Judicial Review Hearing for Aderonke Apata: A Nigerian Lesbian and LGBT Activist

By Sam

The Judicial Review Hearing for Aderonke Apata’s asylum claim to remain in the UK, is at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday 3rd March 2015.

Aderonke A

Image: Aderonke Apata

Since our first interview with Aderonke a year ago, she has continued to campaign tirelessly for her cause, amassing over 33,ooo petition signatures and hundreds of supporters. She has supported others’ campaigns and was awarded the Positive Role Model for LGBT National Diversity Awards 2014.

“Your support over this period of my campaigning to remain safe in the UK has been enormous and unflinching. Sadly, there’s still a hurdle to cross.” Aderonke

Now is the time to collectively support Aderonke. Stand in solidarity with her as she fights for her right to be safe and not be sent back to her birth country Nigeria which will not provide safety for people from the LGBT communities. To reject institutional and structural racism and homophobia.

Come out and support Aderonke on the day:  Meet at the main court arches on the Strand, by the zebra crossing (https://goo.gl/maps/Lhljl). At the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL.

Send messages of solidarity 

For further information join the Facebook event.

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Ancient spaceships and other anachronisms… Dangerous myths in the Global South

By Sonia Soans

India has been sold very effectively as the land of spirituality and history by Indians and this helps maintain a façade. Despite evidence to the contrary the image has stuck. Yet there seems to be a dearth of both history and spirituality. Mihir Bose talks about this lack of historical writing and how in recent years any writing on this matter has been accompanied by violence and protests. This brings me to the heart of the problem – how we tell our histories. If you have followed the news in India you might have seen reports of Dinanath Batra and his talk of how great India was and returning to Indian culture. Batra a retired school teacher has made a claim that we in ancient India had aircrafts, automobiles and various anachronistic technologies. He then goes on to tell people they need to celebrate their birthdays in an Indian way minus the cake (western invention) by feeding cows and the needy. I do agree with feeding animals and the needy however the cake bit is a bit silly as is the talk about aircrafts. I don’t agree with the bit about birthday celebrations because culture is constantly evolving and assimilating besides as a democratic nation we are free to choose how we celebrate things. I know a lot of people who have laughed about the aircrafts theory but there are a lot who actually believe it. These ideas touch on a deep-seated sense of inferiority and are overcompensated for.

We have spoken too long about British oppression (without qualifying what this means) in India which has led us to create myths all postcolonial nations tell of their ancient greatness stolen away by foreign powers. Colonialism was a complex phenomena and not morally easy to categorise. There were those who benefited by the system and those who did not. The idea of foreign rulers coming into the country is not a new one it dates back to our earliest rulers who have been invading for centuries. Indians have benefited and from all these rulers in terms of the culture of the ruling class being adopted by society at large.  Colonialism has left an indelible mark on Indian society vestiges of which have been absorbed into society and refuse to be removed.

The lack of academic history being a part of everyday life has given rise to emotive narratives of the past- India was great in the past with no fault whatsoever then our great land was invaded and we lost advanced knowledge which has only been recently discovered in the west. I have heard the same being said in different African nations, of Africans living happily as one big technologically advanced continent, a social utopia till the colonisers came and took it all away. India was the same utopia depending on who tells the tale we never had wars or problems in the way women were treated and everyone was happy. All this is silly sounding of course except it is being taken seriously. What is forgotten is how India in its present form is very different spatially from the India of the past, borders have been drawn several times on this nation state.

Growing nationalism and xenophobia in postcolonial nations is not a laughing matter anymore. Growing up in India I was always told how great my history was, this was never substantiated with examples in history. Sentiment and adjectives were seen as sufficient when talking about history. It was a similar situation when it came to films or television, historical accuracy wasn’t of great concern as evidenced by haphazardly created costumes and sets. Yet our great and glorious history was mentioned over and over. It was more sentimental than factual. The love of all things past surpassed the knowledge of the past. It was in short an emotive history which told the tale of good and evil all too easily with a convenient happy ending. In this environment is it any surprise these narratives of ancient greatness emerged? These narratives are almost always tied to nationalism and are always dangerous as they position certain groups of people as bad for the nation. History is employed to alienate and demonise a group of people and it does so effectively. The narratives used to tell this history are constantly changing by people on either side of the argument.

