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ISBN 0-9i3175-03-x
ISBN 0-913175-18-8



I his Bridge Called My Back intends to reflect an uncompromised
definition of feminism by women of color in the United States.
Lontaining prose, poetry, personal narrative and analysis by
Afro-American, AsianAmerican,Latina, and Native Americarr
women, This Bridge Called My Back is divided into six powerful

The Rootsof Our Radicalism

Theory in the Flesh

Ailo wHeil You rEAvE,

R a c i s mi n t h e W o m e n ' sM o v e m e n t

O n C u l t u r e , C l a s sa n d H o m o p h o b i a

Sppnxrrc rNToNGUEs
The Third World Woman Writer

El nuroozuRDo
The Vision

KITCHEN TABLE: Women of Color Press


KITCHEN TABLE: Women of Color Press

New York
C o p y r i g h t o I 9 8 1 . 1 9 8 - lb y C h e r r i e M o r a g a a n d G l o r i a A n z a l d r i a .

All rights reserved.-Nopart of this book may be reproducedwithout permissionin writing

from the publisher.Publishedin the United Statesby Kitchen Table: Women of Color press,
Post Office Box 908, Latham. New York l2l10-0908. Originally published bv Peresphone
Press,Inc. Watertown, Massachusetts,1981.

Also by Cherrie Moraga

Cuentos: Stories hy Latinas, ed. with Alma G6mez and Mariana Romo-Carmona.
K i t c h e n T a b l e : W o m e n o f C o l o r P r e s s .1 9 8 3 .
Loving in the ll/ar Years:Lo Que Nunta Pasd Por Sus lcbios. South End Press, 1983.

C o v e r a n d t e x t i l l u s t r a t i o n sb y J o h n e t t a T i n k e r . para
Cover designby Maria von Brincken.
T e x t d e s i g nb y P a t M c G l o i n . Elvira Nloragutl-arvretlcev
T y p e s e ti n G a r t h G r a p h i c b y S e r i f & S a n s , l n c . , B o s t o n , M a s s . An-raliaLl arcia Ar-rzalciua
S e c o n d E d i t i o n T y p e s e tb y S u s a n L . Y u n g v p a r a t o t l a s) l u e s t r a st t r : r t i r e s
SecondEdition, Sixth Printine.
por lir obt'ciicncia r-
la ir-rsttrrtcciiitt
ISBN 0-913175-03-X,
paper. clLret:ilasttctsenscilalrtl
ISBN 0-913175-18-8,
This bridge called my back : writings by radical women of color / Eh'ira Nloraga L:ts'rencc etllcl
editors,Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldfa ; foreword,Toni Cade - \ r n ; r l i i rC l r . i a A r r z a l t l r - r . l
J I r r li r r l a l l r ) u r l ) l r ) t l 1 c r 5
Bambara. - lst ed. - Watertown, Mass. : PersephonePress,
for the obeciience atrcl rebelliorr
c1981.1*1 t h e l ' t a r . r g l - rut s .
xxvi,261 p. : ill. ',22 cm.
Bibliography: p. 251-261.
ISBN 0-930436-10-5(pbk.) : $9.95

l. Feminism-Literary collections. 2. Radicalism-Literary collections. 3.

Minority women-United States-Literary collections. 4. American literature
-Women authors. 5. American literature-Minority authors. 6. American
literature-20th century. I. Moraga, Cherrie II. Anzaldria, Gloria.
PS509.F44T5 81-168894
Library of Congress [r88]rev
[*]-2nd ed. - Latham, NY: Kitchen Table,Womenof Color Press.c1983.

C H R Y S T O S : " C e r e m o n y f o r C o m p l e t i n g a P o e t r y R e a d i n g , " c o p y r i g h t o 1 9 7 6b y
C h r y s t o s ,f i r s t a p p e a r e di n W o m a n s p i r i t ,r e p r i n r e db y p e r m i s s i o n C . OMBAHEE RMR
COLLECTM: "A Black Feminist Statemenr," first appeared in Capitalist Parriartht'
a n d r h e C a s e f o r S o c i a l i s rF e m i n i s m .Z i l t a h R . E i s e n : i e i n .e d . ( N e * Y o r k : M o n r h i v
R ^ e v i e wP r e s s ,I 9 7 9 ) , r e p r i n t e d b y p e r m i s s i o n .D O R I S D A V E N P O R T : " T h e P a t h o l o g y
of Racism," copyright nl lS89 !V Doris Davenport, first appeared in Spinning O-li,
r e p _ r i n t ebd_ yp e r m i s s i o n .H A T T I E G O S S E T T : " b i l l i e l i v e s !b i l l i e l i v e s ! , "c o p y r i g h to 1 9 8 0
b y H a t t i e G o s s e t t ;" w h o r o l d y o u a n y b o d yw a n t st o h e a rf r o m y o u ?y o u a i n ' i n o t h i n g b u r a
b l a c k w o m ^ a n i , "c o p y r i g h ro 1 9 8 0b y H a t r i e G o s s e t t .M A R Y H O P E L E E : " o n n o t b e i n g , "
co-pyright,o_19b 7 y9 M a r y H o p e L e e , f i r s t a p p e a r e di n C a l l a l o o ,r e p r i n t e db y p e r m i s s i o n .
AUDRE LORDE: "An Open Letter to Mdry Daly," copyrighto'1980by Audre Lorde,
I t r s t a p p e a r e di n T o p R o n k i n g , r e p r i n t e db y p e r m i s s i o n ". T h e M a s t e r ' sT o o l s W i l l N e v e r
D i s m a n t l e t h e M a s t e r ' s H o u s e , " c o p y r i g h t o 1 9 8 0b y A u d r e L o r d e . P A T P A R K E R :
" R e v l o u t i o n : I t ' s N o t N e a t o r P r e t t y o r Q u i c k , " c o p y r i g h r o 1 9 8 0b y P a r P a r k e r .K A T E
RUSHIN: "The Bridge Poem, copyrighto l98l'by-Donna K. hushin. MITSUYE
Y A M A D A : " l n v i s i b i l i i y i s a n U n n a i u r a l D i s a s r e r , "c o p y r i g h to 1 9 7 9b y B r i d g e :A n A s t o n
A m e r t t e n P e r s p e t t i v e ,r e p r i n t e d b y p e r m i s s i o n .
Foreword to the Second Edition
Three years later, I try to imagine the newcomer to Bridge. What do
you need to know? I have heard from people that the book has
helped change some minds {and hopefully hearts as well), but it has
changed no one more than the women who contributed to its exis-
tence. It has changed my life so fundamentally that today I feel al-
most the worst person to introduce you to Bridge, to see it through
fresh eyes. Rather your introduction or even reintroduction should
come from the voices of the women of color who first discoveredthe

The woman writers seemedto be speakingto me, and

they actually understood what I was going through.
Many of you put into words feelings I have had that I
h a d n o w a y o f e x p r e s s i n g . . . T h ew r i t i n g s j u s t i f i e d
some of my thoughts telling me I had a right to feel as I
did. It is remarkable to me that one book could have
When Persephone press, Inc., a white women,s press such an impact. So many feelings were brought alive
of Watertown,
Massachuseus and the original pubrishersof Bridge,..ur.d op.ruii",
i" ,rr. i n s i d em e . *
Spring of 1983,this book had alreadygone our of piint.
Aft.. ;;; ;;nit , of
negotiations,the co-editorswere finiliy able to retrieve
control of their book,
whereupon Kitchen Table: women of color press For the new reader, as well as for the people who may be looking
of N.* vo.t-ug...l ;; ..-
publish it. at Bridge for the second or third time, I feel the need to speak to
The following, then, is the second edition of rhis what I think of the book some three years later. Today I leaf through
Britrge Caretr M.r,Bacx,
conceivedof and produced entirely by women of
color. the pagesof Bridge and imagine all the things so many of us would
say differently or better-watching my own life and the lives of these
writers/activistsgrow in commitment to whatever it is we term "our
work." We are getting older, as is our movement.

I think that were Bridge to have been conceived of in 1983, as

opposed to 1979, it would speak much more directly now to the
relations between women and men of color, both gay and
heterosexual.In 1979, responseto a number of earlier writings by
women of color which in the name of feminism focused almost ex-
clusively on relations between the sexes,Bridge intended to make a
c l e a n b r e a k f r o m t h a t p h e n o m e n o n . * I n s t e a d ,w e c r e a t e d a b o o k
which concentratedon relationshipsbetween\)omen.
* A l m a A y a l a , a n i n e t e e n - y e a r - o l dP u e r t o R i c a n , f r o m a l e t t e r t o G l o r i a A n z a l d u a .
owrl lin-ritations'irr ti-reface
Or-rcethis right has been established,horvever,once a rnovement Sometimesin the face of myj own/our of books'
doubt even the significance-
of such rvorld-wide suffering'
has provided some basic consciousnessso that heterosexisrnand so many people who^have tried
sexism are not consideredthe normal course of events, 'uveare in a Surely this is the sa'ne predlcametlt
found themselves in- 2Cara Q cara
to Lrsewords u, *"upo'-" have
lnuch stronger position to anaiyze our reiations u'ith the men of our palabras?* This is especially true
families and communities fronr a position of power rather than conel enemigode quZ-valen mis
who know full rvell otlr writings
conrpromise.A Bridge of 1983 could do this. {I am particularly for Third World women wriiers'
we g:ew tip r't'ith' Sometimes
s e l d o m d i r e c t l ; r' e a c h t h e p e o p l e
e n c o u r a g e db y t h e o r g a n i z i n g p o t e n t i a l b e t w e e n T h i r d W o r l d you're dunrping your words,into a
knowing this makes 1'ot' t""i like
lesbiansand gay men in our comr)runitiesof color.) But we contillue to write To the
very deep and very dark hole'
The second major difference a 1983 version of Bridge rvoulcl the peopie they touch' We even
prorride is ihat it would be much more international in perspective. people of color we do reach and
for rvhom books have been as com-
Although the heart ol Bridgeremains the same, the impetus to forge write to those classesof people r'vill
finally' r't'ewrite to anyone who
iir-rkswith women of color from every region grows nrore and more mon to their lives as bt"ucl ior currents of
listen lvith trr"i. op"n {even if only a crack) to the
urgent as tl.renumber of recentll'-inrmigratedpeople of color in the "u.,
change arotrnd them -,- ^.^ri.,.icr l-otier
U.S. grows in enonnous proportions, as lve begin to see ourselvesall ultimate optinrist' believing
T I t e p o l i t i c a ] r ' r ' r i t e r ,t h e n ' i s t h e
as refugeesof a world on fire: using.rvorclsas one way to try and
people are capableof change and
A privatism which keeps us
The U.S. is training troops in Honduras to overthrort,the Nicara- penetrate the privatis'-''tof" ntt lives'
renders us politically useless'
guan people'sgovernment. back and arvay from each other' rvhich
rnore discouraged
Human rights violations are occurring on a lrassive scalein Gua- At the tir.r.re oi tttis writlng horvever'I am ieeling
unified Third World feminist move-
tenrala and El Salvador{and as in this country those most hard- than optimistic. The tlt"u'i of a
of it when rve first embarked
hit are often the indigenouspeoplesof those landsJ. rnent in this country;t ;" conceived
more possiblesomehow' because
." ,ft" f ."j.ct of thii book' seemed
Pinochet escalatespolitical repressionin Chile. in the ranks begging to take
as of yei, less tried. ti *a' stiil rvaiting
The U.S. invades Grenada. I have learned that Third World
forn and hold ln ti''eiast three years
of easl'political framework that
Apartheid continues to bleed South Africa. feminism cioesnot proviciettre i<ind llat-
droves' We are not so rnuclt a
T h o u s a n d s o f u n a r m e d p e o p l e a r e s l a u g h t e r e d i n B e i r r . r tb y women of color are running to ir-r out of politi-
have come together
Christian rnilitiamen and Israeli soldiers. ural" affinity group, o""o'1ll"" rvho
fne idea oi fn"a World feminism iras proved to be
cal necessity.
Aquino is assassinated
b1' the Philippine governrnent. a book than between real live
much easier U"tnt'""n the covers o[
And in the U.S.? The Reagan adrninistration daily draii-rsus oi divide us; and' recognizingthat
\vomen. There are ;t;;; it;"tt that
nearly evcry political gain rnade bv the feminist, Third World qrite re"ote. Still, the need
fact can n.rakethat dreanr at times see'r
and anti-war u,ork of tl-relate 60's and earl1'70's.
has never been so strong'
The question and challenge for Third \{orld ferninism rernains: ,ti"g tr"ta"ts of nation and ethnicity
movetnent that will not constantly
what are the particular conditions of oppressionsuffered by rvonren If we are interesteciin builclinga
tl.renwe nust br'rild frorr the in-
o f c o l o r i n e a c h o f t h e s e s i t u a t i o n s ?H o w h a s t h e s p e c i a l c i r c u m - be subverted Uy i,''t""lut differe"nces'
to terms u'ith the suf-
stancesof her pain been overlookedby Third \\brld mover.nents,soli- sideout, r-rotthe ottt""tuy arouncl'-Coming
arvay from our own'
darity groulls, "international ferninists?"Holv have the childlen ferlng of others has uever meant looking
must acknowledge that to change
suffered?How do u,e organizeourselvesto snrvive this war? To keen And, lve n-rustlook cleeply'We our tnost
our farnilies,our bodies, our spirits intact? the rt'orld, ,"" t-,ut'"io t}to"g" ourselves--even
As This Bridge Catted M>' Back is
cherished bloct-f'atci co'-'uiitio'''t
* G , r l d i t i ( r / / s .] " i v c . ' l ' h t B l o r ' . t l 1 ' o n r . ' n l sl s s r r ee d . b v L o r r a i n c I l e t h e l a n d l l a r b a r a is oltr political vision. lt is subject
r r o t r , t , r i t t e nt n S t o n e , n e i t h e r
S r : r i l lirr r l r 7 . r r r r ' , r r r r ; r j , c' ;x c c l , t i o n
to change.

*Face ttr face *tth enemr' uhat good arc nl1 uordsl
I must confessI hate the thought of this. Change don't come easy.
For anyone. But this state of war we live in, this world on fire pro-
vides us with no other choice.
If the irnage of the bridge can bind us together, I think it does so
most powerfully in the words of Donna Kate Rushin, when she

" s t r e t c h . . . o rd i e . "

