I write this letter in unapologetic Black Love. Like many, I read your article published on both For Harriet and Huffington Post. Given that you chose to publish on these notable outlets, it’s clear you had an ambitious desire to publicly promote your truth.
As a fellow writer, I completely understand that desire. As a Black woman in the blogosphere, I, too, feel that yearning to stand out and appear strong in an extremely saturated digital niche. We have to ensure that our work is engaging, emotional, and polarizing. Within these tight confines of expressing our voice in ways that attract an audience while holding true to our racial and social identity, mistakes are made.
The pro-Black worldview is already controversial because it’s an uncompromising refutation of the white supremacist status quo. We must be responsible in our written labor; paying sensitive attention to detail, performing thorough scholarship of racial nuances, and ultimately being intentional — every sentence needs to stick to the pro-Black narrative.
This labor is not easy. Especially under the predatory purview of white gaze — a parasitic phenomenon that hungers for our missteps and oversights as a means to dismiss the entire pro-Black framework. This added layer of white gaze demands emotional barriers and intellectual fluency. It’s an unfair burden — surely — but it’s one we choose to undertake in this work.
This in mind, I get what you were trying to do. You tried to deliver a pro-Black narrative wrapped around your personal experiences. You tried to humanize dark skin women. You tried to analyze colorism as an accusation of white supremacy and racial hierarchies.
Except you failed.
For one, your titles (on both platforms) reaffirm white supremacist stereotypes of Black women as jealous and socially problematic. On For Harriet, you lead with “Black Women Don’t Want to Befriend Me.” On HuffPost, “The Problem With Black Women.” Neither of these titles suggest personal responsibility for your perceived contention with dark skinned Black women. Instead, you make a sweeping generalization that’s easily refutable, and extremely offensive.
But I understand clickbait. Those headlines are hard to miss.
“The Problem with Black Women” has been posted to HUFFPOST. Please read it all the way through. Don’t let the title trip you up.
— Kim Lute (@KimLute) April 21, 2015
The real issues are found in the limbs of your article. You describe your peach white skin and green eyes in florid tone which, in of itself, is fine. But your description stands in stark juxtaposition to the eye-rollin’, finger-snappin’ dark skin Black girls who suck their teeth at you in envy.
This is how you characterized us — us dark skinned Black girls who you pushed to a corner and vilified.
Your offensiveness was further exacerbated when you highlighted the relative ease with which you form friendships with white women. You implied that they’re nicer than us, and are most ideal in fostering bonds because there’s no competition, pushiness, or talk back.
“Since moving to Atlanta in the millennia, I’ve befriended mostly white women. Why? The unvarnished truth lies somewhere between my own emotional hang-ups and the fact that most of the darker black women I’ve met are competitive, strident, pushy and critical of my decisions. As such, it’s been easier to socialize with those women who value my friendship without stipulations and constant backtalk.”
In these words, you sound like that cohort of Black men who exclusively date white women who are
supposedly less mouthy, less bitter, and more passive than (dark skin) Black women. It’s in these words that harm truly lies because you venerate white women at the expense of chastising and mongrelizing dark skinned Black women; a direct avouchment for and indicator of white supremacy.
And there’s your romanticization of dark skin Black girls. In a tone hinging on white gaze, you stare at us dark skinned girls at a distance, picking apart our looks and friendships with an aroused curiosity that intimidates you into inaction.
“I’ve been jealous of those with richer, darker skin, those with almond eyes and wavy, fuller hair. In fact, every time I see a gaggle of darker black girlfriends I can’t help but long for their camaraderie, their sincere compatibility.”
Colorism is painful. I’m dark skinned and have dealt with Dark Girl Trauma. I also recognize that the experiences of light skin Black women are valid. That there’s a particular hardship that light skinned Black girls face with racial identity.
At the heart of your article, that’s what (I think) you’re speaking from. Light Girl Trauma. And it’s okay to speak from your pain. But you didn’t address your Trauma from a point of privilege or with any analysis of Dark Girl Trauma. Instead, you spoke from your proximity to whiteness — using the same tools and tropes that white supremacist systems use to keep dark girls locked at the very bottom of the Black underclass.
It’s never the fault of the oppressed to fix their oppression. But you put the onus on us dark girls to be more receptive to you. And quite honestly, I understand why some in your life refused to take on that responsibility. It’s a heavy burden to heal another’s traumas and insecurities while going through your own.
“We can only lay blame at the feet of a bigoted and divisive American for so long before our oppressions become self-inflicted.”
I echo your call for open dialogue within the Black community. I also agree that some of our treatment towards one another is, in some ways, a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I’ll forever blame white supremacy for the supposed self-infliction. When stabbed and raped repeatedly, the wounds will bleed.
So forgive me as I swerve my hips. I do so for myself, not as a slight towards you. Forgive me if I’m distant. I need to protect myself from your prejudices. But I love you. Because in my radical Black Love, I work through the pain of racism and patriarchy with the ultimate end of ensuring Black spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical survival.
I see your Light Girl Trauma, and in some ways, I understand it. But do you see my Dark Girl Trauma? Do you hear it? Feel it? Take responsibility for activating some parts of it?
You’re right. These conversations are difficult, and we need to take agency, hold space, and work. But we shouldn’t rely on white supremacist paradigms to guide our conversations. We shouldn’t validate white supremacist functions as a means of survival.
So let’s start over.
Your Dark Skinned, Hip-Swervin’ Sister,
*Featured Image Credit: www.pinterest.com