History alone is not enough to frame laws in any nation; however history is very cleverly used to tell oppression and liberation myths of a nation. History must be studied without the trappings of an emotional drama and as a narrative that has neither good nor bad actors.

Sonia Soans @SoniaSoansPsy is a PhD researcher living in Manchester. Her research involves looking at how the phenomena of alcohol and drug consumption is gendered and also (mis)represented in Indian cinema. Her interests lie in examining how nationalism is used to create divisions in society.

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(Part II) Fear and Loathing in the Studio

By Marcia X

“I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside
herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose
face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”
-Audre Lorde

I am no stranger to racism. It is indeed a part of my everyday life. Malcolm X recalls in
his autobiography how he spent much of his youth in heavy white populated areas. For
example he was the only black child in his school. This was an informative experience
that was not the first and nor the last in understanding what it means to be a ‘minority’
in white spaces. I, too, have spent much of my childhood and adulthood in 90% white
neighborhoods and schools. It comes with a psychological price if your spirit does not
stand strong.

My practice is a tool I use for my feminism, an outlet I can utilize for educating others
and being politically active. I had hoped I would be able to work alongside and create
with other feminists, women who were aware of the struggle and willing to push
themselves and their art for social progression in our communities. Instead, I found
myself facing the worst racist micro-aggressions from these self-identified feminists.
At times, we as members of marginalized groups allow the victimization to go to our
heads, and instead of understanding and accepting one another, we take what’s
political and use it as a weapon in a personal way.

“Black people won’t be free until women are free.”

I have attempted to engage with these feminists and share my research on Black
feminist thought, womanist theory and intersectional feminism with them. I have
presented cases of misogynoir and other forms of racialized misogyny on various
women of color, and was met with apathy, blank stares and resistance to my approach
on feminist discourse. I was told that my race was not an issue I could take up in
feminism because it has nothing to do with being a woman. At first, I assumed these
young women just had not experienced life outside their respective counties and if I
shared more of my experience and research with them, they would see that as a
woman of color, I have issues that should be addressed within feminist discourse. As
time progressed throughout my second year, I was beginning to understand I would
not be successful.

Color-blind is a term that suggests there are those in our western society who don’t see
the color of another’s skin, thereby the person who is color-blind cannot possibly be
racist. It is not true. We all see color. We all notice the very physical attributes of
others. Assuming that as an individual white person you are color-blind and don’t need
to acknowledge the reality of a black persons skin, you render their physical being
mute by assuming it is like your white existence. Being “color-blind” negates the
presence of cultural values, norms and life experience of people of color. As an
individual, one may be able to ignore the color of a person’s skin, but society does not.
Being color-blind allows for the white person to ignore they are white, thus having
white privilege and never having to worry about harassment from police, lack of
positive representation in media, or representation in anything period. I speak about
this specific term because when I spoke about racism within the feminist movement,
white feminists in studio were uncomfortable, and to silence me said “But I’m colorblind
and I think it’s a good thing.” bell hooks knows better, as evident in the following

All white women in this nation know that their status is different from that of black women/women of color. They know this from the time they are little girls watching television and seeing only their images. They know that the only reason nonwhites are absent/invisible is because they are not white. All white women in this nation know that whiteness is a privileged category. The fact that white females may choose to repress or deny this knowledge does not mean they are #ignorant: it means they are in denial.
(Boyd, 2002)

“I saw a bag at River Island that reminded me of trashy black girls and I thought of

After hearing this statement from said color-blind feminist, I knew that my
cause was lost, and my quest for finding a feminist artistic community that was willing
to be in solidarity with me would not be easy as I had initially hoped. I am well aware
my art work will not speak to the issues ALL women face, but I believe that as students
we are able to transcend the physical aesthetics of a piece of work so we can reach a
level of understanding and compassion.