Cherrie Moraga
October 1983
Forevtord to the SecondEdition nourishment and to steP lightlY?
a salir de las sornbras;
With This Brid.ge...n"-ot iomenzado
y costurnbres opresivas y a
hemos comenzado a reventar rutina
a acarrear con Orgullo la
2Qu6 hacer de aqui y c6mo? u.r"r-rtu.Ios tabues; hemos comenzado
de deshelar corazonesy'we cambiar concieuciaslwe have begurt
lWhat to do fiom hereqnd how?) tarea
have begun to break with routines
,ome out oi the shadows; 'have
taboos; we commensed
Perhaps like me you are tired of suffering and talking about r o oppressivecustomsand to discard
hearts a.nd c.hanging
s u f f e r i n g , e s t d s h a s t a e l p e s c u e z o d e s u f r i n - r i e n t o ,d e c o n t a r l a s ,oiry with pride the task of thawing
y Ia
lltrvias de sangre pero no has iluvias de flores lup to ),our neck witlt consciousness/. Mu;eres, a no dejar que el peligro del viaje
mirar hacia adelante y a
suffering,of countirtgthe rains of blood but not the rains of flowers). inmensidad del territorio nos asuste-a
not let the d a n g e r o f the
Like me you may be tired of making a tragedy of our iives. A u b . i , p u u o e n e l m o r r te l W o m e n , l e t ' s
abandonar ese autocanibalismo: coraje, tristeza, niiedo (1el's journey and the vasli?essof the territory scare us-Iet's
in these woods) Caminante' no hay puetltes' se hace
abandon this autocannibalism:rage, sadness,fear). Basta de gritar opnn paths
bridges' one builds them as
contra el viento-toda palabra es ruido si no est6 acompaiada de o.r"tt", al andar lVoyager,there are no
acci6n lenough of shoutittgagainst the v,ind-all words are noise if ine watks).
n o t a c c o m p a n i e dw i t h a c t i o n ) . D e j e r - n o sd e h a b l a r h a s t a q u e
lraganrosla palabra lunrinosa y activa llet'swork rrct talk, let'ssaynothtrry Contigo,
until we've made the world lumbtousand active). Basta de pasividad
Gloria Anzaldira
y de pasatiempornientras esperalros al novio, a Ia novia, a la Diosa,
o a l a R e v o l u c i 5 n l e n o u g h o f p a s s i v i t y a n d p a s s i r t gt i m e w h i l e
w a i t i n g f o r t h e b o y f r i e n d , t h e g i r l f r i e r t d , t h e G o d d e s s ,o r t h e
R e v o l u t i o n ) .N o n o s p o d e r n o s q n e d a r p a r a d a s c o n I o s b r a z o s
cruzados en medio del puente lwe can't afford to stop in the ntiddle
of tlrc bridge u,ith arms crossed).
Ancl yet to act is not enough. Many of us are learning to sit
perfectly still, to sensethe presence of the Soul and cornmune rvitl-r
Her. We are beginning to realizethat lve are not u'hoily at the utercy
of circumstance,nor are our lives cornpletelvout of our hands. T}.rat
if r,n'eposture as victirns rve will be victirhs, that iropelessnessis
s u i c i d e , t l - r a ts e l f - a t t a c k s s t o p u s o n o u r t r a c k s . W e a r e s l o r , r - l v
m o v i n g p a s t t h e r e s i s t a n c ew i t h i n , l e a v i n g b e h i n d t l " r ed e f e a t e d
images. We have conre to realize that rve are not alone in our
struggles nor separate nor autononlous but that r.l'e-u'hite black
straight queer female lnale-are connected ancl interdependent.We
are each accountablefor what is happening dolr.n the street, south
of the border or across the sea. And those of us who have nore
o f a n y t h i n g : b r a i n s , p h y s i c a l s t r e n g t h ,p o l i t i c a l p o w e r , s p i r i t u -
al energies,are learning to share them rvith those that don't have.
We are iearning to depend more and more on our o\\'n sources
for survivai, learning not to let the weigirt of this burden, the
bridge, break our backs. Haven't we always borne jugs of rvater,chil-
d r e n , p o v e r t y ? W h y n o t l e a r n t o b e a r b a s k e t so f h o p e , l o v e , s e l f -
and caged up combatants can straighten the spine and expand the
lungs and make the vision manifest ("The dream is real, my friends'
The failure to realize it is the only unreality." StreetPreacherin The
Foreword SqltEaters\.
This Bridge documents particular rites of passage.Coming of age
How I cherish this collection of cables, esoesses,conjurations and
fusile missles.Its motive force. Its gathering-us-in-ness.Its midwifery and coming to terms r,t'ithcommr.rnity- race,group, ciass,gender'self
- its expectations,supports,and lessons.And coming to grips with its
of mutually wise understandings.Its promise of autonorny and com-
perversions- racism, prejudice, elitism, misogyny, homophobia, and
munity. And its pledge of an abundant life for us all. On time. That is
murder. And coming to terms with the incorporation of disease,strug-
to say - overdue, given the times. ("Arrogancerising, moon in oppres-
gling io overthrow the internal colonial/pro-racist ioyalties-color/
sion, sun in destruction"- Cameron.)
hue/hair castewithin the household,power perversitiesengagedin
Blackfoot arnigaNisei hermana Down Home Up Souf Sistuh
under the guiseof "personalrelationships,"accommodationto and col-
sisterEl Barrio suburbia Korean The Bronx Lakota Menominee
laboration with self-ambush and amnesiaand murder. And coming to
CubanaChinesePuertoriquenareservationChicana campafrera
grips r,r'iththose faise awakeningstoo that give use easeas we substi-
and letters testimonials poems interviews essays journal
iute a rnilitant mouth for a radical politic, delaying our true coming of
entries sharing sistersof the yam Sistersof the rice sisters
age as comrnitted, cotr-rpetent, principled combatants.
of the corn Sistersof the plantain putting in telecallsto each other.
There is more than a hint in these pages that too many of us still
A n d w e ' r ea l l o n t h e [ i n e .
equate tone with substance,a hot eye with clear vision, and congratu-
Now that we've begun to break the silence and begun to break
late ourselvesfor our political maturity. For of course it takes more
through the diabolically erectedbarriers and can hear each other and
than pique to unite our wrath {"the capacity of heat to change the
seeeach other, we can sit down with trust and break bread together.
shapeof thrngs"- Moragal and to wrest power from thosewho have it
Rise up and break our chains as well. For though the initiai motive of
and abuse it, to reclaim our ancient powers lying dormant with
severalsiter/ritershere may have been to proiest, complain or explain
neglect ("i wanna ask billie to teach us how to use our voices like she
to white feminist would-be allies that there are other ties and visions
used hers on that old 78 record"-gossett),and create new powers in
that bind, prior allegiancesand priorities that supercedetheir invita-
arenas where they r]ever before existed.And of course it takes more
tions to coalesceon their terms ("Assimilationwithin a solely western-
than the self-disclosureand the bold glimpse of each others'[ife docu-
european herstory is not acceptable"- Lorde) the processof examining
ments to make tl-regrand resolve to fearlessly work toward potent
that would-be alliance awakens us to new tasks {,,Wehave a lot
meshings.Takesmore than a rinsed lens to face unblinkingly the par-
more to concentrate on beside the pathology of white wimmin,,
- davenport) ticular twists of the divide and conquer tactics of this moment: the
practice of withdrarving small businessloans from the Puerto Rican
and a new connection: US grocer in favor of the South Korean wig sl-rop,of stripping from Black
a new setof recognitions: US students the Martin Luther King scholarship fund fought for and
a new site of accountability: US delivering thosefunds up to SouthVietnameseor white Cubans or any
a new sortrceof power: US other group the government has made a commitment to in its greedy
grab for empire. We have got to know eacl'rother betterand teacheach
And the possibilitiesintuited here or alluded to there or called forth in
other our \ /ays,our views, if we're to remove the scales("seeingradical
various piecesin flat out talking in tongues- the possibility of several
differenceswhere they don't exist and not seeingthem when they are
million women refuting the numbers game inherent in,,mi'ority,,,the
critical"- Quintanales\and get the work done.
possibility of denouncing the insulated/orchestratedconflict game of
This Bridge can get us there. Can coax us into the habit of listening to
divide and conquer - through the fashioningof potent'etworks of all
each other and learning each other's ways of seeing and being' Of
the daughters of the ancient mother cultures is awesome, mighty, a as
hearing each other as we heard each other in Pat Lee'sFreshtones,
gloriouslife work. This Bridge lays down the planks to crossover on to
we heard each other in Pat Jonesand Faye Chiang, et. al.'s Ordinary
a new place where stooped labor cramped quartered down pressed
Wonren,as we heard each other in Fran Beale'sThird World Women's
Alliance newspaper. As we heard each other over the years in
snatched time moments in hallways and conference corridors,
caucusingbetlt,eensets.As we heard each other in those spiit second
interfacingsof yours and mine and hers student union meetings.As
we heard each other in that rainbow attempt under the auspicesof
IFCO years ago. And way before that when Chinese, Mexican, and vl
African women in this country saluted each other's attempts to fornt lore$'oro
l o n l L a d eb a m o 1 r ( t
protective leagues. And before that r,r,henNew Orleans African xl11
women and Yarnasseeand Yanracrow worren went into the swamps Preface
to meet with Filipino r,r'ivesof "draftees"and "defectors"during the so XXI
called Frer-rchand Indian War. And rvhen members of the maroon The Bridge Poem
Donna Kate Rttshirt
communities and wornen of the long lodgeheid council togetherln'hile xxlll
the SeminoleWars raged.And way way before that, before the break- Introduction
ClrcrrieMoraga andGloria Anzaldila
ing of the land mass when we mothers of the yam, of the rice, of the
maize, of the plantain sat together in a circle, staring into the camp Children Passing in the Streets
fire, the answers in our laps, knowing holv to focus. . . The Roots of Our Radicalism
Quite frankly, This Bridge needs no Foreword. It is the Aftenr,ard
that'll count. The coalitions of women determined to be a danser to When I Was Grort'ing UP
Nellie Wong
our enernies,as June Jordan would put it. The r.r'illto be dangerous
("askbillie so \A/ecan learn how to have those bigtime bigdaddies on not bein
marytlPPn 1nn
jumping outta windows and otherwise offing theyselves ir.rdroves" L2
-gossell). And the contracts we creative combatants lr.iil make to For the Color of MY Mother
rnutually care and cure each otiier into n'holesorneness. And the blue- T4
prints we will drarn'up of the new order we will rnake mar-rifest. I Am What I Am
And RosarioMorales
the personalunction we r,villdiscoverin the rnirror, in the dreatns,or or.r lr)
D r e a m so f V i o l e n c e
the path acrossThis Bridge.The r,r'ork:To make revoiution irresistible.
He Salv l8

Blessings, Cftrystos
Entering the Lives of Others
Toni Cade Barnbara Theory in the Flesh
Wonder Womar-r z5
Novelist Bambaraand interviewer Kalamu Ya Salaamu'ere discussing GennyLnrt
a call she made in The SaltEatersthrough The Seven Sisters,a rnulti- La Giiera
c u l t u r a l ,r n u l t i - m e d i aa r t s t r o u p e ,a c a l l t o u n i t e o u r w r a t h , o r . r r , i s i o n , Cherrie lvloraga
our powers. Invisibility is an Unnatural Disaster:
Kalamu: Do you thirrk fiction is the most effective rval' to do Reflectionsof an Asian Americatl Wornat't 35
this? Mitsuye Yamada
No. The rnost effective way to do it, is to do itl* It's In NIy Blood, M,v Face-
My Mother's \bice, The Wav I Sr't'eat 41
*"ln Searcli of thc Nftrtht-rTonguL-:Al) [ntcrvier.r' it]r Anita \,hlerio
rl Toni Cade Bantbara' lFrrst ltrirrl.1
/ r r r r r r , r lF a l i 1 9 8 0 1 .

"Gee,You Don't SeernLike An Indian Lesbianism:Ar-rAct of Resistance r28
From the Reservation" CherylClarke
BarbaraCameron Lowriding Through the Women'sMovement 138
". . . And Even Fide] Can'tChangeThatl" BarbaraNoda
Aur<traLevinsMorales Letter to Ma 1.10
I Walk in the History of My People 57 Merle Woo
Chrystos I Come With No Illusions 148
Mirtha Quintanales
And When You Leave, Thke Your Pictures With You l5u
I Paid Very Hard for My Immigrant Ignorance
Racism in the Women's Movement Mirtha Quintanales
And When You Leave,Take Your PicturesWith You Earth-Lover, Survivor, Musician
Jo Caruillo Naomi Littlebear
B e y o n dt h e C l i f f s o f A b i q u i u 65 Speaking in Tongues
-lo Carrillo The Third World Woman Writer
I Don't Understar.rdThoseWho Have Turned Away From Me 68
Chrystos Speakingin Tongues:A Letter
Asian PacificAmerican Wonten and Feminisrn To Third World Women Writers 165
Mitsuve Yam<tda Gloria Anzaldria
Millicent Fredericks who told you anybody wants to hear from you?
GabrielleDaniels you ain't nothing but a black woman! 175
- Btrt I Know You, American Woman hattie gossett
Iudit Moschkoviclt In Searchof the Selfas Hero:
Confetti of Voiceson New Year'sNight 177
The Pathologyof Racism:A Conversation
with Third \\brld Wimnrin Nellie Wong
doris davenport Chicana'sFeminist Literature: A Re-vision
We're All in the Same Boat Through Malintzinlor Malintzin:
91 182
RosarioMorales Putting FleshBack on the Object
Norma Alarcon
An Open Letter to Mary Daly
Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading 191
Audre Lorde
The Master'sTooisWill Never Disruantle
the Master'sHouse 98 El Mundo Zurdo
Audre Lorde The Vision
Between the Lines Give Me Back 1.97
On Culture, Class,and Homophobia Chryslos
La Prieta 198
The Otl-rerHeritage r07
RosarioMorales GloriaArualdua
A BIack FerninistStatement 2r0
billie livesl billie livesl 109
hattie gossett ConrbaheeRiver Collec tive
The Welder 219
Acrossthe Kitchen Thble:
A Sister-to-SisterDialogue Chenle Moraga
Barbara Srnithand Bet,erlySmith

O.K. Momrna, Who the Hell Am I?:
An Interview with Luisah Teish
Gloria Anzaldua
Revolution: It's Not Neator pretty or euick
Pat Porker
238 Preface
No Rock ScornsMe as Whore
z+3 Changedoesnot occur in a vacuum. In this prefaceI have tried to re-
create for you my own journey of struggle, growing consciousness,
Biographiesof the Contributors /.46
and subsequentpoliticizationand vision as a woman of color. I want to
Third World Women in the United States_ reflect in actual terms how this anthology and the women in it and
B y a n d A b o u t U s : A S e l e c t e dB i b l i o g r a p h y around it have personally transformed my life, sometimes rather
Cherrie Moraga painfully but always with richnessand meaning.

I Transfer and Go Underground

(Boston, Massaclrusetts July 20, 19801
It is probably crucial to describe here the way this book is corning
together,the journey it is taking me on. The book still not completed
and I have traveled East to find it a publisher. Such an anthology is in
high demands thesedays. A book by radicai women of color. The Left
needsit, with its shaky and shabby recorclof commitment to women,
period. Oh, yes, it can claim its attention to "color"issues,embodied in
the male. Sexismis acceptableto the white left publishing house,par-
ticularly if spouted through the mouth of a Black man.
The feminist movement needsthe book, too. But for different rea-
sons.Do I dare speakof the boredom settingin among the white sector
of the feminist movement? What was once a cutting edge, growing
dull in the too easy solution to our problems of hunger of soul and
stomach. The lesbian separatistutopia? No thank you, sisters.I can't
prepare myself a revolutionary packet that rnakes no sensewhen I
leave the r,t'hitesuburbs of Watertown. Massacl-rusetts and take the
T-line to BIack Roxbury.
Take Bostonalone, I think to myself and the feminism my so-called
sistershave constructeddoes nothing to help me make the trip fron-r
one end of town to another. Leaving Watertown, I board a bus and
ride it quietly in my light flesh to Harvard Square,protected by the
gold highlights my hair dares to take on, like an insult, in this misera-
ble heat.
I transfer and go wtderground.
Julie told me the other day' hou' they stopped her for walking
through the suburbs. Can't tell if she'sa lnan or a woman, only know
that it's Black moving through that part of town. They wouldn't spot
her here, moving underground.

Cherne Moraga Cherrie LIora!11

ask the right

The train is abruptly stopped. A white man in jeans and tee shirt that can, as my friend Amber Hollibaugh states,finally
breaks into the car I'm in, throws a Black kid up against the door, questiolrsand admit to not l.ravirrgall the answers'
handcuffs him and carries him away. The train moves on. The day A Bridge Gets Walked Over
before, a 14-year-oldBlack boy was shot in the head by a white cop. - 25 19801
lBoston, Massachusetts July
A n d , t h e s u m m e r i s g e t t i n gh o t t e r .
I hear there are some women in this town plottinga lesbianrevolu- I am ready to go horne now. I am ready. Very tired' Couldn't sleepall
tion. What does this mean about the boy shot in the head is what I night. Missing home. There is a deep fatigue in my body this morning'
want to know. I am a lesbian.I want a movement that helps me make I f"eelused ,.,j. Ad'"trtre asks me if I can write of what has happe'ed
with me while here in Boston. She asks me if I ca,-1, not worzld.I say,
some sense of the trip from Watertown to Roxbury, from white to
Black. I love women the entire way, beyond a doubt. yes, I think so. And now I doubt it. The pain of racism, classism.Such
Arriving in Roxbury, arriving at Barbara's*....By the end of the orre.rrr"d ar-rdtrivialized words. The pain of it all. I do not feel people
evening of our first visit together, Barbara comes into the front room of color are the only ones hurt by racism.
where she has made a bed for me. She kissesme. Then grabbing my Another meeting. Again walking into a room filled with white
shouldersshe says,very solid-like, "we'resisters."I nod, put myself in- wornen, a splatteriirgof wonten of color around the room. The issue
to bed, and roli around with this word, sislers,for two hours before on the table, Racism.The dread and terror in the room lay like a thick
sleep takes on. I earned this with Barbara. It is not a given between immovable paste above all our shoulders, white and colored' alike'
us - Chicana and Black - to come to see each other as sisters.This is we, Third world \Arolrlenin the room, thinking back to square one,
not a given. I keep wanting to repeatover and over and over again,the again.
pain and shock of difference,the joy of commonness,the exhilaratiot-r How canyve- this time - not useour bodiesto be throv,n over a river of
"A bricige
of meeting through incredible odds againstit. torntented historyto brid.gethegap? Barbara says last night:
But the passageisthrough,not over, not by, not around, but through. gets walked over." Yes, over and over and over again'
This book, as long as I seeit for myself as a passagethrough, I hope rr,'ill I watch the white wonlen shrink before my eyes,losingtheir fluidity
function for others, colored* * or rvhite, in the same way. Hort''do rve of argument, of confidence, pauseawkwardly at the word''race"' the
,,color."The pauses keepirrg the voices breathless,tl-rebodies
develop a movement that can live with the fact of the lovesand lir.esof word",
these women in this book? taut, erect - unable to breatl.redeeply, to laugh, to moan in despair' to
I would grow despairing if I believed, as Rosario Moraies refutes, cry in regret. I cannot continue to use my body to be walked over to
we were unilaterally defined by color and class.Lesbiar-rism is then a -ik" u connection.Feelingevery joint in my body tensethis morning'
hoax, a fraud. I have no businesswith it. Lesbianisntis supposedto be used.
about corrnection. what the hell arn I getting ntyself into? Gloria'svoice has recurred to
What drew me to politics was my love of women, the agony I felt in me throughout this frip. A year and a half ago, she rvarned-and en-
, , T h i sb o o k r v i l l c h a n g ey o u r l i f e , c h e r r i e . I t w i l l c h a n g e
observing the straight-jacketsof poverty and repressionI saw people co.,raged:
in my own family in. But the deepestpolitical tragedy I have experi- both our lives." And it has. Gloria, I wish you were here'
enced is how with such grace, such blind faith, this commitment to Afelr,daysago,anoldfriendsaidtomehowwhenshefirstnretme,
women in the feminist ntovement grew to be exciusiveand reac- I seernedso white to her' I sairl in honesty, I used to feel more white'
tionary. I call my wy'rrfe srsterson this. You know, I really did. But at the meeting last night, dealingwith
I have had enough of this. And, I am involved in this book because white women here on this trip, I have felt so very dark: dark with
more than anything elseI need to feel enlivened again in a movernent anger, r,t,ithsilence,with the feeling of being walked over'
iwrote in my iournal: "My growing consciousnessas a woman of
* I l v a n t t o a c k n o w l e d g ea n c lt h a n k B a r b a r a
S m i t h f o r h e r s u p p o r t a s a s i s t e r ,h t - r i n . color is surely seeming to transform my experience.How could it be
s i g h t sa s a p o l i t i c a la c t i v i s ta n d v i s i o n a r v ,a n c le s p e . c i a l lfl o
' r h e r w a _ vl v i t h u ' o r d s i n h e l p - that the rnore I feel wilh other women of color, the more I feel myself
irtgme pull this together.
* * ' I ' h r o u g l r o u t t l l e t e x t , t h e r v o r d " c o k t r er vd i l l
Chicana, the more susceptibleI am to racist attackl"
T h i r d W o r l d p e o p l e sa n d p e o p l e o f c o l o r u n l e s s o t h e n v i s e s p e c i f i e d .

