to almost white? a paler version of our original Selves. in this confidence, do I rob myself of the integrity of speaking as a Black? but though I see the blackness in the pictures of myself, I also see the altered image that a woman always presents. I do not see a person, I see sex. but hold. this woman does and does not have white skin. it is the storm cloud of living in between. and colours all collected. but I do hold that she has been raped down to almost white. I am a paler shade of that I should/could/would have been. my grandmother has the darkest skin but this does not drive a wedge between us.
I will say this bond is more than blood and more than skin and you diminish me by trying to deny it. the white man raped her but did not make her his. the white man raped her daughter but did not make her his. the white man raped me but did not make me. I can deny you this.
I refuse to let you tell me that my skin affords me power. what power is this in a system I did not, have not, will not have the luxury of creating? what is this privilege then that you talk of? when my privilege affords me the best place on the platter whereupon I will be eaten.
my grandmother ‘escaped’ from her father. a black man who beat her. I do not call him brother. my grandmother ‘escaped’ from her potential husband. a black man who beat her. I do not call him brother. my grandmother ‘escaped’ from her country, a black man’s country that beat her. she ‘escaped’ with a white man who beat her. to a white man’s country that beats her still. I do not call the white man brother. I do not call the white man’s country brother. white man would rape me paler if they could. black man would rape me darker if they could. this is their war, not ours and they play it, kill it, script it on our bodies. I want out and I’m going to take my skin. so here, hear. I call the black woman my sister, unmodified, her thoughts, her passions are mine also. my life, my self, my soul is diminished if I do not hold to this. here, hear. I call the white woman my sister, unmodified, her thoughts, her passions are mine also. my life, my self, my soul is diminished if I do not hold to this. what privilege that has been afforded me was paid for in women’s blood. past, present and future. this I will avow. more black women’s blood has been spilled than white. this I will also avow. but it is white men that are doing the spilling and the blood of all women and the earth is flowing still. in this I do hold, that every woman has been raped down to almost white and men, white and black, would rape us further if they could. so I’m pushing forward beyond the pale, beyond the male politics of either/or. I will not be further diminished.
sisters, will you join me?
(Originally posted to the Women’s Space/Margins Bulletin Board, used by permission. Thank you so much, Dani. — Heart)