“Your paintings are nice, but I will never understand them because they are about
people of a different color.”

“Perhaps if you made work about feminism and not about black women it will be better

This statement is reminiscent of the collective narcissism Charmaine A. Nelson in her
book Representing the Black Female Nude in Western Art speaks about concerning
how whites view art works either created by or centered on black women and men.
The inability to see the subjects in the work as real people, with real narratives is not
just a lack of apathy on white audience’s part, but a very real need to see themselves in
everything they come across. Due to the fact she is white and the subject of her work,
this feminist student artist believes that her message is universal to all women (Even
though her actions dictate that she is not interested in the narratives of all women). I
am not an ‘other’ to myself; I am Othered by audiences and those in my community.
Adrian Piper states that focusing on the otherness of an artist instead of the meaning
of the work they produce falsely presupposes a background of Euro-ethnic
homogeneity against which the artist can be identified as Other. “This perpetuates the
ideological myth of minority status on which racists rely to exercise their strategies of
disempowerment.”(Piper, 60) It is here in these statements where I believe there is
sufficient evidence to warrant an assessment of the curriculum in universities so there
are more lessons concerning the works by Blacks, women and gay creators.

My tutor told me that feminism has always been inclusive to women of color across all
classes. If this is the case, and if we are students, where is this information? Why are
there feminist artists in my course creating work centered on the white experience
that at the same time completely cuts the throat of women of color in their
communities? How is it possible that a white, feminist student is writing a dissertation
that ONLY focuses on white western girls, yet the dissertation and the work she
creates criticizes an African American singer? I am receiving a BA in Fine Art from a
top rated university in 2014, and yet I have to fight for equality from not only my
fellow feminist artists but the institution’s council so students of color can have control
and access to a focus group centered on their experience. The fight is very real.


“Black History Month isn’t my thing is it? Plus I have better shit to do.”

How does an artist such as myself respond to this situation without being casted as the
oh so typical Angry Black Woman trope? Although, don’t I have a right to be angry? I
have paid good money to work and learn in a safe environment. Free to be as Afro-
Latin, artistic and creative as I want to be.

I respond to history and those I must endure by creating work that empowers me and
respects those ancestors of mine who went thru the unspeakable. I had a white man
photograph me in a similar pose to the unnamed sitter in Portrait d’une Negresse. My
hair, hidden from sight, was wrapped up high, because I like so many other women
with Afro-Caribbean hair, view our head wraps not as signs of domestic labor but as a
reclaimed crown. My choice of clothing is insignificant, but what is important is that I
chose to wear them. I posed in front of my other works, I looked into the distance, into
the future, because I wanted to. This photograph was a means for me to reclaim the
typical representation of Black women/women of color in art. Not only to take ‘it’ back,
but to create with full autonomy, agency and pride.

x 1

Experiments with this photograph left me satisfied. I cut out, in the shape of an X, the
unnamed sitter’s face, and placed her over my own. I wanted this woman to be in a
position of power since history has her marginalized as just a figure for a cause that
brought her what I can only assume was zero freedom. This cutting and pasting was a
political act only her spirit and I will share. I have been able to identify myself within
this contemporary art space without feeling as if I have to Uncle Tom myself as an
artist in order to connect with an audience.

x 2

“It’s as if our lives have no meaning without the white gaze.” -Toni Morrison

Reflecting upon the work and life of Jean Michel Basquiat, I was reminded about the
significance of ensuring Afro-Latino’s space in the legacy of contemporary art.
Basquiat’s work spoke a vernacular his white audiences didn’t understand unless they
framed his work to the likes of Warhol, de Kooning, Pollock and Rauschenberg. The
white Euro-centric gaze refused to connect his works with any traditions in African or
Puerto Rican culture or artistic tropes. Although he is often placed stylistically within
a white male art club which has a propensity to close its doors to those outside of those
categories, the content embedded in the canvas speaks specifically to those outside of
the club. This assessment of Basquiat’s work inspired me to appropriate one of his best
known symbols: the crown, the crown so often denied to us as people of color.
Basquiat’s crown is very distinct like most of the symbols he painted. In order to be a
driving force in widening the artistic vernacular in contemporary art, across both
Black and mainstream categories, I incorporated his symbol into the work. In a group
crit with my peers at university, I found that my theory as to whether or not this
symbolic appropriation would work was successful.