C }itr l.' ,1Jlrtr;u
Cherrie Moraga xvii

of Breakthrough: Coming Home

O'"r*" I mourn the friends and lovers I have lost to this damage.I mourn
lSan California- Septembe/
Francisco, ZO,lgSOl
the women lvhom I have betrayed with my own ignorance,my own
When Audre Lorde, speakingof racism, states:,,I urge each fear.
one of
us to reach dor,r,ninto that deep place of knowledge insicleherself The year l-rasbeen one of such deep damage.I have felt between my
t o u c h t h a t t e r r o r a n d l o a t h i n go f a n y d i f f e r e n c et h i t l i v e st h e r e . ,' hands the failure to bring a love I believed in back to life. Yes, the
I anr
driven to do so becauseof the passion for women that lives failure between lovers, sisters, rnother and daughter-the betrayal.
i. .rv
body. I know now that the major obstaclefor me, personally, in
corn_ How have we turned our backs on each other - the bridge collapsing
pleting this book has occurred when I stopped *,iiti,-,g it for - whether it be for public power, personalgain, private validation, or
myself ,
lt'hen I looked away fron-rmy own source of kno$,ied-ee. more closely, to save face, to save our children, to save our skins.
Audre is right. It is alsothe sourceof terror - how deepr' separation "Seewhose face it wears,"* Audre says.And I know I must open my
between women hurts me. How discoveringdifference,piofound eyes and mouth and hands to name the color and texture of my fear.
ferencesbetween myself and women I love has sornetimesrendered I had nearly forgotten why I was so driven to work on this antholo-
rne helplessand immobilized. gy. I had nearly forgotten that I wanted/needed to deal with racisnr
I think of my sister here. How I stiil haven't gotten over the becauseI couldn'tstand being separatedfrom other women. BecauseI
that she would nrarry this white man, ratheithan enter onto took my lesbianismthat seriously.I first felt this the most acutely with
journey I knew I was taking.
iThis is the model we have from my Black won-ren- Black dykes - who I felt ignored me, wrote me off
rnother, 'urturingiwaiting on my father and brother arl the days because I looked white. And yet, the truth was that I didn't know
of rrer
life. Always how if a man lvalked into the room, he lt as paid aitentron Black women intimately (Barbara says "it's about who you can sit
t o [ i n d u l g e d ]i n a p a r t i c u l a r L a t i n - w o m a n _ t o _ n r a "* u y . 1 F o r y e a r s , down to a meal with, who you can cry with, whose face you can
and to this day, I am still recoveringfrom the disappointment that touch").I had such strong "coloredhunches"about our potential con-
girl/this sister who had been with me everydayof my life growing nection, but r,r'asbasically removed from the lives of most Black
up - who slept, ate, talked, cried, worked, fought with me _ irus wolnen. The ignorance.The painful, painful ignorance.
denly lost to me through this man and marriage. I still struggle I had even ignored my own bloodline connection with Chicanas and
b e l i e v i n g I h a v e a r i g h t t o m y f e e l i n g s ,t h a t i t i s n o t , , i m m a t u r e , , o r other Latinas. Maybe it was too close to look at, too close to home.
"queer"to refuse such separations,to still Months ago in a journal entry I wrote: "I am afraid to get near to how
mourn over this early aban-
donment, "this homesicknessfor a woman.,'** So few people really deeply I want the love of other Latin women in my life." In a real
u.derstand how deep the bond betrn,eensisterscan run. I ,"r,as visceralway I hadn't felt the absence(only assumedthe fibers of alien-
to rely o' my sister, to believe sisterscould be counted or.r,,to ation I so often felt r,r'ithanglo women as normative). Then for the first
so the
long hard way with you." time, speakingon a panel about racism here in San Francisco,I could
Sometimesfor me "that deep place of knowledge,,Audre refers to physically touch what I had been missing.There in the front row, nod-
s e e m sl i k e a n e n d l e s sr e s e r v o i r o f p a i n , w h e r e i m u s t c o n t i n u a l l y ding encouragementand identification, sat five Latina sisters.Count
unravel the damage done to me. It is a calculatedsystem of damage, them! Five avowed l,atina Feminists: Gioria, Jo, Aurora, Chabela y
intended to ensure our separationfrom other women, but particulaily Mirtha. For once in my life every part of me was allowed to be visible
those we learned to see as most different from ourselvesand there- and spoken for in one room at one tirne.
fore, most fearful. The women whose pain we do not want to see After the forum, the six of us walk down Valencia Street singing
o u r o w n . C a l l i t r a c i s m ,c l a s so p p r e s s i o n ,n r e n , o r d y k e _ b a i t i n g , songs in Spanish. We buy burritos y cerveza from "[,a Cumbre" and
system thrives. talk our heads off into the night, crying from the impact of such a
*From "The Si son mis comadres.Somethins my rnother had with her women
l \ { a s t c r ' sT b o l sw i l l N e v e r D i s r n a n t l eT h e N { a s t e r ' sH o u s e "
ifrolr the textl.
R i c h " T r a n c e n d e n t a l E t u d e , " T h e D r e c t mo f a c t ) m n r c n . L a n g r a g e friends and sisters.Coming homJ. For once, I didn't have to choose
Y o r k : N o r t o n , 1 9 7 8 1p, . 2 5 . 1Nr,rv
- From "The
N,laster'sTools lVill Never Dismantle The Master's Hor.rse"(from the textl.

Cherrie Moraga

between being a lesbianand beirlg Chicana;between being a feminist who it is we can call an al-
whom and to whom, claily decidinglrisking
and having family. person'sskin, sex, or sexuality)'We are
iu, .utt a friend (whatever that
withouia line. We are women who contradict each other'
I Have Dreamed of a Bridge ;;;""
lSan Francisco,California- September25, 1980) Thisbookiswritter.rforalltlrewomeninitandallwhoselivesour
first only knew each other in our
lives wiil touch. We are a farnily who
Literally, for two years now, I have dreamed of a bridge. In writing on these pagesto make faith a reality
dreams,who have cornetogether
this conclusion, I fight the myriad voices that live inside me. The to bear down hard on that reality'
--tt bring all of our selves
voices that stop my pen at every turn of the page. They are the voices ""J,"i, abo,it physical and psychic struggle. It is about intimacy, a
that tell me here I should be talking nore "materialistically"about the
oppressionof women of color, that I should be plotting out a "strategy" total vision'
in the most private aspectsof our lives' A
for Third World Revolution. But what I really want to write about is in thls book, I will lay my body down for that vision'
For the *o-"t
faith. That without faith, I'd dare not expose myseif to the potential
This Bridge Called Mv Back
betrayal, rejection, and failure that lives throughout the first and last
gesture of connection. In the dream, I am always lnet at the river'
And yet, so often I have lost touch with the simple faith I know in Cherrie Moraga
my blood. My mother. On some very basic level, the woman cannot
be shaken from the ground on which she walks. Once at a very critical
point in my work on this book, where everything I loved - the people,
the writing, the city-ali began to cave in on me, feeling such utter
despairand self-doubt, I received in the mail a card from my mother.
A holy card of St. Anthony de Padua, her patron saint, her "special"
saint, wrapped in a plastic cover. She wrote in it: "Dear Cherrie, I am
sending you this prayer of St. Anthony. Pray to God to help you with
this book."And a cry came up from inside me that I had been sittingon
for months, cleaning me out - a faith healer. Her faith in this saint did
actually once saveher life. That day, it helped me continue the labor of
this book.
I am not talking here about some lazy faith, where we resign our-
selves to the tragic splittings in our lives with an upward turn of the
hands or a vicious beating of our breasts. I am talking about believing
that we have the power to actually transform our experience, change
our lives, save our lives. Otherwise, why this book? It is the faith of
activists I am talking about.
The materialism in this book lives in the flesh of these women's
lives:the exhaustionwe feel in our bonesat the end of the day, the fire
we feel in our hearts when we are insulted, the knife we feel in our
backs when we are betrayed, the nauseawe feel in our bellies when
we are afraid, even the hunger we feel between our hips when we iong
to be touched.
Our strategyis how we cope - how we measureand weigh what is
to be said and when, what is to be done and how, and to r,l'hom and to

The Bridge Poem
Donna Kate Rushin
I've had enough
I'm sick of seeingand touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
Can talk to anybody
Without me

I explain rny rnother to my father my father to my little sister

My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
T o t h e e x - h i p p i e st h e e x - h i p p i e st o t h e B l a c k s e p a r a t i s t st h c
Black separatiststo the artists the artists to rny frie nds' parents. . .
I've got to explain rnyself
To everybody
I do more translating
Than the Gawdamr.rU.N.
Forget it
I'm sick of it
I'm sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against

The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of beir-rgthe odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being tl'rcsole Black frierrd to 34 individual white people
Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find somethir-rgelse to make you legitirnate
Find son-reother way to be political and hip

Ilonir,r Aolt,Rzrslul

,l,tt be the bridge to your womanhood

Your rnanhood
Your huntan-ness

I'rn sick of rerr.rindingyou ltot to

Close off too tight for too long
fm sick of rrediating with your
worst self
On bchalf of your better selves How It All Began
I ar.nsick In February of 1979, Gloria attended a women's retreat in the
Of havingto rernindyou country just north of SanFrancisco.At Merlin Stone'sinsistence,three
To breathe Third World women \\rere to receive scholarships to her workshop on
Before vou suffocate goddessesand heroines taking place during the retreat. Only one
Your olvn fool self made it - Gloria. The managementand some of the staff made her feel
Forget it an outsider, the poor relative, the token woman of color. And all
Stretch or dro'uvn becauseshe was not white nor had she paid the $ 150fee the retreat or-
E v o l v eo r d i e ganizershad set for the workshop. The seedthat germinated into this
anthology began there in Gloria's talks with Merlin.
The bridgc I n-rustbe What had happened at the women's retreat was not new to our
Is the bridge to my o,rvnpo\\,er experience.Both of us had first met each other working as the only
I must translate two Chicanas in a national feminist writers organization.After two
My own fears years of involvement with the group which repeatedly refused to
Mcdiate addressitself to its elitist and racist practices,we left the organization
My own weaktresses and began work on this book.
I n-rustbe the bridge to nowhere In April, 1979,we wrote:
But nty true self We rvant to expressto all women - especiallyto white middie-class
And then women - the experienceswhich divide us as feminists;we want to
examine incidents of intolerance, prejudice and denial of differ-
I will bc useful
ences within the feminist movement. We intend to explore the
causesand sourcesof, and solutionsto these divisions. We want to
create a definition that expands what "feminist" means to us.
(From the original soiiciting letter)
The Living Entity
What began as a reaction to the racism of white feminists soon
became a positive affirmation of the commitment of women of color
to our own feminism. Mere words on a pagebegan to transform them-
selvesinto a living entity in our guts. Now, over a year later, feeling
greater solidarity with other feminists of color across the country
through the making of this book, we assert:
This Bridge Called My Back intends to reflect an uncompromised
definition of feminism by women of color in the U.S.
We narned this anthology "radical"for we were interested in the
writings of women of color who want nothing short of a revolution rn

- L--
xxiv Cherrfe!\'Ioraga.tGlr>riaAnzaltl*a
Cherri e M c;r aga/ G loria Anzaldila

the hands of women - who agreethat that is the goal, no natter how final two sectionsof the book
Gloria wrote the introductions to the
and The VIsion of the
we might disagreeabout the getting there or the possibility of seeingit *fri.n explore The Third World Woman Writer
in our own lifetimes. We use the term in its original form - stemming we both bore the burden of
Third World feminist. Together as editors'
from the word "root"- for our feminist poiitic emergesfrom the roots - this being our first
the book (even more thJn rve had anticipated
the proof-reading and
of both of our cuiturai oppressionand heritage. attempt ui st.h a projectl, not.onlv doing
a telephone answerlIlS
The Parts of the Whole *uki"g editorial decisions,but also acting as
interviewers and
and courier sert'ice, PR persons ancl advertisers'
for some of the
The six sections of This Bridge Called My Back intend to reflect what transcribers, and even occasionally' muses
we feel to be the major areas of concern for Third World women in the contributorsduringtheir,sometirnesratherpainful"'writingblocks"'
U.S. in forming a broad-basedpolitical movement: 1) how visibility/ Mostimportantiy,wesa\Arourmajorroleaseditorsbeingtoencourage
lives' to make some
invisibility as women of color forms our radicalism; 2) the ways in writers to delve even more deeply into their
which Third World women derive a feminist political theory specific- readers
meaning out of it for thernselvesatld their
ally from our racial/cultural background and experience; 3) the
destructive and demoralizing effects of racism in the women's move- Time and MoneY
speedin which this
ment; 4) the cultural, class, and sexuality differences that divide Many people have commented on the relative
the anthology grew from a
women of color; 5) Third World women's writing as a tool for self-pres- book was pioduced. In barely two years'
everyone has worked fast'
ervation and revolution; and 6) the wavs and means of a Third World seed of an idea to a published work' Tfue'
feminist future. including the Publishers.
urgency' From the
The Writers and Their Work The anthology was created r'r'ith a sense of 'TWoyears ago
long overdue
moment of its conception,it was already
should already have
The women in whose hands This Bidge Called My Back was when rn,estarted, we knew it was a book that
wrought identify as Third World women and/or women of color. Each been in our hands.
woman considers herself a feminist, but draws her feminism from the How do you concerttrate an a project u'hen >'ou'reworrie-dabout paytng
women of color attempt
culture in which she grew. Most of the women appearing in this book the rent?We have sorely iearned why so few
are first-generation writers. Some of us do not see ourselves as -,'to to fail back on' ln compiling thisbook
this kind of project
writers, but pull the pen across the page an)'way or speak with the "lo^"y
more jobs just to keep the book and our-
we both ,llulntui.t"d trvo or
power of poets. whiie lvaiting tables' No time for class
selvesalive. No tin-reto write
with your boss' have a
The selections in this anthology range from externporaneous stream preparation, to reaci students'papers' argue
of consciousness journal entries to well thought-out theoretical state- lovelifeoreatadecentmeal^lvhe.'thedeadlir-remustbenet.No
ments; frorn intimate letters to friends to full-scale public addresses. "to go over the contract"' to
money to buy stamps, to hire a lawyer
In addition, the book includes poems and transcripts, personal of our:1"try u"d
an agent. Both of us became expertjugglers
'little chicken" and
conversations and interviews. The lt'orks combined reflect a diversity the few pennies in our piggybanks: Gloria's
of perspectives,linguistic styles,and cultural tongues. Cherrie's "tecatebucket'"
In editing the anthology, our primary comrnitment was to retaining
this diversity, as well as each writer's especialvoice and style. The Agradecimientos
book is intended to reflect our color loud and clear, not tone it down. Abigail' Leigh and her
Btft oh therewerethepeoplewho helped:Leslie'
As editors we sought out and believe we found, non-rhetoricai, highiy con picadillo and loving
IBM selectric,Ranciy,David, Mirtha's arroz
personalchroniclesthat presenta political analysisin everyday terms. faith in the book' Jane and
encouragement,Merlin and Adrienne's
In compiling the anthology, Cherrie was primariiy responsiblefor our wonten's studiesstudents
Saliy'sleitir'tgCherrie change her mind '
the thematic structure and organization of the book as a whole. She who put up with their two.over-tired
at San FranciscoStateUniv"ersity
alsowrote the introductions to the first four sectionsof the book which backrubs' who typed the whole damn
grumpy teachers,Debbie's Jo
cover 1) The Rootsof Our Radicalism;2l Theoryin theFlesh;3l Racisnttn crew' BarbaraS"swork in
manuscript, BarbaraC' and her cameraancl
the Women'sMovement; and 4) On Culture, Class, and Homophobia. who lent us money' and all
spreadingthe word in Boston the friends

C her ri e ill rt r apa/G !r.tria An :ald ua

the other folks who supported our readings,our benefit parties, our
efforts to get this book to press.
Most especially, of course, we wish to thank all the contributors
whose commitment and insight made the nightly marathonswe spent
pulling out our hair worth it. They inspired the labor.

Putting Our Words into Practice

with the completion of this anthology, a hundred other books ancl
projectsare waiting to be de'eioped. Already, we hear tell in the r,vind
from other contributors the possibiiity of a firm about Thircr world
Ferninists,an anthology by Latina lesbians,a Third worrd ferninist
publishing house. We, wome. of color, are not without plans. This is
exactly the kind of servicer,r'elvish for the anthology to pro'ide. It is a THIS
catalyst, not a definitive statement on "Third world Feminism in the
CAttED tuY
we see the book as a revolutionary tool falling into the hands of
people of all colors.Just as we have been radicalizedin the processof
compilir"rgthis book, r.r'ehope it will radicalizeothers into action. \\,e
errvision the book being used as a reqtired text in most \vomen's
studies courses. And u,e don't mean just "special,,courses on Third
World Wornen or Racism, but also courses dealing with sexual
poiitics, feminist thought, !\'omen's spirituality, etc. Sirniiarly, rn,e
want to see this book on the shelf of, and used in the classroornor',
every ethnic studies teacher in this countrl', male and female alike.
off campus, r,r'eexpect the book to function as a consciousness-raiser
for rvhite women meeting together or u'orking alone on the issuesof RADICAT
racism. And, lve want to see our colored sistersusing the book as ar.r
educator and agitator around issues specific to our oppression as WOIUENoF
We want the book in libraries, bookstores, at conferences,and
union meetings in every rnajor city a'd hole-in-the-wall in this
countrv. And, of course, we hope to eventuall,v see this book
translated and leave this country, n'rakingtangibre the link betr,r'een
Third \Abrld wornen in the U.S. and throushout the world.
Finally tenemosla esperanzttque ThisBrtdje CailedMy,Bacli will find
its way back into our fantilies'iives.
The revoiution begir.rs at horne.

Cherrie N{oraga
Gloria Anzaldira

Children Passing
in the Streets


The Rootsof Our Radicalism

"I learned to make nr,vmind large, as the universe is large, so that
tl.rereis room for paradoxes."-Maxine Hong Kingston*

We are \\'omen frorn all kinds of childhood streets: the farms ol

Puerto Rico, tl-redowntorvr.rstreets of Chinatorvn, tl-rebarrio, city-
Bronx streets, quiet suburban sidewalks, the plains, and the
In tl-risfirst section, you rvill find voices from our childhoods, our
youth. What lve learnecl about survival -trying to-pass-for-wl-rite,
e a s y - t o - p a s s - f o r - r v h i t "es, h e c o u l d n ' tp a s s i n a r n i l l i o n y e a r s . "H e r e ,
we introclr.tce to yor.rthe "color problenr"as it was first introduced to us:
"not rvl'riteenuf, not dark enuf", always up against a color chart that
first got erected far outside our families and our neighborhoods,but
which ir.naded them both r'r'ithsystematicdetermination.
I n s p e a k i n go f c o l o r a n d c l a s s ,T i l l i e O l s e n o n c e s a i d : " T h e r e ' sn o
sucl.rt].rir.rs as passing."** Here are wonren of every shadeof color and
grade of classto prove that point. For although sonre of us traveled
more easilr'fror.ustreetcorner to corner than the sisterrvhosecolor or
p o v e r t l ' n r a d e h e r a n e s p e c i a l l l . v i s i b l et a r g e t t o t h e v i o l e n c eo n t h e
street, cr1/of us have been victims of tlie invisible violation r,t,hich
h a p p e n s i n t l o o r s a n d i n s i d e o i . r r s e l v e st:h e s e l f - a b n e g a t i o n ,t h e
s i l e n c e .t h e c o n s t a n tt h r e a t o f c u l t u r a l o b l i t e r a t i o n .
We lvert--born into colored homes. We grew up lvith the inherent
contradictions in the color spectrum right inside those iromes: the
I i g h t e r s i s t r - r t h e r n i x e d - b l o o dc o u s i n , b e i n g t h e d a r k e s t o n e i n t h e
f a n - r i l y .I t d o e s n ' tt a k e m a n v y e a r s t o r e a l i z et h e p r i t ' i l e g e s ,o r l a c k
t h e r e o f ,a t t a c h e dt o a p a r t i c u l a r s h a d eo f s k i n o r t e x t u r e o f h a i r . I t i s
this experience that moves light-skinned or "passable"Third World
\\,'ornento put ourselveson the line for our darker sisters.We are all
family. Frou'rthose far-nilieswe were on the one hand encouragedto
Ieave, to clir.nbup rvhite. Anc'lrvith the other hand, the reins r,vereheld
t i g h t o n u s , o r l r p a r e n t su n d e r s t a n d i n gt h e d a n g e r t h a t b o r d e r e do u r
We learr.redto live u'ith these contradictions.This is the root of our

' I 1 : r r i r r c 'l l , ) n { K i r ) c s t o n 7 ' l u \ \ ' , t n a t t l t r i l l i o r

l N e r v Y o r k : \ ' i n t a g e 1 9 7 7 ) ,p . 3 5 .
t - F r o u r i r t a ) k g i v e n a t T l . r r -\ \ b n r e n s B u i l t i i n g s p o n s o r c d b y ' T i r e F e n r i n i s t W r i t c r s
G u i l c l .S a n l i r a n c i s c o \ o v e n r b e r 1 9 7 9 .

- L-.
When I Was Growing Up
NeIIie Wong
I know now that once I longed to be rvhite.
How? you ask.
Let n-retell you the ways.
when I was growing up, people told me
I was dark and I believed my own darkness
in the mirror, in nry soul,rny own narrow vision

when I was growir-rgup, my sisters

with fair skin got praised
f o r t h e i r b e a r r t va n d i n t h e d a r k
I fell further, crushed between high walls

when I was grolving up, I read magazines

a n d s a w n r o v i e s ,b l o n d e m o v i e s t a r s ,w h i t e s k i n ,
sensuouslips and to be elevated,to become
a \^,oman,a desirable woman, I began to wear
irr-raginar_vpale ski n
rvhen I was growing up, I was proud
o f m y E n g l i s h ,m y g r a m n r a r ,m y s p e l l i n g
fitting into the group of srnart chilclren
s m a r t C h i n e s ec h i l d r e n , f i t t i n g i n ,
b e l o n g i n g ,g e t t i n gi n l i n e
u'hen I rvas growing up and went to high school,
I discoveredthe rich white girls, a few yellor,t,girls,
their imported cotton dresses,their cashn-rere sweaters
their curl,v hair and I thought that I too should have
what these lucky girls had
r,vhenI was grou'ing r.rp,I hr.rngered
for Anrerican food, American styles,
c o d e d :w h i t e a n d e v e n t o m e , a c h i l d
b o r n o f C h i n e s ep a r e n t s ,b e i n g C h i n e s e
was feeling foreign, r,r'asIirriting,
was unAmerican

when l was growing up ar-rda lvhitc ntan \\.iuttL_d
to takc rne out, I thougirt I n,as special,

a n e x o t i c q a r d e n i a ,a n x i o u st o f i t
t h e s t e r e o t y p eo f a n o r i e n t a lc h i c k on not bein
lr'hen I lvas srolving up, I felt asharnecl mqry hope lee
of some yellon rnen, their small trones,
t h c i r f r a i l L r o d i e st,h e i r s p i t t i n e b e a s n i a r t c h i l c lt r f i n g t o b e d u m b . . .
o n t h e s t r e e t s ,t h e i r c o t r g h i n g , n o t b l k e r r u ft o l o v i n l i i g n o r e .. .
t h e i r l y i n g i n s u n l e s sr o o n l s , not bitter enuf to die at a early age.. .
s h o c l t i n gt h e n r s e l v e si n t h e a r m s rrtnz:ke shense+

when I was gro'nvineup, people r,r.ouldask she never wantecl

if.I rvere Filipino, polyr-rersian,portngucse. no never once
Thev nan.redall colors except r,r,hitc., the shell did she \\ranna
of ury soul, btrt not r.rrvclark, rough skin be r'vhite/topass
lrt wher.rI r,r.assror,r,ingup, I felt drear-nedonly of beir.rdarker
she r,r,antedto be darker
l,i dirtr.. I thought tl"ratgoci
rriaclen.l.ritepeople clean
anci no n-iattcrhor,r,rnuch I bathecl,
not yellorv/not no high bror'r'rtneither
but brou'n/n arrl brolvrr
I could not change, I could not shcrl she drearned/herbody
my skin in the gray rvater rnoist earth bror,r't.r
she pray'ed/forchocolate
when I vvasgrowir.rgup, I srvore semi/srveet/bi tter/su,eet
I would run a\^,ayto purplc n,rountains, dark chocolatenipples cro\\'nln
h o u s e sb 1 ' t h e s e al v i t h n o t h i n q o v e r her sn-rallchestedtits

',l r r r v h e a d , r n , i t hs p a c et o b r e a t h c ,
uncongestedrvith t,ellclrvpeoltlc in an arca
calleclChinato,"vn,ir.ran area I later learned
r v a sa g h e t t o ,o n e o f r l a n v h e a r t s
2 l'relshel'skisses
s i t t i ns u ' e e tl i k e t o p o l
2 round scoopsof sn.rooth
m i l k c h o c o l a t ei c e c r e a r n
ttf Asian Anrerica
I knorv nolt'that once I longed to be ,uvhrte-. !
llow r.t'ranyntore rta)'s?,vor-r
F{ar,'en'tI t<,rld'ou enor-rgh? momma took her outta
a l m o s ta l l b l a c k l i n c o l n h i g h
cuz sl'reuseta catch hell
every da,vin gyrn class

t h e o t h e r g i r l s r e a c t i nt o h e r l i k c
s h e ' u v a st h e c a u s eo f s o m e
kinda gau'dar,r'fulallergy'they all had
c o n t a c tc o u l d b e f a t a l
sun'ivors w,oulclbe scarrecl
with kindness

-.\'a||,. l1lgg.
lNen \brk: St. \lartin s Prcss lrl73l

- L-_
10 tnan ht 'p,' ls2 man holre lee

cuz she wasn dark enuf no'high yellorv drearn child'

was stnart enuf not/dichtY
wasn rowdy enuf a hex muttered
had a white girl friend not/hinkty
cuz none of them would be a curse let fly
beige or buffiecru or chamois not/saditty
jus wasn color/ed enuf like girls rt'as spozedto be
to get picked for the softball team did they urent to catholic school or
wasn sufficient protection was they frour geruranto$'nor
'gainst baldr,,,'inhilis or
gettin tripped in the shower
valencia park
she wondered/
would they have treated florence ballard tr
so shabbily
{the rnan she r.trarried/cuz he r'r'asthe first one to ask/her
I bein afraid no body else u'ould/said he thought he was gonna
hafta marry hisself rt ltitc cuz/he couldn find him no colored
but sheenviedthem all girl was/in-tel-li-gent e - n u f f f / b u t r n ' i t hh e r bein the next
felt every once now and then b e s tt h i n g t o w h i t e . .
they just mighta been
they was brown like
the sun loved they skin special
cuz it warmed'em

her/shewas drab faded out
yellow like a scorchedjuly sky
just fore it rains & rinses
away tl-rehint of brown fror-r-r
the smog
no rnaureen peal

Cherrte l\fu;ragtt

at fortY-five,l'rer
her ston'rach
[i""aing ir-rto
For the Color of MY Mother guping
if,"-r-tor" grortirrgrt.-lder
father's pallor
nitir rny
Cherrie Moraga i""p""i"g breaslbotte
r r o l l l h i 1 ' tro
f i n a l l y s t i t c h e ds n u l
arr irrverted V
I am a white girl gonebrown to the bloodcolor of m2-mother
speakingfor her throughthe unnamedpart of the mouth Vera
the wide-archedmuzzleof brou'nwotnetl Elvira
my mctlher
brrtwn tctthe bktod coktrof
at two I am a white girl gitrte
my upper lip split oPen speakingfor her
clear to the tip of mY nose as it should be
it spilled forth a cry that would not yield dark lvor'retl col''e to t'"rrrrrr-,,
that travelled down six floors of hospital ir-rci,rcles
where doctors wound rne into white bandages I passthrough their.hands
only the screaming mouth exPosed the head of uv nlother
the gash sewn back into a snarl painted in claY colors
wolrld last for years touching each carved feature
srvollen eYesand mouth
I ant a white girl gone broutn to the blood colu' of mv mother the splitting
speak[ngfor her they understand the explosion
n'ithin the fixed expresslon
open contained
at five, her mouth
pressedinto a seam they cradle her siicnce
oddi.g to me
a fine blue child's line drawn acrossher face
her mouth, pressedinto mouthing english
mouthing yes Yes Yes
mouthing stooPlift carrY
(sweatingwet sighs into the field
her red bandana comes loose from under the huge brimmed hat
movilrg acrossher uPPerliP)
at fourteen, her mouth
painted, the ends drawn ttP
the rnole in the corner colored in darker larger mouthing yes
she praying no no no
lips pursed and moving

f i " r , r r" . \ l " r ' r ' '
I love tl-resound and look of yiddisli
nrelancholyor livell'clatlces . the English language
in tlle boclf ir.rtl-restreets in
I Am What I Arn so u'hat's tlert' so go by the grocer ancl bu'v some fruit
nooo oh and ti"toscu'ords
gevalt gcfilte fish raisele
Rosario Morales e n g l i s h l a n g u a g el i k e r a i s i n s ' , i nt h c
h t r n d r e d so t t h e n r t t o t t i ' ' ' gt h e
shnook ar.'clscl-'leriiiel tuttiX tush schn-rata all thosc
I am what I am and I am U.S. American I haven'twanted to say it b;;;
sl'rarpsharp things I an'rrvhat I arn and I'rr
becauseif I did you'd take away the Puerto Rican but now I say go to soft srveetsottnds'o1'".tg
t"u'p i' ioreign anclnelv but Jewish
hell I am what I arn and you can't take it away with all the lvords naturalizecllertirn-a'tt!'icu"
fa.iliar schmata farniliar arrdits r'redcars its
and sneers at your command I am what I am I am Puerto Americar.ris ord sr.r.,,v
I anr rvliett I am Thke it or leave me
Rican I am U.S^ Arnerican I am New York Manhattan and the ltle bagelsblintzesanclall
Bronx I am what I am I'rn not hiding under no stoop beirind no alone.
curtain I am what I am I am Boricua as boricuas come from the
isle of Manhattan and I croon Carlos Gardel tangoesin my sleep and
Afro-Cuban beatsin my blood and Xavier Cugat'slukewarm latin is so
familiar and dear sneer dear but he's familiar and dear but not
Carmen Miranda who's a joke becauseI never was a joke I was
a bit of a sensation See! here's a real true honest-to-god Puerto
Rican girl and she'sin college Heyl Mary come here and look
she'sfrom right here a South Bronx girl and she'shonest-to-godrn
college now Ain't that something r,r'howould believed it Ain't
sciencewonderful or sorne such thing a wonder a wonder
And someonewho did languagesfor a living stopped me in the sub-
way becausehow I spoke was a linguist'streat I mean there it was
yiddish and spanisl-rand fine refined college educated english and
irishwhich I mainly keep in my prayers It's dusty now I haven't
said my prayers in decadesbut try rny Hail Marrrry full of grrrace
with the nun's burr with the nun's disdain its all true and its all
nre do you know I got an English accent from the BBC I always
say For years in the mountains of Puerto Rico when I was22 and24
and 26 all those young years I listened to the BBC and Radio
Moscow's English english announcers announce and denounce
and then I read Dickens all the way thru three or four times at least
and then later I read Dickens aioud in voicesand when I came back to
the U.S. I spokemockdickens and mockBritish especiallywhen I rvant
to be crisp efficient I know what I am doing and you can't scarerre
tough that'swhy I am what I am and I'm a bit of a snob too Shit!
why am I calling rlyself names I really really dig the funny way the
British speak and it's real it's true and I love too the singing of
yiddish sentencesthat go with sirrugs and hands and arms doing
llo',ntt LtttleLtttl

been {ighting?""Did you tear your

"Why are you Dirty?" "Have you
demands and accusationscame threaten-
ar*rZll-u ,rott"y of quick
her come towards me'
Dreams of Violence r" -", -uttir'g *" i""f scared'watching "her bonito" as
where the razor strap hung
reaching over to tn" aoo'
"rit to
Naomi Littlebeor she called it. Reachingtowards
me, strap rn hand. My feet turning
backing into a corner'
Iead. Trying to run au'ay'
I was awakened by the sound of school children screamingat each
other. I thought I heard them beating some one. Loud solid thun-rps II
quivered in my ears,a hoarsevoice, horribly chanting in rapid succes-
me' a vicious pinch could' I fiew
sion, "oh my god, oh my god". . . But where the strap couldn't reach
more leather stings'
I closed my eyes and sunk into the panic that terrorized my thru the door being chasedby
blocks away, my skin boiling' red criss
morning. I fiew back in time, somewhere in grade school, walking I ran far, sometlnes two cried
home with my cousin Virginia. . . crossesatop the that the leather jackets had-made'.I
cars thru my
"'uttlt"' the shapesoi people and
alorrebarery able to make out
There was an unmistakeable bitter taste in the air around us, fore-
warning. It was the moment before the actual sight of thern coming
that froze our heartswith fear. Suddenly like a stampedeof wild bulls
beside me' wondering how
they plumrneted towards us. A half dozen or more boys, a frenzied I am awake now, my lover still sleeping
to mend the holes in our pasts'
blur of leatherjackets, screamingwild devils, thrashing at us with the we can blend our two worlds' How
harsh stiff leather, metal teeth zippers battering our bewildered walk away bravely from the nightnares' .
within the falseshelter of her
bodies. We ran on rubber band legs; I could hear Virginia calling, Her attacks*"'" ^o" "tUtt"iniaa"n
her' her brother was the night-
"Mama, Mama." In my ears was a sound like the beating of wings, home; insteadof gutg' olloys chasing
;"";;;;g-child U"oayto masturbate with' as she
barbed wings that stung rny skin, that made my lip swell in pain, we ly intrusion,
"ri"g to speak'
ran hard thru the obstaclecourse of confusedbodies, their horrifying closed her eyes too numb and scared
no t;;i;; but to be survir"ors though the fears are still
shrieks of rage thru the rain of leather. We both have
men' my heart tt^Ot
By some miracle they scattered,the same force that brought them there. Whenever I see a crowd of ::':-I^l::l
crashing' anger' male nolses'
seemedto snatch them up again and they were scatteredto other dark whenever i hear sudden noises'sudden to
ears l shrink inside' walk close
corners of the barrio. their very laughter o uUtuti"" to my
place to hide'
My facewas hot and swollen, i felt my tearsburning rivers down my the walls of my soul, i look for a
cheeks.I could still hear Virginia crying for her mother, though now
she was just a mass of pain & crying. I could remember my own
silence thundering thru my body.
As we neared home, my fear increased.I knew what would await
me there. I could close my eyes and see the vision a hundred times
I would siowly approach the door and before my entire body
entered, she could smell the mischief, sensethe energy- my grand-
mother immediately stopped whatever she was doing and demanded
a fuil story. But always my story would be cut in mid-sentence.
Becausewhatever state i was in, i orovoked it.

irr tlatrqcr
We are both
^{ r'our a t l c i e n tI e a r
He Saw ilJutn"a
t t rf i s ho . r r r ) ' ( ) \ t r r
Chrystos s t o p p e c l r . . . . . i , , . rr , \ \ \ ' L ' a y e n e [ \
lLrarlllll{ t() \
Now l'rr-r
his roots/went back to the reservation old
pain/old hunger
None of the ghostsrvere there
He went fisl-ring caught
one or rnore ever)'
day The fishing is n'irat he r-reeded t<>do
G a t h e r i n gw i l d r i c e , r e r n e n r b e r e d f t e r y e a r so f s u i t s ,t i c s ' c l o c k s
what he began
& left
He lvrites me abottt tl'refisl-r
I grovl' hungry
He gave rne all the lr,l'ritestadvantages
squarc house, football school, r'vhitemother baking I,vhitebread in a
u,hite ovelt
He r,r.antedto spare r-nehis pairr
Silently our nrisunderstandingsshred rage clouds our blood ties
I stare at his words wonder u'ho i.reis
Lonely recldaddy cradling ghost of his natna died u'hen he r'r'asnitre
pretending he u'as borr.rrt'ithout a father lt'ithout straightiacke-ts
Daddy you r,r.rite in a painfully practiced scra'uvl
you leanrt-d learned learned beaien dor'r,na dying fish
You go back & can't stav
Bring me a sack of rice
I war-rtyonr r,r'ildness,$'arlt the boy lt'ho left ol.ra freight car
I n'ant a boy rvl'rocried becausehis rrrotheris clead
& his daddy's gone crazy
I r.t'anithe one u'ho gathered lvater & r'r'ood
I don't l,"ant this t'ttanrvho cut off ilis hair
joined the governnrent
to be safc
- '
\ And When You Leave,
\Take Your Pictures With You
Racismin the Women'sMovement
"The reason racism is a feminist issue is easily explained by the
inherent definition of feminism. Feminism is the political theory
and practice to free all r,r'omen:women of color, working-class
women, poor \\romen,physically challengedwomen, lesbians,old
women, as well as white economically privileged heterosexual
women. Anything lessthan this is not ferninism, but merely female
s e l f- a g g r a n d i z e m e n t*. "
We women of color are the veteransof a classand color war that is
still escalatingin tl-refeminist mol'ernent. This section attempts to
describe in tangible ways l.row, under the name of feminism, white
women of economicand edr-rcational privilege have usedthat privilege
at the expenseof Third World women. Although the original intent of
including a section in this anthology specifically about racism in the
movement was to make a connectionwith white women, it feelsnow
more like a separation.
Things have gotten worse. In academic and cultural circles, Third
World women have becornethe subiect matter of many literary and
artistic endeavorsby lvhite women, and yet we are refusedaccessto
the pen, the publishing house, the galleries,and the classroom."Only
for the sake of art/Millicent, do you rise/tall from the ink" (Daniels).
Our traditional native cultures are ripped off from us and are displayed
as the artifacts of "primitive" peoples by white Bohemian liberated
women headed for the West Coast. Iir leftist feminist circles \\'e are
dealt with as a political issue, rather than as flesh and blood human
beings. We represent the party line, but the truth is, "We're not as
huppy as we look/on theirhvall" {Carrillo). We have had it with the
word "oalreach" referring to our joining racist white wornen's
organizations.The questior.rkeepscoming up - where exactly then, is
irr?It sn-rellslike r,vhiteto us. We have had it
Repeatedlvacknowledged throughout this section and infusing the
entire contents of this anthology is our understanding that theory

i F r o m a t a l k g i r e n a t t h e c l o s i n g s e s s i o na t t h e \ a t i o n a l W o m e n ' sS t u d i e sA s s o c i a t r o n
( N W S A ) c o n f e r e n c e .M a 1 ' 1 9 7 9 :a p p e a r e di n F r o t t t i c r . sV . ol. V. No. l. 1980.

alone can r"lotwipe out racisn. We do not experienceracism, rvhether And When You Leave,
directedat ourselvesor others,theoretically.Neither do rvhite wonren.
How doesone then emotiorrallycorneto terms with racisnr?None oi
fuU"Your Pictures With
us in this book can challengeothers to confront questionsthat rve our, Jo Carrillo
selveshave lrot confronted. How do we deal with the ways in rvhich
this diseasedsociety has infused our ver)' blood systems?How do rr r Our white sisters
take personal responsibility for our own racistactions and assr.rmptions? radical friends
of us
As Third World women we clearly have a differer-rtreiatiorrshipto love to own Pictures
sitting at a factorY machine
racism than white \A/olnen,but ali of us are born into an environn'rcnr
where racism exists.Racismaffectsall of our lives, but it is only rvhite wielding a machete
wornen who can "afford"to remain oblivior.rsto these effects.The rest in our bright bandanas
red childreu
of us have had it breathing or bleeclingdorvn our necks. ;;ldt.; biown vellorv black
campalgns .
But you work with what you have,whatever your skin color. Racisn.r -n"iai"g books fron-rliteracy
nlachirreguns bayonets bornbs
is societaland institutional. It implies the power to implement racist
ideology.Women of color do not have such power, but white wotnen Our rvhite sisters
are born with it and the greater their economic privilege, the greater radical friends
their power. This is how white middle ciasswomen energe among should think
feminist ranks as tl-regreatestpropagatorsof racism in the movetnent. again.
Rather than using the privilege they have to crurnble the institutions Our w}-ritesisters
that house the source of their own oppression- sexism, along u'ith radical friends
racism - they oftentimes deny their privilege in the form of "dorvn- love to own Pictures of us
hot sun
ward mobility," or keep it intact in the form of guilt. Guilt is not a feel- walking to the fields in
ing. It is an intellectual mask to a feeling. Fear is a feeling - fear of u'ith stiau' hat on head if brorr'n
losing one's power, fear of being accused, fear of a loss of status, bandana if black
control, knowledge. Fear is real. Possibly this is the emotional, non- irr bright en-rbroideredshirts
red children
theoretical piace frorn which serious anti-racist work among white t of,ltit trtottrr Yellort' black
feminists can begin. readin[ books from literacy
The wornen writing here are comrnitted feminists. We are challeng- smiling.
ing white feminists to be accountablefor their racism becauseat the Ou. lrlhite sistersradical
basewe still wanf to believe that they really want freedom for all of us. should think again'
The letter from Audre Lorde to Mary Daly appearingin this sectionis No one smiles
an example to all of us of how we as feminists can criticize each other. at the beginning of a da;- sPent
of ttranlum
It is an act of love to take someoneat her word, to expect the most out aigging ilr souvenir chunks
of a woman who calls herselfa ferninist - to challengeher as you your- of cleaning uP atter
self wish to be challenged. our rt'hite sisters
As women, on some level we all know oppression.We n-rustuse thrs radical friends
knowledge, as RosarioMorales suggests,to "identify, understand,and
feel with the oppressedas a way out of the morassof racisrnand guilt." Arrd rvhen or;r rvhite sisters
. . . For "We are ali in the same boat." radical friends see us
And it is sinkins fast.
in the flesh
not as a picture they own,
they are not quite as sure
if Beyond the Cliffs of Abiquiu*
they like us as much.
We're not as happy as we look
Jo Carrillo
on She calls you a rock.
their He calls you a rock.
wall. They both agree that you
are unworthy
of anything
but a slow death.
Her skin is white;
more parched than
the land she hates.
Silver fades into her arm
turquoise matches
more than her
but she wears it.
two cliffs Iittle trees lots of rocks
is this Iand nothing but a rock? she asks
while gracefully walking back to her
OH, yes I know, I live here
in this desert
and let me tell you. . . l
The whole place is
J u s t o n e g r e a tb i g r o c k .
Let me see,
do I have time to put on my
* M y p o e m t o t h e l a n d t h a t a J o n gu ' i t h S o u t hD a k o t a , i s a " p r o p o s e dN a t i o r . r aSl a c r i f i c e "
a r e a f o r e n e r g v l u r a n i u n r , c o a i , c o a l g a s i f i c a t i o n ,e t c . l .