“I don’t know too much about Basquiat’s work, but I know that he was making work
like, in the 80’s, when there was a lot of racism happening and that he was about black
empowerment. So I guess, that works if you paint it on top of the portrait. It’s like
graffiti. As if someone thought this person was deserving of a crown.” T Davies

Marcia XMarcia X was born and raised in Chicago IL to immigrant parents in 1985. Inspired by her early travels to the Caribbean and US history and politics, she predominantly works in themes relating to the experience of the Diaspora, history, feminism, politics and socioeconomic issues. As a multidisciplinary artist, her mediums vary from print to installation, and currently is exploring minimalist abstract painting. She has her BA in Fine Art and is furthering her studies to attain an MA in Political, Social and International Theory. She lives and works in the Diaspora.

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Exploring Black Female Sexuality & Spirituality

By Tonya Bolton

A major issue still facing Black women today is sexuality. Throughout history, Black & Asian women are often seen in opposing sexual terms, either as completely non-sexual or perpetually sexually available. But we need to dismantle these stereotypical notions and reclaim women’s sexuality.

Tonya Bolton

As well as being an accomplished actress, author and playwright, I also run a not for profit organisation called ICU Transformational Arts Limited. As founder of ICU, I specialise in working with a wide variety of people, particularly vulnerable young people & women as well those who are affected by sexual exploitation & self harm.

Through my work, I address questions that many women have, but have been discouraged from asking due to tradition, socialisation, and cultural norms. This silence is doing a disservice to our communities, and ourselves. We need to change the dialogue. We need to keep it real and tell it like it is!

I wrote Holy & Horny to address my shocking discovery that an alarming number of Black and Asian & ethnic minority women are not reporting sexual and domestic violence or accessing sexual health services. Although most sexual & domestic abuse incidents in these communities go unreported, it is far more widespread than openly acknowledged.

Having overcome many personal challenges in my life such as experiencing bullying, homelessness, domestic violence and sexual abuse, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to stand up and speak my truth. In doing so I found a strength I never knew I had.

Holy & Horny is an extraordinary, thought-provoking, deeply moving & powerful one-woman show that celebrates women’s spirituality and sensuality. Although these sensitive subjects are handled with great care and consideration, I utilise various artforms such as comedy, mime, physical theatre, song and poetry as well as drama.

I chose to use the medium of a one woman show for Holy & Horny because for me it is the richest and most empowering form of theatre. My one person play enabled me to connect so deeply with diverse audiences in ways conventional theatre doesn’t come close to achieving.

This groundbreaking show crosses cultural boundaries and explores topical issues rarely discussed within society, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence and mental health. It explores how culture, race & gender impacts on our identities as women of colour and examines the links between abuse and the misuse of power.

It also highlights that women shouldn’t ignore their sexuality or sexual health regardless of their cultural or religious background. These subjects are rarely discussed within our communities and as a result many Black women often suffer in silence.

According to statistics violence against women and girls is a worldwide pandemic – approximately one out of every three women worldwide will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. And one in four girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

From the extensive audience feedback we received following the regional tour, we know that as a result of watching the play, numerous women in the audiences reported their own rapes to police, received counselling, accessed support services and began to recover from the trauma of sexual and domestic abuse.

Writing & performing Holy & Horny is without a doubt one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever encountered. It has already had phenomenal success in the UK including breaking box office records and is literally changing lives. Not only did I discover my voice for the first time, but speaking my truth encouraged others to do the same. It was the greatest gift I could have given myself and my community.