- -&,i
Io Carrtll"
It's Authentic Navajo Indian Laguna pueblo
design from
Oh, let's step into this Navajo rug shop
Buen Muir Indian TFadingpost
while we're here.
staffed Bet you don't have lftal
by in San FranciscoLos Angeles New York
whites ,{lbuquerque.
except of course They are really lovely rugs
for the janitor. my whole house is done
How can it be
Navajo rugs
that the mines
it's adobe
the uranium cancer causingdangerous
radon gas emitting mines in Corrales
are worked by Navajos and othei
assorted by the river
lots of
and the trading posts
are all
with Authentic Navajo Hopi Zuni Indian made real live
worked over
Laguna SantaAna Santo Domingo
by whites?
The mines belong to them
too; Therc i< r *riIl" -o

don't enjoy the work as much? over

Rather sell Authentic Navajo that
Hopi Zuni Indian made
real hill.
Laguna Santa Ana Santo Domingos?
of a mess.

Oh, those Indians.

They are
C a n ' te v e n g o t h r o u g h G a l l u p
w r t h o u ts e e i n ga t l e a s t
at least
at least
ten of them.

I Don't Understand Those [fe certainly I won',tobey that lesbian mafia

nonsensethat one must
real Those are all the
dressin a certain way or cut off one'shair to be
Who Have Ttrrned Away From Me 6ost superficial rules silly I no longer believe that
feminism is a tool
Chrystos -
which can eliminate racism or even promote better
different races & kinds of women I have felt less under-
women than I
5:23 am- May 1980 standingbetween different races& from many lesbian
I am afraid of white people Never admitted that before
deep do fro- ro-e straightpeople At leasttheir heterosexual
much stricture &
secret allows me more freedom to be myself I felt so
to prove I
I think about all the white women I knew in San Francisco censorshipfrom lesbians I was supposedto be a carpenter
over None of them
women with Master's degrees from Stanford University
& cars thal *u, u ,"ui dyk" My differenceswere sloughed
about rne Above ail I
daddy bought, women with straight white teeth & clear
skins fron.r cameto a pow wow or an AIM* fundraiser to see
when I first
thousands of years of proper nutiition They chose to be poor could not enjoy & love being a \\roman Janecommented
They were quite convincing in the role of oppressedvictim
I wanr met her that she didn't care for most lesbiansbecausethey didn't
it is extremely difficult to
to tell them to go down to Fiilmore & Haight & teil somebody
about women didnt like themselves of course
it Tell Jim my old landlord who picked cotton since he like oneself in a culture which thinks you are a disease
was 6
moved here for a better life lost his hearing & his teeth
& his hair f ror.' Many of the lesbiansI knew seemedto throw off the outer trappings
wo.rkingin the shipyards for 35 years The constantvibration
of his of theii culture & were very vocal in criticizing it Yet, they had no
drill on the metal literally shook his teeth out no new roads Night after night in endless picky meetings discussing
He went bard from
always wearing a safety helmet He can,t hear after years of that everyone'sinadequacies& faults & the harm which men do or night
racket He worked so hard for 35 years & he is still pooi
They live afte;night in dreary body shop bars drinking themselvesinto a stupor
on Webster street, across from the projects The house is an old I worked so hard as part of a locai women's coffeeshop& bookstore'
victorian which will not be paid ofi uniess he lives to
be g9 which harder than I've ever worked I ordered for the kitchen, & the art
is unlikely. shows,did shifts,brought flowers, cleaned,met the pest man & phone
I read the funniest Iine in a health book yesterday It
said, that for man. did entertainment, lvashed a million coffee cups Recently
some "unknown" reason, more black people had hypertension someonetold me that a young lesbianwhose parents have given her a
white people Not funny No mystery Most Injian people law practice, commented that she remembered me I didn't work she
usually live long enough to even GET hypertension All said all I did was talk to people I remember her too she was one of
the deaths I
carry so heavily FacesI knew tvtani muidered in phoenix the thousandsof n,omen rvhosenames & facesI memorized & tried to
by whites
outside a bar whites who_still have not gone to trial understand oniy to have them disappearafter 3 months or whenever
Ron iying of
pneumonia I still mourn him death None of they found a lover After 3vz years I had so little ieft of myself so
my relativei h)s a
degree from Stanford Neither did many bitter memories of women who disrespectedme & others A
Jim so those poor white girls are
still suffering mightily in my old home town of Sin Franciscl woman who called herself a communist but supported capitalist
It did not help that it occurred to me that no amount of enterprisesof r,t'omen,rather than our brave collectiveworker-owned
was going to improve my lot in life if I didn,t also change efforf The lies, pretensions,the snobbery & cliquishness The racism
my attitude
about the society I still think thatggvo of what happens'- which bled through every moment at every level The terrifying &
riberal, con-
servative or radical lesbian separatist is: bullshit My useless struggle io be accepted The awful gossip, bitchiness'
attitude is all I
own so I quit school backbiting & jealousy The gross lack of love
All the schools & crazy houses I was in were simply
brainwashing & I left the \A,omen'smovement utterly drained I have no interest in
most of the feminist movement that I workea so ha.a returning My dreams of crossingbarriers to true understandingwere
to be a puri of
was propaganda This is heresy but it held no solution false M6st oi the white women I thought I was closeto want nothing
for me surely
Jane.suffers oppression on heijob because she is a woman All the to do with me now Perhapswhite women are so rarely loyal because
problems and issues which feminism raises
are valid & important It *American lnclianN{ovement
simply does not give me any answers for
correct behavior in my own
they do not have to be There are thousands of them to pick up & Asian Pacific American Women
discard No responsibilityto others The bathing beauties They r'vant
the status of reality & respect without labor Respect us simp15- and Feminism
becausewe exist Give us lvhat we want now My bitterness distorts IVIitsuYeYamada
my words we
women I know agree that
I don't understand those who turned alvay from me Most of the Asian Pacific American out-o'nthe condition
more visible by speaking
need to make ourselves concern us'
certain political issues which
of our sex anci race u'-'a ot-t perspective is the
tnt""elt the {eminist
Some of us feel tn"t "lltiliiiit is fraught with problems
this path
only logical step for tt' Ho*"t'"r' we
re to ,otu" among t", b"tuttt" in order to do so'
which \ are unable feminist leaders' the
need the help and t;;^;;
women's buildings' and edit
women wiro coordiuut" i'ogtu-s'.direct organlStlons
iii""gr'tt"t th: :",:f 1 womens
women's them and give them "input'"
h"u"" tts'join"
tell us they would tif<eto feel we
least theyknow we exist and
These are the betterl*t' every
"' to say bf.interest to them' but
might possibly have *-"tf-ti"g the condition of my life
3rp"opt" about
time I read or speaKt;;;;G as if I
ii i' ut ir i naa never spoken before'
as an Asian Pacific '";';'u; had never
audience-of people who
were speaking to a brand new than the passive' sweet
putiiJ *o"l-un u'ho is other
known an Asian
etc^stereotypeof the "Oriental" our
World;;;"" are asked to speak representing
When Third entertain'
to move' charm or
racial or ethnic cro;, ;;';;; ";p"cted to our audiences'we
are threatening
but not to educatei^ ways that what we
those parts of our speech (if
speak to audiences tt-tur'itt out our hands
have of us1' come up to shake
say does not fit the i-ug" iit"y tn"
just iovely"
with "That*u. ro""i]"-v a"ut' "id.C" l:1l."J:t:do' the
No mat[er what we say or
same mind set they ttt'l" i'-t
rta'-'is"o; i'";;*ry of starting from scratch each
stereotype ,till
no history behind us' of hearing
time I speak or rvritJ, as if there were or
women are the leastpolitical'
that among the rt'omen "o' of color' Asian not many people
the least opp.",,"a, ift" -"t' polite' It is too bad
up to
persons in Seattle who stood
remember that one of the two in 1942 was a
Evacuation Order
contest the constrtr'rtionalityof the anf in we
woman' As cro:ps'
young JapaneseA-;;;" lldividuall than ever in the
been (n'roreintensively
Asian Pacific women have writing
affairs and speakingand
past few y"u.r1 utt'i" Jlo--tt"ity published in
highly political writings
about our activities' Fronr the poems and
and articles'
Asian Women in 1971(incisive -trenchant Workshop in New
from the Basement
articlesl, to more t;;i;;i;"s
72 l'rtsry,e lhrnatli
M t t r u y e\ a n n d u ;3

York City to Unbound Feet in San Francisco, as well as those Asian

Pacific women showcased at the Asian Pacific women's conferences Women irr thesegroups,were, she said "into pushing their own issues"
in New York, Hawaii and California this year, theseall tell us we have and were no different from the other organizationsthat imposed
been active and vocal. And yet, we continue to hear, ,,Asianwomen opinions and goalson their members rather than having them shaped
are of course traditionally not attuned to being political,, as if most by the needs of the members in the organizations.Some of the other
other women are; or that Asian women are too happily bound to their women present said that they felt the women's organizationswith
traditional roles as mothers and wives, as if the sarnecannot be said of feminist goalsare still "a middle-classwomen's thing." This pervasive
a great number of white American wornen among us. feeling of rnistrusttoward the women in the movernent is fairly repre-
sentati','eof a large group of women who live in the psychological
When I read in Plexusrecently that at a Workshop for Third World
place we now call Asian Pacific America. A movement that fights
women in San Francisco,Cherrie Moraga exploded with,,What each
of us needsto do about what we don't know is to go look for it,,,I felt sexism in the social structure mttst deal with racism, and we had
like standing up and cl-reeringher. She was speakingat the Women's hoped the leadersin the women's nlovement wouid be able to seethe
parallelsin tl'reIiVesof the women of color and themselves,at]d would
Building to a group of white sisterswho were saying, in essence,,,itis 'join" us in our struggleand give tts "input."
)our responsibility as Third World women to teach us.,'Ifthe majoritl,
It should not be difficult to see that Asian Pacific women need to
culture know so little about us, it must be ourproblem, they seemto be
telling us; the burden of teachingis on us. I do not want to be unfair, I affirm our own culture while working within it to changeit. Many of
the leaders in the wornen's organizationstoday had moved naturally
know individual women and some wonen's groups that have taken
from tl-recivil rights politics of the 60's to sexual politics, while very
on the responsibility of teaching themselvesthrough reaching out to
few of the Asian Pacific women who were involved in radical politics
women of color, but such gesturesby the majority of women,sgroups
during the same period have emerged as leaders in these same
are still tentatively made becauseof the sometimestouchy reactionof
women's organizations.Instead they have become active in groups
women who are always being asked to be "tokens',at readir.rgsand
promotitrg ethnic identity, most notably ethnic studiesin ur-riversities,
ethnic theater groups or ethnic community agencies.This doesn't
Earlier this year, when a group of Asian Pacific American women
gathered together in San Francisco poet Nellie Wong,s home to talk mean that r,r,ehave placed our loyalties on the side of ethnicity over
womanhood. The two are not at war with one another; we shouldn't
about feminism, I was struck by our generalagreementon the subject
have to sign a "loyalt,voath" favoring one over the other. Hotvever,
of feminism as an ideal. We all believed in equality for women. We
women of color are often made to feei that u'e must make a choice
agreed that it is important for each of us to knor,t,what it mea'rrsto be a
between the tr,r,o.
woman in our society,to know the historical and psychologicalforces
that have shaped and are shaping our thoughts which in turr.rdeter- If I have more recently put my energies into the Pacific Asian
mine the directions of our lives. We agreed that feminism nteans a American Center (ajob center for Asiansestablishedin 1975,the only
one of its kind in Orange Cor.rr-rty, California) and the Asian Pacific
commitment to making changesin our own lives and a conviction that
as women we have the equipment to do so. One by one, as we sat Women'sConferences(the first of its kind in our history), it is because
the needs in these areas are so great. I have thought of myself as a
around the table and talked (we women of all agesranging from our
feminist first, but my ethnicity cannot be separatedfrom my feminism
early twenties to the mid-fifties, single and married, mothers and
lovers,straightwomen and lesbians),we knew what it was w,ewanted Through the women's movement, I have cot-neto truly appreciate
the meaning of my ntother's life and the lives of immigrant womer)
out of feminism, and what it was supposedto mean to us. For women
to achieve equality in our society, we agreed, we must continue to like her. My mother, at nineteen years of age,r-rprootedfrom her large
work for a common goal. extended family, was brought to this country to bear and raise four
But there was a feeling of disappointmentin that living room toward children alone. Once here, she found that her new husband r,t'hohad
the women's movement as it standstoday. One young woman said she been here as a student for severalyears prior to their marriage was a
had made an effort to join some women's groups with high expecta- bachelor-at-heart and had no intention of changing his lifestyle.
tions but came away disillusioned because these groups were not Stripped of the protection and support of her family, she found the
responsibilitiesof raising us alone in a strangecountry almost intoler-
receptiveto the issuesthat were important to her as an Asian woman.
able during those early ,vears.I tl-roughtfor n.rany years that my
,\f rl.stn,eyariirrrir Mtlstttt Yu'rt.t.lt

mother did not love us becauseshe often spoke of suicide as an eas'

you and your fanrily been happy u'ith us in our churcl.r?Haven't we
way out of her miseries.I know now that for her to have survived "just
ireated you rvell?"I knert'then that I was not really part of the church
for the sake"of her children took great strength and determination.
at all in the eyes of this person, but only a guest who was being told I
If I digress it is because I, a second generation Asian American
should have the good manners to behave like one.
woman who grew up believing in the American Dream, have come to
Remembering the blatant acts of selectiveracistn in the past three
know who I am through understanding the nature of my mothers
decadesin our country, our r.t'hitesistersshould be able to see hor,r'
experience;I have come to see connectionsin our lives as lr,'ellas the
tenuous our positiortin this country is. Many of us are now third and
lives of many women iike us, and through her I have become more
fourth ger.rerationAr-nericans,but tl-rismakes no difference; periodic
sensitiveto the needs of Third world women throughout the world.
conflicts involving Third World peoples can abruptly cl-ranger,t'hite
We need not repeat our past histories; my daughteri a.d I need not
American's attitudes tor,r'ardsus. This was clearly demonstrated in
merely survive with strength and determination. we can, throuch
1941to the JapaneseAnrericansrt'ho were in hot pursuit of the great
collectivestruggle,live fuller and richer lives. My politics u, u *,o.-,L, American Drearn, rvho lr,ent around saying, "Of course I don't eat
are deeply rooted in my immigrant parent,sand rny ou,n past. an r"rnerican."We found our statusas true-blooded
Japanesefood, I'r-r'r
Not long ago at one of my readingsa \voman in the audierrcesaid she Americans r,r'as an illusion in 1942when we were singled out to
was deeply moved by my "beautifully tragic but not bitter carnir be imprisoned for the duration of the war by our o\\'n governmellt
poems which were apparently written long ago,,,* but she nas recent outcrv against the Iranians because of the holding of
distressedto hear my poem "To A Lady.,' ,,Why ui" yo.,, at this late American hostages tells rne that the situation has not char.rgedsince
date, so angry, and why are you taking it so personallyZ,she said.,,We 1941.When I l.rearrny studentssay"We'rer.rotagainstthe Iranianshere
need to look to the future and stop wallowing in the past so much." I who are rninding their olvu business. We're just against those
respondedthat this poem rsnot at aIIabout the past. I am talking about ungrateful ones rvho or,.erstepour hospitality by denronstratingal.rd
what is happening to us right now, about our nonsupport of each badmouthir-rgour government," I knol'r' they speak about me.
other, about our noncaring about each other, about not r""it-rnconnec- Asian Pacific Anrericar.r\vomen will not speak out to say rt'hat we
tions between racism and sexism in our lives. As a child of iJ-rmisrant have on our mir-rdsuntil rt'e feel securewithin ourselvesthat this is our
parents, as a woman of color in a white society and as u *o-un i,.,u home too; and until our rvhite sistersindicateby their actionsthat they
patriarchical society, what is personal to me is political. want to joir-rus in our struggle becauseit is theirs also. This lneans a
These are the connections\^'e expected our white sistersto see. It commitrnent to a truly conttnunal education rt'here lve learn fron.l
should not be too difficult, we feel, for thern to seewhy being a femrn- eachotl.rerbecausewe $,ant to learn from eachother, the kind of con.r-
ist activist is more dangerousfor women of coror.They should be able mitmer]t we do not seernto irave at the presenttirne. I arl.lstill hopeful
to see that political views held by wornen of coror are often misco'- that the \volnen of color itt our country rn'illbe the link to Third World
strued as being personal rather than ideological.views critical of the women thoughout the rt,orld,and that we can help eachother broaden
systemheld by a persor in an "out group" are often seenas expressions our visions.
of personal angers against the dominant society. (If they hate it so
much here, why don't they go back?)Many lesbiansI knou,have felt
the same kind of frustration when they supported unpopular causes
regardedby their critics as vindictive expressionsto ,,getback,,at the
patriarchical system. They too know the disappointments of havi.g,
their intentions misinterpreted.
In the 1960'swhen my farnily and I belonged to a neighborhood
church, I becameactive in prontoting the Fair Housing Bill, and o'e oi
my church friends said to me, "Why are you cloingthis to us? Haven't

Nolcs ttntl Ollrcr Rretnsbv N'litsu,veYar.nacla(San Francisco: ShanrelessHussr.
P r ts s l 1 q 7 6 .

Only for the sake of
Millicent, do You
Millicent Fredericks tall from the ink
Gabrielle Do.niels in the PuPils You sought
dark and wide
Millicent Fredericksis part of my anthology of forgotton Thirql taking You irr like the letters
World women celebratedin poetry, A WomanLeft Behind.Sheu'as vou would have Performed
rnemories' chalk dust
Anais Nin's housemaid,and the quotesabout her and on black peo- lJ-r.f't"A indeiibly on slated
gold on Your fingers A teacher'
ple in general are the original ones from Anais' Diary.
Millicent has been on my mind sinceI first read the Diaries rt,hile From A to B
g e t t i n gm y B . A . ( I a m g o i n g f o r m y M a s t e r sn o w ) . O n e d a y i t j u s t from Antigua to Harlem
poured out. I haven't been able to find a publisi'rerfor her, because is no giant steP Brown sYruP
some people will not touch it. Too much for them to take, I guess. from the cane stills of home
Too damn bad. All our saints have a few taints of sin. . . stick like skin
shanty girls
Millicent Frederickswas a black wornan from Antigua, who rnar- udh"r", to the sharpenedribs of
husband from responsibiiity
ried an American black man and had four children. He had a tradc ."""i"g careiesslike your
as a tailor that he refusedto irlplement after a while. Miliicent rvas catcheswhite heat rubbing shoulders
and rt'indows
an alien, therefore she could not teach schoolas she had in Antisua. o" tn" Nelv York trolley, the floors
The only way out was housework. As far as I know she remained from your rnaid'sfingers
sucking the strength
the sole support of her family. As noted in the Diaries of Anais Niu the same tar s'uveetnesson
your teats dribbling
o n e s o n w a s s h o t u p i n a g a n gw a r . io yorlt smacking children the same curse'
Here were two women, one black and one white, both educated
a n d s i l e n c e d i n t h e i r o w n \ ^ / a y s ,y e t c o u l d n o t h e l p e a c h o t h e r Beyond introductions
becauseof race and classdifferences. the thread of your lives intersected'
Anais could not get beyond the fact of Millicent's blacknessand .u., fro- the tangled nest in the sewing
poverty and suffering. The stenchof the padronajust reeks about her. The spools dared equality' TWo a-lie1s
"I would like to write the life of Miilicent. But saints'livesare dif- two mothers well met, living on little thanks'
f i c u l t t o d o . . . A N e g r o i s a c o n c e p t .. . M i l l i c e n t p e r h a p s . T h e p i n m o n e y f e e b l Ys P r e a do u t
becomesa symbol of what they have to endure. . . the very first for Dad and his drink, Patchen
day she came to me sent by -y mother and she sat sewing, the a pair of shoesfor the youngest tle pr:s:
thread rolled to the floor and I picked it up for her. . . This ges- English
Pressure.Glimpses ln ine tilt of clipped
I ture establishedthe quality of our relationship. . . I would like to
devote my life to the recognition of the Negro'sequality, brrt I
from both sidesof the ocean:
I always feel ineffectualin political battles. . . one can only win b-v Harlen-rclubs, black street gangscutting
force or trickery. . . she has fine features, which a Gauguin a son, the broken families and the literati
would have enjoyedpainting. . . " - from the Diary of Anais Nin. dining on themselves
The riending to be done, the mending of
of the mind
the hunger t<nitin the growling guts
Publish, Publish our crres'

You the ministrant

above the small r,r'hitefact
which was but one seam

( ; , t h n ', , ,
D t,
pinchcd in emergency in the creeping
is your last consciousscene. , -Bttt I Know You,
No curtain c-allsin the proceeclins
in the wake of her saving ,love
to Califo.,r,a
American Woman"
you colttlnue nrlit Moschkovich
to.runtmage through days_oldbread,
t r i c k l e d o w n s h o p s .T h e k i l l i n g r o u t i n e I am Latina Jewish and an imrnigrant (all at once). When I tell
she admired of you, and becatise people lt'ho I am, I usually see a puzzled look on their face. I arn
e s c a p e dt o w r i t e , t o c a b l e H e n r v
of you Iikely to tell them, "l realize that you are a little confused by rne -
hou.'I can be both Jewish and Latin American at the sarnetirne -
ever the iast sum. ,,Tl.re lvriter,,,she said, but just take my word for it. It is possiblel"
"must be serr.edar.rcltaken
c;lre of,,, The following letter was originallytlvritten in responseto a letter
lessenirrgthe time
which appearedin a women's ne\ rspaperwith nationaldistribution.
you could afford for breath
This letter reflected the blatant ignorance n-rostAnglo-Arrerican
to clean your own home for Sunday women have of Latir-rcultures. My response is directed to all
Perhaps to clustoff your teacher,s women of the dominant American culture.* The Anglo n'ornan's
diplorna letter representsspoken and r.rnspokenvielvs and ieelings that I
with more care.
have repeatedlv encounteredin n.ranyAnglo-American worrlen.
N o i s l a n d e r ,d c s p i t c h e r pralse
My irnmediate reaction to reading the letter rt as: don't speak abclut
Gauguin coulcl not have tracecl
someone/son-rethir-rg unless )'ou can admit .vour ignorance on tl.re
the furrows in your face,
subject.Or, "you don't know rne, but I know you, An-rericanwomen". I
t h e b u r i e d s e e c l sw a i t i r r gi n v a i n
believe that lack of knon'ledgeabout other cultures is one of the base-s
for spotligirt to flolver for cultural oppression.I do not hold any individual Ar-nericanwornan
a smile,Madonna,smile please.
.. responsiblefor the roots of this igr.rorar.rce about other cultures; it is
In your uniforr.n encouragedand supported by the American educationaland political
you were iike everyonc oi tire system,and by the Americar.rmedia. I do hold every woman respon-
at war to survive sibie for the transformtttionof this ignorance.
a r - r dt h e n l i k e n o o t h e r . I h a v e In her letter, the Ar-rqlort'oman seemsto ask for inforrnation about
from suchself-denial, Latin culture.** She wants to knor,r,nhat lve want as [,atin people,
martyrs and saints are nrade what rve are strugglinsfor, etc. First of all, it is harclfor me to respond
or forgotten. to even a sirnple request for more information about Latin cultures
without experiencingstrongand conflicting feelings.We'veall hearclit
before: it rsnot the dutyof the oppressedto eductttethe oppressor.And yet,
I often do feel pressr.rredto become an instructor, not t'trerely a
"resourceperson".I don't usually hear "Hey, what do you think of the
w o r k o f s u c h a n d s u c h L a t i n A m e r i c a n f e m i n i s t a u t h o r " ,b u t r a t h c - r ,

I s a y A m r l i c a n c u l t u r c ' l o b , , ' l , r r r s l cv l r rn o t i n c l u d c A f r o A n r c r i c i : n N a t r v c
A m e r i c a n A s i a n A n r c r i c a n C h i c a n a ,e t c . I a n ) s p e a k i n go i t h c ; 1 i l L : kcr u l t u r . ' u l r i c l r
d o m i n a t e sA n t e r i c a n s o c i e tv .
* *!Vhcn 'Latin
l s:r1 nr - r l t u r . ' sn ' h i c h l r a r ' . ' i th i s t r r r ro f
c u l t u r r . I n r c a n l , a t i r rA n r c - r i c : r e
o p p r e s s i o nd i f f e r e n t f r o r n t h e E u f t r p e a n L a t i n c u l t u r e s 1 L ' r e n c hl t a l i a n c t c . l
80 luili[ lfut.schlr.trr,,
t, M'tscltktt'rch

some of the un-informed state-

"Teach me everything you know". Latin American women rvritc I want to illustrate more specifically
*o'tu'l'' letter'-The fascist government of
books, lnusic etc. A great deal of informatior-tabout Latin Arnerican is m"nts macle in the Angio
people'ssole nation of
readily available in most libraries and bookstores. I say: read and s"li,-, *,ni.h she refersio (and suggestsas Latin
lisleri.We may, then, have sornethingto share. ;:;i;;t"l ,uu, n',ud" possible by ample econornic and poiiticai
othei fascistgovernments in the world
Second,it is very hard to respond to a requestfor information n'he1 from the U.S., as are multiple are not
particularly in the Third World' When people
it follows paragraph after paragraph that belittles and insults Latin ;;;;
""* their government' there is a real differ
culture. Anyone that was raised and educated in this country Iras a democraticallyrepresentedby
very good chanceof being ignorant about other cultures,whether thc,,' U"r*'""rt tn" policies of that governtnent and the country's
of the spanish
be minority cultures in tl'riscountry or those of other countries. It's a .ponle/culture. lf one knows about the bitter struggle
sort of cultural isolationism, a way of life enforced on the people rn rascism
ilI'ni; ugai,'st during th"sqlT.:!-91::1.,Y.",r^".?,:,0,1X'"*
I do not
this country so as to let thern have a free consciencewith respectto one wottld never equateSpanishwith fascist'
how they deal with the rest of the world or r,r'ith subcr.rlturesirr ;;;;i" "Arriericar-r" u'ith imperialist/racist'but I do equate American
ignorance about "non-dominant"
America. Notice the lack of emphasison learningother languages,ar.rd p"opf" wl:ro do nol transfornl their
with imperialism and
the lack of knowledge even about w.hereother countries are locatecl. culturesal'rdtheir retatiorrshipto thesecuitures'
Often, I am asked questionslike, "Is Argentina in Europe or Africa?"or racistn.
and SottthAnrericaare
"Don't yor.rspeak Portuguesedown there?" Hov" can one feel guilt As to the "historical"accidentthat both North
c u l t u r e ' I d o n ' tc a l l t h e a p p r o -
about screwing over someone/some country she knows nothin.g n o t d o m i n a t e db y L a t i n ( i e r - r o n - A n g l o )
lan.l a' accideni, but atr i''rperialist/expansionist
about? t;;;;";;,;" oi Mexiia'
of Native,
Think of it in terms of rnen'sand women's cultures: \,vomenlive in u,.,t."a states. Latin America is a mixture
male systetns,know male rules, speak male languager.r,henaround BlackSpanishandSometimesotl-rerEurol-leancultures,butitdorrti.
economic systems
rrten,etc. But what do men really know about wonren? Only scrervecl natedbyArnerican rrtassculture as Latin American
interests (this applies to most Latin Amer'
up myths concoctedto perpetuatethe power imbalance.It is the sante are dominated by American
Latin Arnerica' in addition to our own cul-
situation when it conresto donrinant and non-dorninant or colonizing ican countries, riot all) In
listen to American
and colonized cultures/countriesipeople.As a bilingual/bicultural tural expressions,we watch Arnerican T V' shows'
American jeans we can aiford them}; in
woman whose native culture is not American, I live in an American music ou the radio, rt'ear {ii
profitable to Ameri
system, abide by American rules of conduct, speak English u'hen other rvords, we do anything that is economically
ho* ofien do you hear sougs in Spanish on the
a r o u n d E n g l i s hs p e a k e r se, t c . ,o n l y t o b e c o n f r o n t e dl r , i t h u t t e r i g n o r - .u. ln .o,'trparisot-t,
ance or concoctedmyths and stereotypesabout my o\vn culture. radio in the U.S. or seea Spar-rish oho* ot-tT'V ? l'm not talking about
I'nr talking about
My Latin culture meansmany thir-rgsto rne: the food I like to eat, tl're radio or T.V. shorvsby and for the Latin community;
music I love, the books I read, the languageI speak,the land and trees mainstreatttAnrcricatt media'
did it-r fact
I remember in anotl-rercountry, the jokes I tell, how I am used to No one u,ill del-ry that the Spanish conquistadores.
the latter are still
kissingand hugging peopler,r'henI greet them, etc., etc., etc . . . I coulcl conquer tl.reilative p"opt" of Latin America' and that
to know that the
go on forever. It also means the things I'd like to change in Latin bein! opprerr"d th".". It is important' hou'ever'
not sorne t19"".
culture and I'n'rnot speakingof changingmen, but of changings)sle/i7s Latiri ArrTericanpeopie residing in tl're U'S' are
of oppression.As a result of these changesI do not foreseea cultr.rre- "spanish"conquerorrace,butareamulti'racial/culturalpeopleot
culture is
lessvacuurn because"all cultures are baclso I don't want any of thenr.' Native, Black ar-rdEuropeatr backgror'rnd'Latin American
has retained
T h a t c u l t u r e- l e s sv a c u u m p r o p o s e dw o u l d a c t u a l l l ' b e t h e A m e r i c a n quite ciifferent fronl An.qloc''rlturein that each country
literature' etc'
culture of French Fries ar-rdHarnburgers {or soyburgers),American and integrated the il-rdiglnouscultures in food' rnusic'
Indian folk
m u s i c o n t h e r a d i o ( e v e ni f i t ' sA m e r i c a n w o n t c n ' sn r u s i co n a i e m i n i s t For e"an"rplethe folk niusic oi Argentina is Iargely Native
radio show), not kissing and hugging every time you greet someone, music, played on traditior-rala''td European instrutnet-rts'
and/or indigenotts
etc. And it would ultinrately still be tl.recr.rltureof exploitation of other abor.tttraditional ther-nes,using lyrics in Spanish
countries/culturescombined with isnorance about then-r. l a n g u a g e sI I. r t h e U . S .1 " u d o " ' i o f i t ' n t h i n k o f N a t i v cA n t t ' r i c a n
as "An-rericanfolk music."
g2 8:l
Judit t\I().\..hh(),.tth
I'm sick and tired of continually hearing-about the destrucliy. in food, your basic style of relating to
^nout to change your taste
aspectsof Latin American culture, especially.frontwomen u,ho d'n,t 4 w"",- -^r the wav vou talk.
k r - r o wt h e c u l t u r e a n d c a n o n l y r e p e a t w e l l - k n o w n a n d w o r l - o u 1 o"f:jil;;; -u"," j"opl" say "lmnrigrants to this cor.rntryshould learr.t
n-ryths.Let Latina women tell you what's going.on, the good and the and stop tr:ying to keep their or,r'nculture'
r., n-"ii.u",
bad. I've lived there and I dan-rnwell know what it's like. Listen
to ",lJ,iJ
I would do if I rvent to another country!" I say Bullshit!
what I have to say about rny culture, rather than believe.hearsav
inrmigrant,or a bicultr.rrai/bilinguaiperson is something
I lra'