Ultimately Holy & Horny is a play that transcends race, culture or gender and speaks to the human condition inherent in us all.

Supported by Arts Council Funding, Women’s aid, Rape crisis centres and The Brook, Tonya is now embarking on an 11 venue tour across the UK and is bringing Holy & Horny to The Z-Arts theatre on 10th October at 7.30pm in partnership with Sustained Theatre Up North. For further information visit www.holyandhorny.com  
Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYvX2X3FazM&feature=youtu.be

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The Institution is Decadent and Depraved – Gonzo Journalism: The Studio is Ground-zero (Part I)

By Marcia X


As most young, aspiring feminists of color do, I looked to Audre Lorde and bell hooks to
contextualize my life appropriately, since so many of us immediately feel a sense of
isolation or omission from popular mainstream feminist literature. In those pages I
learned within the feminist movement in the 60’s and 70’s, racism was prevalent. In
2014, it is still prevalent.

Adjusting curriculums to ensure accurate information to children of color and white
children on the various manifestations of white supremacy through out history and
culture is not what is to be discussed at length here, but I do ask: Why are art students
who are feminists silencing women of color in 2014? Am I naïve in thinking art studio
would be the last place I expected to experience a silencing of my feminist brown

There is a need for discussing the totality of our artistic and national histories as I will
prove in this essay with brief historical context of white feminist work and by
examining isolated relationships between artists and feminists who are of color and
white. This assessment will simultaneously explore studio practice and its relationship
with the political as the personal.

Part I

“I fear, I have integrated my people into a burning house.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

The first time I encountered the painting Portrait d’une Negresse by Marie G. Benoist, I
was researching contemporary events under the context of misogynoir in media. The
Spanish magazine Fuera de Serie published an issue with the face of First Lady
Michelle Obama imposed on the original painting by Benoist. Reactions flooded in as
expected with those in the black and brown communities making note of the racist
implications of the photoshopped image. During a term in my undergraduate studies, I
conducted a series of lectures on Black Art, Women’s Studies and Queer Theory. During
the first session, Black Art, I shared the image with my fellow students, I was
challenged by a white woman who identifies as a feminist. “I don’t think it’s racist at all. What makes that racist?”

Mrs. Obama’s ‘entry’ to the United States, like many African Americans, is as writer
James Baldwin said the product of a bill of sale. Although she is the premier Black
First Lady, her ancestors were Africans captured and sold into slavery within the
United States. To impose her face over the portrait of a black servant from the 19th
century, and have the American flag draped over the chair on which she sits implies
that Mrs. Obama and all African American women are still second class citizens within
their country of forced nationhood. The message the European magazine sent to their
European white audience was that progression of these women does not and will never
exist, and they are bodies deserving to be mistreated by the general populace. If Mrs.
Obama’s official White House bare arms portrait could cause a rukus amongst the
people in the US for being, how shall I say it….TACKY then surely this image would
have warranted outrage. It didn’t. EuroAmericans are desensitized to the Black female
body, a naked display on the block for serious economic gain. When the human being
has agency over her own body it is inappropriate, when it references the painting of a
slave in colonial times, then it is acceptable.

Historically, Portrait d’une Negresse is noted to be one of the first paintings with a
feminist message. Completed in 1800, when European women still had no access to
voting and other activities to which men had full privilege, Benoist took herself to task,
painting an image that would shake upper-class society. Since upper-class women were
allowed to paint, but only pretty feminine things, she challenged her male peers
willfully. Feminism was not a coined term yet, but this work was “feminist” in spirit
nonetheless. By painting a Black woman, Benoist provoked discussion as to what
subjects were proper and worthy of representation but also what was appropriate for a
white aristocratic woman to paint.