myths or racist stereotvpes. No one ever talks about "terminaliv ilJ, ,ro *
be understoodonly when experienced. would
depressedScandinavians,"or the cut-throat competition instilled bv iliiri .u" sometimes
to another country and not hold dear her
Anrerica. culture, or the lack of warrnth and physical coutactin Angk-r Arn"ri.un Y9,T,^" move
placesantl people?Would she not remember
culture. These are all destructive aspectsof Anglo culture, and tli"y il"mo.i", of childhood
specialsong or food that she l-rasllo accessto in her
c a n n o th e i g n o r e d . *itt, tonglngsome
And $'ould she t-rotfeel her cot.ntnunicationlinrited' no
The r.rnspokenquestion always seemsto be: "Aren't Latin ior Blacr ""*.o""n,ry? her secol'rdiarlguage,becausesome VL-rv
etc.) rnerr more ntacho and n'omen ll1oreoppressedin that culture?"N{y nrur,", how well slte learr.red
i."p, things can onlv be expressedin one'snative tongue?
answers to that are: 1) It is absurd to compare sexist oppression. "_.,ional in her trewlv adopted languagc?
6r l'.rfa she speak to her parents
Oppressionis oppressionin whatever fornt or intensitl.. 2j Sexistand I cat say the American wott)itn wonld
iro- -y persoi-ralexperience
heterosexistoppressionis more or Iessvisible dependingon holr.corn- It is l.ery hard to der.rylvho you are,_rt'here
a"p".i"^." all thesethings.
rnunicativepeople in a culture are. That Anglo culture is more Puritan from, anc'lholv 1ro' feel a.d express yourself (in the deepcst
and less visibly expressivedoes not mean it is less sexist. 31\lost of "o-" sense)u'ithout ending up hating vourself
Latin Arnerica is a land e-conomicallycolonized by the Ll.S. and as whet]
In conclusion I hope this letter expressesmy frustration.
such can't be compared r'r'itha colonizing culture (the U.S.). \\rcrrtrcn's oi developring a tle\\' fertlinist or
Anglo-American rvomen speak
condition in Latin America lvould be rnucir better were thev not living rvorking a'ci thinking witl-rirlan A'glo-
*oio".r,, culture, they are stili
in colonizedcountries. 4) Most irtrportantly, are we as fentinistscon- as
Americancuitural frame$,ork. This ne$,culture would still be iust
cerned lr,ith rnen or with women? There is always a wolnelt's cnlture patriarchal American cttltttre l have often
racistand ethnocentricas
u'ithin ev'ery culture. Whf is everyone so rvilling to accept tl'rcverl'
confrontedthe attitude that anything that is "diifere|rt"is urale.There-
rnalc vieu' of Latin American culture as consistir.rg simpll' of rracho fore if I hold on to rnv Latin culture I an-rholding on to hatefnl patri
rnalesar"rdCatholic priests?There are scoresof strongwomen living in archalcontructs. Illeanrvhile, the Anglo $'ornan lvho deals rvitl'rthe
Latin Anrerica today ancl our history is full of fan'rousand lessc'r world in her Anglo u,a_v,rviti-rirer Anglo culture, is being "perfectly
knor,n'nstrong wornen. Are they to be ignored as \vofilen have alu'ays feminist."
been ignored? I wouid iike us sorneda-vto get past the point of l'ravingto explairt
Cr-rltureis not really sornethingI have a choicein keepingor discartl- anddefend our dif ierent crrltr.rres {asI am cloingin this letterl. For_tlrat
i n g . I t i s i n m e a n d o f m e . W i t h o u t i t I w o u l d b e a n e r n p t ys h e l la n r ls o to happen the process of learni'rg about otl'rer crtltttres lllust be a
lvould anyone else. There rt,asa psychoiogy experiment carriec'lottt sharin[ experienc.'.An experienceu'here Arnericalr \von]en learti otr
ouce in lr,hich sonreoneu,as hypnotized and first told thev had rtcl their own without ',vantiilg to be spoorl ied bv Latinas' but clon't
futurc; the subject becatnehuppy and carelessas a child. \\Iht.trthe)' becOmeexpertsafter one book, one conversatiot.t, or one stereotype.It
rvere told they had no past they becarnecatatonic is a delicaie balarrceu,hich can ottlv be archievedr'vith caring ancl
Anglo people shcluldrealizewhe n 1'or-r say \\'e should discarrlall ctri- respectfor each other.
tures anclstart aneu, that 1'ouare speakingEnglish r.r'illall its erlrrtitrll-
al ar.rdconceptual advantagesancl disadvatrtug"r.* Youre not rc'rrll)' 'As
a Latina and a. i.t.tigra.t I ca:t'rcrt ig.ort- t6c fact tSat Itlatlt'Hispillltcs lravt'
been in this ill tltt
cDuntr\ i,rr nloie gt'llcratiolls tllilll Allglos The I{ispanic cr'tltttrcs
West and
' L c t I n e i l i u s t r a t es o n r et l i f f e r c n c e si n
l a l t g u a { c . E : t g , l i s ht - x p t r s i t o r vr l r i t i r . r gg , , l : i t r . . l Southwcsi *cre est:rblishcd lo'g lrefort- thcir Iancl *'as colollizt-r] [r1'Atlgkrs
the Hispanic l r e r i l ; r ' 1 .;', s i t t t r ' . \ l t : 1 ,' , t r " l
s t r a i q h t l i n t i s o u n d f a n r t l i a r ? )f r o n t i n t r o c h r c t o r , vp a r a g r a p l t ,t o t l . r e s i s e t ) t c ' n - t 't ( ) ! f " O"orl. I,n,,, it\ lrt.. l) r i,:ht i,, tlr, ir iirllur.rl
s i , , r r r rm i r i c l i k e : i z i u - z a g s o n r e t i r r r c t. lsc r i r r t i t t S
c l u s i r t r . S l r a t i i s hc o r n l ) ( ) s i t i o nf o l k r r , r ' a sincether' \\(r( l)(r, Iir\t'
f r r r n s t r a i g h t l i n r a r t h i n k r n u .I a n t i i g h t i n r .a q a i n s t h i s r r h e n I u r i t t -i n F , n . t l i ssi t, ' I c i t t '
b e u t t d e r s t o o c[l: r vE n c l i s l t r e a r i c r s .
Jutltt i\Ioschh,r,f,i The Pathology of Racisrn:
Everything I have written about ^ere has
e x p e r i e n c ea s a n i m m i g r a n tt o . t h i sc o u . t r y
been from my perso^a1 A Conversationwith
means an expert, but theseare issuesI constantiy
a s a t e e r ) a g e rr., r ' r r r . r r n
aeat i,itfr in nrrlscli
Third World Wimmin
a n d w i t h o t h e r s .I d o n o t s p e a kf o r a l l L a t i n a s ,
Americar women. I would like to acknowledg"
6. f"r rfi,r",r_O"_," doris dawnPort
i;" ;,;;";;":ru
feedback I received from my frierds A f e w y e a r sa g o i n N e w H a v e n , I t r i e d t o r e l a t et o f e n ' r i n i s m t h r o u g h
throughoul tir" *,.itiig or'ih.
original letter' They were all Angro-American I was politely in-
wornen iat the tir.c a local womon,s center (locatedin a Yale baseDrent).
there were r.roLatinas around me1; and In other words,
they cared enougl.rto get formed that I should "organize"with Biack wirnmin.
beyond their guilt and/or ignorance. get out. I wanted to start several projects that would include rnore
ihird world r,r,irnmin,btrt I rtas told to talk to black rt'imn-rin
I w as in-
t h a t . I n s h o r t , r v h i t e o n h ' . T h e n , t h e s o c i a l i s ts t u d y g r o u p
join. And
terestedin l,r,asstrddenl-vclosedjust at the time I $'arrtedto
u p ' t t rvas
o n c e ,i n a w i n l n l i n ' s g r o u p r t ' h e n a d i s c u s s i o rol f m e n c a m e
rnen' which
revealed that half the r,vhitelr'imnlin there feared black
included rne (from tl.reway they glared at rne) ln other words:
go home.
Last year in Los Angeles,after volunteeringto work for a local white
feminist t.t-ragazine, repeatedly offering my sen'ices and having my
ideas and poems rejected, I ',n'asfinaliy called to be one of the few
token black u,immin at a reception for Ntozake Sl.rar]ge. And the beat,
like the soltg Sa_VS, goes ot). From coast to coast, tl-re fernir-rist lllove-
ment is racist, but that r]ews is old and staleb,v now. lt is increasirlgl-v
apparent that the problern is lvhite u'immit.t
We, third $,orld winlrnin, alu'ays discussthis fact (Frankly' I'm a
tie tirecl of it). Hort'ever' \{e usually discuss the varied' yet similar
manifestationsof racisr.r.r, without going into urhy'$rhils wimmin are
In this article, r,r,hicl.r I conceive of as a conversation with third
worlcl rvirnmin, I lvant to explore tl-re\\'hys. I don't seethe point o[ fur-
ther cataloguingn],v personal grievancesagail'rstwhite racist fetr.rill-
ists.You kno$,. whatever you have experietlced,I have too Extrapc'r-
late a little. I think that one of our lirnitationsin dealing $'ith this issr're
is that r,r,estay on the surface.we challenges,vrnptomsof the disease
while neglectingthe causes.I intend to examitre the cattses.
If I ,,n,ere a white feminist and somebodycaileclnle a racist' I'd prob-
a b l v f e e l i n s u l t e d( e s p e c i a l l i, fv I k n e w i t w a s a t l e a s tp a r t i a l l yt r u e ) .I t ' s
like saving ,o-"or]" has a slimey and incurable clisease.Naturally I
wouid be reactionar,vand rakc out r-n,v)reaithclepartmentlliberalcre-
dentials, to prove I lvas clean. But the fact is, the word "racisnl"is totr
simplistic, too ger-reral, and too easy.You can use the lvord and not say
thaf rnuch, .ttti"r, the term is explained or clarified Once that hap-
86 a / o ) - 1 (r / r t i { , l l , , , , clofi.sdtl|t'll|.r

a brief but necessarydigression'black

perls,racisn.rlooks nlore like a psychologicalproblem lor pathological On the other hand, and as winlnrin.
a b b e r r a t i o n )t h a n a n i s s u eo f s k i n c o l o r . wimlnin don,tal,.t,a,vs tell the lvhole trut}r about and to r,n'}rite
we have at least three distir-rct areas of
tsy way of brief clarification, \vc experience white ferninists alcl We knort', fo, e*atnple. that
r'n'hichaffect how we perceive and'deal
t l ' r e i ro r g a n i z a t i o n a
s s e l i t i s t ,c r u d e l y i n s e n s i t i v ea, n d c o n d e s c e n d i r r r s . aversiotl to rvl.rite*"'tntin
Most of the fen'rinist groulls in this cout'rtry are exantples of this w i t h t h e n r : a e s t h e t i c ' . . . i t . , , u l , a r r d s o c i a l / p o l i t i c a l . AThat
e s t his'
e ttheir
e l i t i s u t .i T h i s a n t h o l o ! ! ,cva m c t o b e a s a r e s u l to f t h a t . )I t i s a l s oa p p . r r - we frequer)tl,vfind rvhite r'r'irnrninrepulsive
iiyri.rffyf to sorne.people)'Their hair' stringy
ent that n'hite fenrinists still lterceive us as the "Other," based on a skin colors are u.aestheiic iugty
tneir bodies: rather like n-rissl-rapen
n'renialor sexualirnage:as ntore sensual,br"rtlesscerebral;more intcr- and straight, is unattractive]
dough somebody forgot to rnold irr-
c s t i n g ,p c r h a p s , b u t l e s s i n t e l l e c t u a l ;a n d m o r e o p p r e s s e d ,b u t l e s s lumps of rvhitish tt'u ot .that
they have a strangebody odor'
p o l i t i c a l t h a n t h e y a r c . { I f y o u n e e d s p e c i f i ce x a n t p l e so f t h i s , t h i n k .".,iirt-ur"us. Furthermore'
and bigoted' They cau't,dance'
about your orvl experiencesr'r'ithtl.rer.n.l Culturallv' \\Ie see tl-t"t.'-t liririted u'
llndanceable too and un-pleasant' Plus'
When we atter.rda rneetins or gatheringof tlieirs, \ve are seenir-rtnlr' Their I.nusict,
",,"'-"iu1lv r11or rt'hite american cr'rltttrelt'itl.t
r.rneof tu,o lirnited or opprcssivc \ravs: as being rn"'hite-rvasl-red anrl they are totallv ,utt"ui"a'l'-' weste
t h e r c { o r es h a r i n ga l l t h e i r v a l u e s ,p l i o r i t i e s ,a n d g o a l s ,e t c . ; o r , i i u c l i t t l e k r l o r v l e d g e o r , " ' p " . t f o r t i r e c t r l t r r r e s o f t h i r d of
food wliite {olks
(That is r'rtrless thev lrrtlnd to exploit it') The bland
l c v e ua c ei e l e r r t a l)l lr n c n t i u rst o r n e t l r i npga r t i c u l a rt o t h c e x p t ' r i r r ) r ' ( " , r is too lort' keyed to even be a
blar:k ',virnmin, r,l.eare seenas threatening,hostile, and subvcrsi,,,eto is legerrdarr-.What thel' call puityi"g
utl iight atouttd the casketof a dead
tlrcirinlercstsS . o l t h e n I s a y r a c i s t t ] r c s ca r e s o n r eo f t h c t l r i r r . gI' wake. iA wake is *'n"" 1'ott'li ttp
mean.I know this, and so do nranvu'hite ferninistsB . e c a u s eo f t h r i l person.A \ n d i t q o e s 6 n 6 lo t r '
and tasteless'Politically
o n e - d i m e n s i o n aal n d b i g o t e di d e a s ,u , e a r e n o t r e s p e c t e da s f e n r i n i s t s Socially,t"t-,it" p"oil" '""r" 'utn"tiuveniie
naive ancl rnvopic Then too' it has
or u,immin. Tl.reirperverse perceptionsof black rvimmin nrean that they are, especialll'tire ferninists'
to believe tirat whites rvill tran-
t h e , vc o n t i n u e t o s e e u s a s " i n f e r i o r "t o t h e r n , a n d t h e r e f o r e ,t l e a t u s ,'t*"r:; 0"";t hard'ior us iblack foikl
accorclingl_v. Instead of alleviating the problems of black u.imnrin scerrdcolorto','urepoliticalailiancesrvitlrtrs,foranyreason.{Tlre
they add to theur. womell's t.tlovet.tlent illustrates this point )
becausewe saw through the
Although black and rvhite fenrinists can sorletirnes lvork togeiher We have these aversionsfor one thing'
that white wirnmitl were
for a cornmon goal with warr.ntl"rand support, and even love anrl "myth" o{ the rt'hite \{omon' The rnyth lt'as
most powerful {control-
r e s p e c t c a c h o t h e r o c c a s i o n a l l y ,u n d e r n e a t h t h e r e i s s t i l l a n o t h r r - the rnost en'ied, ,r.ia J"rir"a iand beautiful),
The truth is that black people
rressasc.Tl-ratis that lvhite ferninists,Iike u'hite boys and black bovs iirrg u'hite bo,vsl'.r'rrnJin in existence'
enviable' ugliest' most des-
are threateneciby us. Moreover, rvhite fen.rinistshave a seriousprolr- saw n,hite rvitntnit-tas some of the least
our "closeencounters
lenr r,r'ithtrutl.r ar.rd"accountability"about horv/rvl-rythey perccir-t pised ar-rdIeastrespectedpeople' period',From
"dourestic" *'otf etc')rvith thern' white peopleincreas-
black rvirnnrin as they clo. ii.e.,siavery, ""' people' In short' I gren'ttp
Fol cxan.rple, in a long, ar.rd long-winded article, "Disloy'al ti, i"gff aia seern like beastsor subnorural
folk, especiallywinr-
Civilization, Ferninism, Racisn'r,and Gvnepl-robia"*Adrienr.reRich r,r,itha certain f.i",f oit"o*ledge that alltlack
attenrpteclto acldressan issuesir.nilarto this one. Insteadshe did u'hart min, had accessto
s h e a c c u s e do t h e r f e n . r i r . r i sot fs d o i n g , s h e " i n t e l l e c t u a l i z e tdh e i s s u c . This knorn'ledge led to a r-nixture of .contempt ::fYl:l::^"t
S h e e v a d e di t , a f t e r a p o l o g e t i c a l l y( o r p r o u d l v , i t ' s h a r d t o t e l l l s a f i n g n" tt,i i"i. iri", "l"" ulack {eminisl' h,u":.',1T.:.
::.:* :^:"-:t:l::
?"i,T"J'.:il;;,tt t""p in"'' hidden(atIeastfromwhiten'T^l]Tll]:
t h a t " t h c r l o s t t i n c o n d i t i o n a l t, e n d e r . . . i n t e l l i g e n tl o v e I r e c e i v e du ' a s
.lr;J"'#."'J;{";;,il * i'i l.,Y"'d' t::*
g i v e nn t e b y a b l a c k w o n r a n . "{ T f a n s l a t e ds, l r eh a t l a b } a c kr ) r a r ) ) r n ) ' ai ts ?,::lT.:.?
i:"i,: ::
c h i l d . )T h c n , s h e h i d b e h i n d a c l u a s i - l ' r i s t o r i caapl p r o a c ht h a t d e f u s c - t l
t h e s u b i c c t .A i t e r a b o u t f i f t e c n p a g e s ,s h e g o t c i o s e ,b u t a p p a r e n t l y
;;;"T;:i;;";';; - t opp'i""a'
Fr ind rronicatlt :il:
t(lr us to relate to white
a l s og o t s c a r e d ,a n d b a c k e do f f . I t s e e r . nssh e f o u n d i t i r a r d ,a f t e r a l l , t r r perception has sonletimes beeu enough
t c l l t h c t r u t h a r - r db e " a c c o u n t a b l e . " i e m i n i s t sa s s i s t e r s . r --:-:^,.
that some white feminists
If sotneof tts catr do this, it rt'ould seem
of being priviieged' power-
.Acirictrrr-' Rich Ol l i . ' . r . S e r ' t . r ,a/ .l sr l S t l . , l i ' , ' i \ t ' r r ' \ ' o r k : N o r t r r r r i9791 p. !) could too. Insteacl, they cling to their nryth
gg d,rri.s.1or.,ri,,,,, iorisdavenPt'rt
oi politi
group' they exhibit a strangekind
ful, and less oppressed {or equaily oppressed, lr,'hichever it 1, asa reactionary.oppressed are the only safe or valid
wh"i" *'ttit" wimmin
fashionableor convenientto be at the time) than black wirnn-rin.\\'Iyr cal bonding or.elltlsm' Clearly' this stateof mind
are threatening
Becausethat is all they have. That is, they have defined, or re-definccl peopleto be wltn;-atrothers frorn their great
u'-tdth" reasonsfor it sten-r
themselvesand they don't intend to let anything or anybody intericrc is a political dead end,
Somewhere deep down (denied and almost killed) in the psyche ,11 confusion' racism
to the conversation'The causeof
racist white feminists there is some perception of their real positiop: So this is rny contrtbution (and suppression)' This' I
bizarre oppression
powerless,spineless,and invisible. Rather than examine it, they ru1 in white f eministsis their pathological condition
the surface' This
from it. Rather than seek solidarity with wintmin of color, the,vpr.rll contend, is what fi"' U"'-'*tn to
haveto ua'''-'itand deal with' and what we should start
rank within themselves.Rather than attempt to ur.rderstandour cul- is what they their economic freedom
often we discuss
tural and spirituai differences, they insist on their own lin-ritedanci consider and act ol1' Too dwell at length on
other u'p"tt' of Iife' We son-retimes
narrow views. In other words, they act out as both "white suprent- while ignoring in a rnisogynist
'f-t"y are still
acists"and as a reactionary oppressedgroup. their color, fotg"ttitg ittui ,wimmin
a result'
As white supremacists,they still try to maintain the belief that rvhitc. ;;];t". They hlve been seriously mutated
nutto*"tinded rigidity are'defer-rse
is right, and "godly" (sic).No matter how desperatelythey trv to over, In other words, their elitism ut-'d "alternatives'for
prt, is why they create
come it, soorler or later it comes out. They really harre a l.rardtinrc mechanisms and tha;, -
signs saying white women only'
admitting that white skin does not insure a monopoly on the best in thetnselvesand put ttf p'ytnoiogical
6f living with do-gsand
life, period. part of the reasoni, fJa. u, u ."r1tt of cer-,turies
are threatened by anyone different
Sucha "superioritycomplex"is obvior.rslya result of compensation.I having no identitres Nt;' they lt's partly a
mannerlsms' or clothing'
mean, if whites really knew themselvesto be superior, racisrncoukl from them in race, politics'
does not excuseit' Feminisrn eitl"rer
not exist. They couldn't be threatened, concerned,or bothered. I ant means of self-protection but that
it becomeseven more sojust another
saying that the "white supremacist" syndrome, especially in u'hit. addressesitself to alLr't'immin' or
its own q":p*:
feminists, is the result of a real irrferiority complex, or lack of seli- - pr.ttient r,vhiteorganization'defeating -
"iiilrt of the above' and to begin to end some
identity. Just as a nracho male useswimmin to define himself or to bc ;;; partial solution tJsome
r'vhitefeminists have about us' we (black
sure he exists, white feminists use wimmin of color to prove their of the colossalig'rorancethat 'c'r'" conversationsabout and
(dubiousl existencein the world. and rvhite fer-ninists)could engage of humor'
of honesty' and a-s-e-nse
Anyone familiar with the literature and psychologyof an oppresserl with each other. If dotte with u I"i'" \ rere
If overcoming our differences
or colonizedgroup krrows that as they initially attempt to redefinc *. -igf-r, acconlplisll sornething' usually is' we
made a priority, i"ti;;;i1;e bick-burner issuethat it
thernselves,they react. Their immediate rnental, spiritual, and ph1's-
ical environment is chaotic and confused.The fact is, white wir.nrnirr might resolve son'Ieoi our problems
witir white f eministsprevent me
are oppressed;they have beer-r"colonized"by white boys, just as thircl On the other hand, -y "xpetiences *"
a naive beginning
world people have. Even when white wimrnin "belonged"to u'l.rite from seeingdiaiogueu' u"ytttirtg but l]t:l""1tt
as alnlost
feminist nlovetnent
boys they had no reality. They belongedas objects,and were treatecl our trying to "break into" the white
philosophy of integrationand assin-riia-
as such. (As someone else has noted, the original model for coloniza- equivalent to th" oli,
""ia"t"i Jpptoutil We know we have no desire
tion was the treatment of white wimmin. ) Nobody has vet sufficientlv tion. It is time *'" ,t'op"plJini' con-
we know we have stlme valid
researched or documented the collective psychology of oppressecl to be white. On the ott-'etnarta' in fact' a'f ew of
overlook By lrou''
white wimmin. So consider this as a thesis:they know. And so do L cernsand gouf, tr-'ui*niie ferninists "established"
stagnantas iny other
The reality of their situation is the real pits. Lately, havir-rg
r,r'orkedf ree their organizationsare as rigid and
inclr'rded ln the by'laws'
of the nominal and/or personal control of r,t'hiteboys, rvhite winlnlil) institution' rt'itl.rracism
u'*'ell give up on the'l' except in rare arrdindi
are desperately reactionary. As a result, they identify lvith ancl So,sisters,,,u",-r',iittt
group rs deliberately a.d obviously
el"Icouragecertain short-sightedgoals and beliefs. Their infatuation vidual casesrvhere the person or
That is un-racist' We should
with the word "power" in the abstract is an exanrpleof this: porvel to rnore evolvea nt"."nri'u"J tfiti'["[1''
them mainly nleans external establishedpower or control. They have
i stop wasting our time o"d en"'gy' until
theservimnrin evolve' Mean-

minimai, if any, knowledge of personalpower. But most importantly,

II whi}e, \\,e can re-clranrrelou, energies
towarcl oursel.,,es.