Like contemporary singer Lilly Allen, Benoist wanted to create a piece of work that
empowered herself whilst simultaneously challenging the status quo, and like Allen,
Benoist used the Black female body as allegory. These two artists are like many white
feminists, in that they see Black women not as individuals but as categories and
general archetypes which are created in the white imagination and used freely like a
stock image. White privilege and narcissism allowed these distinctly different women
and artists believe they can only reach affirmation of themselves through the degradation of Black women. White femininity and womanhood, which has been
discussed at length by writers and intellectuals, has been the definition of beauty and
idealism with Black womanhood as the antithesis. Self-empowerment of Black women
often offends and threatens their peers, because it contests what they subconsciously
believe to be true: black women and women of color will never be beautiful because
they are not white. It shatters their cultural ego. As Maria del Guadalupe Davidson
says these constructed archetypes and stereotypical images “render black female
existence entirely transparent to white society, thereby making it possible for white
men and women to claim full knowledge of the black female experience” (Davidson,
194) and erasing the very real aspects and narratives of our lives in this world.

Lilly Allen released a music video that was meant to satirize the male orientated
representation of all women in music and pop culture by having her mostly Black
dancers act and move sexually, wearing very provocative clothes and engaging in
sexual innuendos such as pouring champagne over their breasts, bending over cars
and dancing on their hands and knees. Allen’s music video, like Portrait d’une
Negresse, is much more about their creators and less about the general populace of
women. “…it is a typical colonialist picture in that the artist who created it made use of
the racialized Other to define and empower the colonizing Self. That is, the portrait
constitutes a visual record of white woman’s construction and affirmation of self
through the racial and cultural Other.” (Smalls, pg 2)


The exposed breast of the nameless sitter could be said to represent freedom within its
Neoclassical context, yet it functions in a more degrading manner. Naked Black men
and women on auction blocks was standard practice when purchasing Black bodies.
Inspection of their teeth, muscles, and fondling their genitals was a part of the process
to ensure a good buy. Also, stripping the bodies of clothing, beatings, whippings and
public lynchings were all signs of white power, superiority and ownership. These acts
kept the Black populace in fear for their safety at all times, and these realities have
been passed down in the cultural consciousness of Blacks across the Diaspora.

It is not known what Benoist’s specific views were on black people, but due to the
naturalization of racist ideologies and white superiority of the time there is little doubt she was a firm believer in the hierarchy of classes and races. The woman in Benoist’s
portrait does not have agency over her life or her representation. She is more than
likely a servant in Benoist’s household. She does not appear to have been physically
scarred due to abuse but her facial expression reads psychological damage as an
immediate result of her life of servitude. This narrow line of thinking does not end with
the abolition of slavery. The portrait, like Allen’s Hard Out Here video, does not serve
as a feminist message of empowerment for all women. These acts of ‘art’ send the
wrong sort of message; feminism is for white middle to upper-class women who are
disenfranchised simply because of their gender.

White feminists safely assume their experience is the base experience for us all.
Whatever they say will be universal, and due to their refusal to acknowledge how a
history of class and race affects all women, they create a space within feminist
discourse that is ethnocentric, there by rendering the practice and theory of feminism
mute. Benoist’s Portrait d’une Negresse has not aged well in my eyes, and solidarity
amongst Black and White women will not happen easily, even in 2014. It is not that
Black women have a natural desire to separate themselves, instead, they are being told
their lives do not count and I am not reading between the lines, I am reading them as
written. “…feminism is, and to an extent always has been, a white, middle class
movement…If class or race, and not merely gender, is what is preventing you from
becoming Director General of the BBC, or Prime Minister, or the editor of the
Telegraph, then equal rights for women in isolation of these factors are going to make
sod-all difference…” (www.thenewstatesman.com, 2012)

I ask, invoking the words of Sojourner Truth, ‘Ain’t I a woman?’

Marcia XMarcia X was born and raised in Chicago IL to immigrant parents in 1985. Inspired by her early travels to the Caribbean and US history and politics, she predominantly works in themes relating to the experience of the Diaspora, history, feminism, politics and socioeconomic issues. As a multidisciplinary artist, her mediums vary from print to installation, and currently is exploring minimalist abstract painting. She has her BA in Fine Art and is furthering her studies to attain an MA in Political, Social and International Theory. She lives and works in the Diaspora.

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Response Track: ‘The Myth of Light-skin Privilege.’

By Janine Francois


Dear Kilby, (and all my light-skinned / mixed-race feminist and non-feminists women)

I write this feeling hurt but equally hopeful, that this can be reclaimed as a safe space for darker-skinned black women.

Verse 1:

Oppressed people can internalise white patriarchal supremacy.

Kilby, your piece reminded me of all the conversations I have had with black men and white women about black women’s issues, yet only for them to dismiss and silence me; this is how privilege works. So when I read your opening sentence, “It has occurred to me that there is a need to address this long standing animosity between those who identify as being black and those who identify as mixed race…” I thought, does this “animosity” have any connection to darker-skinned black women calling out lighter-skinned / mixed-raced women in how they are complicit in their oppression.  The type of complicity, where a group of girlfriends go out for the night to have a black or white man totally disrespect their friend and not saying anything or worse she disrespect her in front of them? Or even the kind of complicity where lighter-skinned / mixed-race children are treated better than their darker-skinned siblings by the adult members in their family.  The type of “animosity” where no one says anything and manifest as a patched up oozing wound in our community, with the potential destruction to black women’s self-esteem? Does skin bleaching come to anyone’s mind?

Anyway, I digress. I felt very angry when you did not offer any solutions to the issues you raised. I accept that colourism is neither your creation nor your fault. By choosing to ignore it or hoping it will magically disappear one day is you exerting your privilege, “…we are all aware that colourism is by no means a new phenomenon… does its extensive history not make our involvement in its perpetuation even more ridiculous?… then why is it that we indulge in petty disputes which in the end could only work to serve a patriarchal agenda?” It is possible that I missed this memo, so whilst I catch up, I would like to highlight the “pettiness” of darker-skinned black women serving longer sentences than their lighter-skinned counterparts.


There are some mixed-raced / lighter-skinned black women (and men) who can and do “pass” for white, in fact there is a whole herstory of this. I get it, it’s a survival tactic under white supremacy, they are playing the rules of the game that people-of-colour did not create. If being able to “pass” means access to better job opportunities, education, housing, respect and not getting shot by the police; I certainly can not and will not blame anyone for choosing to play that card.  It is a no brainer. But dark-skinned women will never get a chance to play that card.


During slavery (whilst I was not there) I would imagine that mixed-raced / light skinned people received little rejection from black community, and this legacy is present today. Black folks do not hospitalise each other for having a mixed-race grandchild. What often happen are black families accommodating this child (in particularly mixed-raced children) especially when it comes to hair care needs. As an aunty of a mixed-race baby niece and a teenage nephew, for the latter who had to teach him about his hair texture; and without fail every Sunday my brother brings his daughter so, my mum, sister or I can do her hair.  Black women in such family dynamics are expected by their black male relatives to perform such duties and this is how black patriarchy works (my mother has put an embargo on this, as we’ve all had enough). I have never heard of this happening to white female relatives.

Verse 2:

Kilby, you are a mixed-race woman and I am a brown-skinned black woman, our images are everywhere. It is easier for us to find positive images of women who look like us along with the many negative ones too; we are the acceptable face of blackness. I set you the challenge to name 10 dark-skinned Black British female personalities. I apologise for setting you up to fail. It is a dangerous game when what is constituted as ugly is not read in how white supremacy permeates our interpersonal contexts, “Some heterosexual black women may feel that some men stating a preference for mixed race women is a denigration of their beauty,” sometimes I truly wished I lived in a vacuum. The kind of place where a black man feels no-shame in telling me, “the lighter you go the easier it is to deal with,” (yes those words of poetry were spoken to me). Or when statistics tell us that as a collective black men are dating outside their race with particular interest in white women; and when Zoe Saldana has been cast as Nina Simone and she sees absolutely nothing wrong in that decision. Reality sinks in and I succumb to how these interpersonal and systematic experiences all meet at the crossroads, congregating under the signs that reads: “black women you be ugly, if you blacker you be uglier.”


I don’t appreciate being told by white men, black men, white women and now you, “once you unpick these issues there really isn’t much ‘privilege’ at all.” It is dismissive and avoids responsibility this is what privilege is.


Suggestions on challenging colourism;

  1. Dispelling stereotypes like, dark-skinned women hate themselves, are desperate or have an attitude problem.
  2. Listen, reflect, then some more listening and reflection, BUT do not interrupt when speaking (it is bad manners).
  3. Hold White and Black patriarchy for accountable for colourism and invisibility of darker-skinned black women especially in cultural production.  Kilby please hold these institutions accountable and not darker-skinned black women.
  4. Call it out, put whoever needs putting in their place, one time.
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The Myth of Light-skin Privilege

By Kelby Williams


It has occurred to me that there is a need to address this long standing animosity between those who identify as being black and those who identify as mixed race (for the sake of continuity and my personal preference let’s settle on this term). Now, we’re all aware that colourism is by no means a new phenomenon amongst any race but, if anything, does its extensive history not make our involvement in its perpetuation even more ridiculous? If we’re to assume – and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to do so – that we share, as a collective, the goal of unapologetic, uncompromising female liberation, then why is it that we indulge in petty disputes which in the end could only work to serve a patriarchal agenda?

The prejudiced views held by some black women against mixed race women , and even other black women with lighter skin, are based largely on a perceived privilege enjoyed by said women. So if this is the foundation of the intolerance, let’s analyse the reality of these ‘privileges’ and to what extent our experiences actually differ. The first privilege enjoyed by us lighter folk; a free pass with some racists who say we’re not ‘one of them’. Now, let me point out that while some racists choose to accept us by focusing on a fraction of our heritage, most don’t make any differentiation. As has been stated by many in the past ‘we’re all niggers to them’ which is to say that these people inflict the same abuses on both mixed race and black people. This isn’t however to say that this so-called privilege doesn’t exist. I have experienced this and know that it does. However, what is it that is so fortunate about others feeling it is OK to be racist around us? Why should I feel privileged when someone says to me ‘I hate niggers’ and I’m supposed to be passive in my response or even agree because ‘it’s OK, I’m not one of them.’?

When people are racist around mixed race people, expecting them to accept it, it is a clear demonstration of a societal view that our racial identity is somehow illegitimate. It is an assumption made by these people that we have chosen a ‘side’ as it were – and naturally their superiority complex means that it would of course be ‘their’ side. So this acceptance from some racists is predicated on the assumption that we have rejected the influence of our black heritage on our identity, and those of us who choose not to are considered to be black and subject to their hatred. This leaves mixed race people rejected by both societal groups which make up their heritage. What is it about that, that we should feel so grateful for?

The second major source of friction between black and mixed race women – which I believe isn’t discussed for fear of appearing arrogant – is a perceived preference by some (particularly black) males, for mixed race females. Some heterosexual black women may feel that some men stating a preference for mixed race women is a denigration of their beauty. And with the vast underrepresentation of black women and the unending cultural appropriation from white media outlets it would appear that mixed race and otherwise lighter-skinned women have managed to go unhindered. However when we look at these particular racially orientated males who claim to ‘love’ mixed race women, we see how in fact that’s not the face value compliment you may think. I for one don’t enjoy being objectified and fetishised for something that is beyond my control. These men view the fact that a woman is mixed race above all other characteristics as a ‘trophy’, dehumanising and devaluing us, reducing us to the intersection of a Venn diagram.

These are just two of the issues I believe to be contributing factors to tension between lighter and darker skinned women, but as we’ve seen once you unpick these issues there really isn’t much ‘privilege’ at all.


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