w e c a n s t a r t t o d e v e l o pa f e m i n i s t m o v e ' r e . t b a s e do n t h e r e a l i t i r : s
and priorities of third *,orld wimmin. Racism w.ould have
to ba ;1
prioritl'. Misogyny is another major problern of third world
N o t o n l l ' t h a t , m a n y o f o u r c o m m u n i t i e sa r e m o r e h o n t o p h o b i c
n.inrnrin. We'reAll in the Same Boat
" l e s b o p h o b i c "t )h a n w h i t e r ' e s . A l s o , a l o t o f 1,,r
o u r s i s t e r sa r e s t r a l r h t
a n d h a v e n o i ' t e n t i o n o f c h a r u i n g . w e c a n n o ta f f o r d t o i g n o r c
and their necds, nor the neeclsof 'ra'r.thircl r.torld *,inrnii,r
thcrr November 1979
r^,.1r,, or,. I am not t,''hite.I L7tt7 ttotrniddleclass'
b o t h f e r n i . i s t s a ' d n a t i o . a l i s t s ;t h a t i s , c . r c e r n e d n i t h o u r and puertorica'. I was born i^to the working
se\. a.(1 i am white skir]'ed
a l s oo u r r a c e .F i . a l l y , a l o t o f t h i r d w o r r d * , i ' r m i n a r e i g n o r a r t I object to the label white &
eachotlier. we l.raveyet to'akc our own realitieskr-,o*,,]to ourser.'e
zib.111 classand rnarrieclinto the middle class.
include my u,orking classlife and
o r a n y o n e e l s e .S o w e r e a l l y d o h a ' e a l o t m o r e t o c o n c e n t r a t e
s aiaar" classboth becausethey don't
"rvhite& middie class"standsfor
.' -f f.r".aorl.anness,but also because
beside the pathology of v'hite rt,irr.rr.r'rir.r. or politics.l_get
what we need to do is cltar i.-a of politics. Color and c/assdon't deftnepeople
w i t h u s , f i r s t , t h e n m a y b e \ { e c a n d e v e i o pa w i r r r ' r i r . r 'm s ove'ert trrat "lngry *,ith those in the women's rnot,ententand out of it *'ho deal
is rnorc i.te.ratio.ral i. sc.pe a.ci u.i'e rsali'applicatio'. people
wiih'.lar, & color as if thel' defined politics and
I t i s t i m e w e s t o p p e dl e t t i n gt h e r e s to f t h i s o p p r e s s i v es o c i e t l '
t r i c t at t MyexperietlceintlrePuertoRiceirrcommunist&irrdependence
o u r b e h a v i o r ,d e v o u r o u r e r r e r g i e sa, n d c o . t r f i l u s , b o d y a r d Puerto Rican (&
s o u l .I t i s -o,r"In"r]t, has n'rademe suspiciousof and angry at
time we dealt with our own e'ergies, a'cr clur orvn revorutio.ar' have been s.'xistand sup-
other Latin American) actit,istlvomell. They
potential, like the constructive and porverfur forces
that the,v zrrc. ported the rnaclro line that we neededto fight against imperialism first -
when l'e rfuact on our po\\rerand potential, the-rel'ill be a r.eal \polnetl. I desperateiy want
fe'irr- onty late, couldwe think about women QS
i s t m o v e n r e n ti n t h i s c o u n t r v ,o n e t h a t u , i l l f i n a l l v i r c l u d e a l l rt'hile I fear tl're entry of
r,r,ir.lnri.. Laiina \\romen in tlie feminist movenlent
I fear they will plal' atl anti-
hispanic & often black u'onlen becartse
feminist role.
Racisrnis ar-ricleology.Everyone is capableof being racistwhatever
their color and co'diii,c'. Oniy some of us are liable to racist attack.
- - is
Understanding the racist ideology rvhere and holv it penetrates
"incltlding"\ romen
what is importnt for the feminist r.novement,not
o f c o l o ro r i a l k i . g a b o u t" i n c l u d i n g "r n e n . G u l 1 i
l s a f a c tf o r u s a l l , w h i t e
& colorcd: arr itlcntifit'atiorl u ' i t h t l ) c o p p r e s s orand opprcssivc
ideology.Let trs, instead, i d e n t i i r ' , u n d e r s t a n d , a nd feel with the
oppressedas a \\'ai- out of the morass of racism and guilt'
ir,r,ant to be lr,hole. I rvant to clainr n-ry self to bc puertorican, and
U . S .a m e r i c a n ,l v o r k i n g c l a s s & n i c l d l e c l a s s ,h o u s e w i f e a r - r i
d n t e llec-
tual, feminist,r'r'rarxist, a n d a n t i - i r n p e r i a l i s t I
. w a n t t o c l a i m m y rac-
isDr,especialh'that clirected at myself ' so I can struggle r"r"ith it' so I can
ur" ,'t't1; ellergv to Lrc- a wonlall, creative atltl revolutionarv'

April 1980
h h i s s o c i e t l ,t 6 i s i n c r e d i b l e* ' a 1 ' o f l i ' i n g d i v i d e s u s b y c l a s s- b y
color It sa_vs \{e are ir-rdividualat'Iclalone and don't yor-rforgct
it It says tlte o'l1,rvay or.rtof our cloon.r of ottr sL.xoLlr classour
r a c ei s s o i l e i n d i v i r i , . , ael i f t a n c ic h a r a c t e ra r - r dh a r d w o r k a n d t h e n a l l
92 Rrtsttr_io,\/r1y.r7". '[{or'lle-s
a class society defines people

".r*. "'"'I::::':.':lilmt::li:tt,',i'j,l,,.Y;*o,t:il'H'
we get all we ever get is to changeclassor color or sex to rise people do not define

bleach to masculinize an enormous game of musical chairs a^d
that'sonly at its fairy tale Horatio Alger best that'sonly at its best
socialists 111:"tt ^lassisrn that they 'arbor tl-rat surrotrnds
From all directions we get all the beliefs to go with thesedivisions sexlsm c
we believe all kinds of things about: what real men really are rvhat
them middle class
acts that way becauseshe's
women must want what biack people feel and smell like u'6at So stop saying that she its rvhite that
white people do and deserve how rich people earn their conrforts tu'-' from that gror'rpbecause
that that's all you "*f"tt
and cadillacs how poor people get what's con.ringto them it j u s t m e . r rq u i t .i t l
O we are all racist we are all sexist some of us only Sor.rte "We
Y t " knorv d]Ilerent things vefY mr'rch more unpleasant
of us 19m1 we
are the targets of racisrn of sexism of homophobia of class denigr.a- U""'-' *o^"'ipoor black or lesbian or all of those
things if r,n'e've what color wl-rat
orr rvhat sex
tion but we ail all breathe in racism with the dust in the streets know different ttrings";"p"iattg What schooling what
with the words we read and we struggle those of us vvho struggle where \ re grew tlp
lives we live steak or beans but what
we struggle endlessly endlessly to think and be and act differently beatings with or without ihoes
to be and c""::,--^ ,.-.
from all that ;;it,t.: eachof us is going ''t' fromlo.t:,l"toogv.t being sexist we've had to
Listen you and listen hard I carry within me a vicious anti-sen'rite Being fen-raleaoes"nt ulop
dress different
voice that says jew hirn down that says dirty jew SOlothink diff erent
that sar.s chooseearly or t^n ^i'Z't+'ii to picket to argue ro
tirings that stop rne dead in the street and make the blood leave mv act different to struggle to organize
own minds to change
face I have fought that voice for 45 years all the years that I lived to change our
changeother lvone'-'''fii'-"t' to change ancl
with and amongjews who are almost me whose rhythrns of speech our feelings ours yours.an{ mine,constantly
orl our minds ar-rd
the onslaught
and ways of laughing are closebeside me are dear to me lr,hose change and change io fight
sorrows reach deep inside me that voice that has tried to tell r-nethat bodies and feelings : ttnpot.tant
" our unity is that in the nost
that love and identification are unreal fake cannot be arrd I I; r;y;"g thatihe basis of perni-
all subjectedto the viole'nt
refuse it I refuse its rnessage way we are all i^ tf-'""'l-" [out must all struggle against
hate that we
I carry a shell a white and crisp voiced shell to hide rn1'brou'r.r ciousideaswe have ["t""a to
hints and how tos that onlv
golden soft spanish voiced inner self to pass to hide my puerto- them and exchange;;;;;;;;;s of
only sotne of us are victims
ricanness some of us are vtctin-isof sexisrn- us are
s of oppression but alr of
I carry a pole 18 ir.rcheslong to hold rne at the correct distancefrom racisn-r of the directed arrort
black-skinned people sexist racist all of rrs'
I carry hard n'retalamror with spikes with shooting weapons tn
every joint with fire breathing from every hole to protect me
to prepare rne to assaultany r.nanfrom 13 to 89
I am a lvhole circus by myself a whole dance conrparry r'r'ith
stanceand posture for being irr middle classhomes in upper class
buildings for talking to rnen for speakingwith blacks for care-
fully angling and directing for choreographing my way thru thc-
maze of classesof people and places thru the little boxes of sex
race class nationality sexualorientation intellectual stancl-
ing political preference the autornatic contortions the
exhaustingcamouflagewith which I go thru this social spacecalled


a daunting but oh so nicely covering narne this is no \vay to live
L i s t e n l i s t e n w i t h c a r e c l a s sa n d c o l o r a n d s e x d o n o t d e { i n e
ludre Lorc]r'

history at.rc'l n-rynrythic background distorted by the absenceof any

4q Open Letter to Mary Daly irnagesof rt'ryforemothers in power. Your inclusior-rof africatr genital
Audre Lorde rnutilation \\rasalt irnportant and trecessarypiece itr an1'consideratioti
of female ecology,and too little has been u,ritten about it. But to irn-
Dear Marv ply, horvever, that all r'r'otnensuffer the sarne oppression sirnply
Thank you for having Gyn/Ecotogysent becausewe are \\'omell, is to lose sight of the rnany varied tools of
to me. So nr,ch of it is fLrlr
inrport, trseful,generative,and provokirs. of patriarchv. It is to ignore how those tools are useclby \^iomeltr,vithout
As ir BeyondGotr TheFtrtrt,r
many of your analysesare strengthening , awarenessagair.rst eacl] other.
and heipiur to me. rt
it i'sbecauseof what you have give- to To dismiss our black foremothers rna_vlvell be to clisrnisswhere
rire in the past r,r,orkthat"."r,,r. I r'rrtc
this letter to you nou', hopi.g t-oshare e u r o p e a n\ \ ' o n r e r )l e a l r t e dt o l o v e . A s a n a [ r i c a r ) - a n r L ' l ' i c n a 'n, r r n a t ti t t
with yo. the be'efits of ,r' ir_
sights as you have shareclthe benefits white patriarchy, I anr used to having n-ry archctypal experience
of yours u,ith rne.
This letter has been delayedbecause d i s t o r t e da n d t r i r . i a l i z c db u t i t i s t e r r i b l l ' p a i n f r r l t o f e e l i t b e i n g d o n e
of _y g.urr" reluctanceto rcach
out to you, for lr,hat t by a u,oman rvhoseknorvledgeso rnuch matchesrrlv own. As worle n-
y"ll us to chew .,pon h"r" is neither *rr. ,r,,r.
si'rple' The history of white women identified \\'orrel), \\'e cannot afford to repeat lhese same olclciestmc-
*,ho ur" unabre to tr"u. trru.t
women's words, or to maintain dialogue ,uvitl.r tive, vvastefulerrors of recognitior-r.
us, is lonc ancl When I speak of kncxvledge,as vorl knor,t',I ar.nspeaking of that
discouragi.g. But for me to assurne
thaf you will not hear ,.',* ."1r_
resentsnot only history, but an old pattern dark and truc depth u'liich understar-rdingserves, lvaits upon, and
tf relating ,o_"ti,rr",
tective and sometimes dysfu.ctioriar, 1-r.n makes accessiblethrough laneuageto ourselvesand otl.rers.It is this
rvrrich *" uJ *o,-,",;;r';l;;r,,,ro
our future, are in the processof shattering. depth rn'ithin each of us that nurtures vision
I hope.
I b e l i e v ei n y o u r g o o c lf a i t h t o w a r d a l l Wlrat ,vou exchrded f rorn Gy,n/Ecology disrnissedmv heritage and
i r o n l e u , i n 1 . o u rr . i s i o r r , ,rri
future within which we can all flourish, and the heritage of ail other non-ellropean \^rolnen,and clenieclthe real
i. your commitrrcrt to
th: and often painful r.r,orknecessaryto connectior.rs that exist betu'een all of us.
.hr-.9 effect change. In tiris It is obvior,rs that ,vouhavedone a tremendousanrountof ',vorkfor this
sp.irit I i'vite you to a joint crarification
of ,o-" of the differerccs
which lie between us as a black and a book. But simpll' becauseso little n.raterialclnnon-rt'hitefenralepo\\rer
white wornan.
When I startedreadingG;,n/Ecoktgy, and s,vmbol exists iu rvhite rvor-nen'srt'orcls fronr a raclical feminist
I n,astruly excited by the vision
behind your worcls, and nodded rriy treaa perspective,to excludethis aspectof connectionf ror-r-r even conrrnerttin
as you spoke in ,vor-rr first your rt ork is to der.rvthe fountain of non-europeanfenralestrengthand
passageof rr1'th and 'ry'stification. your
*'ords o. the 'ature a'ti po\^rerthat nurtr.rres
function of the Goddess,as we' as eac-hof our visions.It is to niake a point by choice.
the ways in wl-rich her face rras
been.obscr'rred,agreecrwith rvhat L'rvself Ther-rto realizethat tl-reonlv quotationsfrom black rvornen'swords
har,e clisco'erecrir.rrrrr were the ones vou used to introdrrce i'or-rrcl.raptercln african genital
searchesthrougl-rAfrican r-rythilegend/retigior
for the true nat.rc',rr mutilation, made r.nequestion r,vhyyou neededto use them at all. For
old female power.
my part, I felt that ,vou had in fact r.r.risusecl rnv rvords, utilized thern
vvny are her gocidess-images oniy to testif,vagainst rnyself as a lvonlan of color. For nry r,r'ords
o ' r y w h i t e , l ' e s t e r n - e u r o p e a r ,j . , i . n ,
christian?W'ere was Afrekete, \'ernanje, w h i c h y o r - ru s e d \ v e r e n o l r o r e , n o r l e s s ,i l l u s t r a t i v eo f t h i s c h a p t c - r ,
Oyo and lVla*,ulisa?Whcr.. thar.rPoelrr'1sNot A Luru';'or an]- nur.nberof nrt' other poenis rnight
a.rethe warrior-goddessesof the Vodun,
the Dohomeia, Arnazonsarri
the warrior-women of Dan? well, I have been of manv otl'rerparts of G,-n/Ecolog'.
thought, N{ary rras urac-re a ctrr,
sciousdecisio'to narrow her scopeand So the questiou arisesin mv nrincl,Mary',do you ever reallv reaclthe
to"deal.nly rn,itl.r tl.reecologr
o f w e s t e r n - e u r o p e a nw o m e n . work of black lvor.nen?Did vou ever read n'ryu,ords, or did you rnere-
Then I came to tl-refirst three chaptersof l y f i n g c r t h r , , 1 l q l it h c n r f o r t l r r o t a t i o n sn h i c h 1 ' o u t h o t r t l r t r n i g l t t
your secondpassage,anclii valuabl_vsrlpport an already-conceivedidea concernius somc old and
was obvious that you v'ere dealing lvith
onll' as victims and preyers-upon each
,.,on-",r.op"u' rvo'rer, br.rt I d i s t o r t e dc o n n e ' c t i o n b e t r v e e nt r s ?T h i s i s n o t a r h e t o r i c a lq r . rset i o n .T o
other. I begar.rto feel nrv
m e t h i s f e e l sl i k c a n o t h e ri n s t a n c eo f t h e k n o u ' l e d g e ,c r o n e- l o g y a n d
work of \\'or.nenof color being ghettoizedby a

i, AudreLor'7e

only out of a patriarchal r,r'estern-european differencesbetween white r'r'omel)as a crea-

fran.reof reference.E\,clr I feel you do celebrate
your words on page 49 of Cvn/Ecology,: charrge,rather than a reasonfor misunderstanding
,iri"'iJrJ" i.*"rds differ-
"The strength which Self-centering women find, in findi'g or.rr But youiail to recognizethat' as women' those
lni ,"p"t",ton. degrees of patriarchal
Background, is our own strength, lvhich we give back to our Selves. ^nnesXDoseall wolnen to various forms and
we do not'
have a different ring as lve remember the old traditions of por,r,cr;1114 :::;";i;;.
sone of rvhich we share' and some of which
, | ^- -,L^r r^- ^^- r r r n m e n rin
. ^ , h i l o women l h r q Ccot
n this OLln-
strength and nurtnrance found in the female bonding of african you know that for non-white
For instance,sLlrely three tirnes the
women. It is there to be tapped by all women who do r-rotfear the is arr 80* fatality rate from breast cancer;
i,l if-,".""oi-u
a nd steriii za-
revelation of connectiorrto themselves. lr];;;; nn ry ev ent.,rat i ons, hysterectornies
Have you read mv work, and the work of other black wornen, fr.ir "."rra times as many charlces of being rap.ed'
tionsas for white *'o'''-'"t; three
what it could give you? Or did you hunt through only to find rvorcls or assaulted as exist for white women' Theseare statistical
hoped the lesbian
that would legitirnizeyour chapter on Africar.rgenital mutilation ir.rthc i".", coincidencesnor paranoid fantasies l had
eyesof other black 'uvonren? ""* would make it easier to recognize
And if so, then rvhy not use our rvords to ,l.rr.io.,rr',"ss of having bee'"other" won)en
history and struggle of black
legitimize or illustrate the other placeswhere we cor)nectin our beine in" aiff"r",-,cesthat exlst in the
and becoming? If, on the other hand, it rr,'asnot black wontelt ,voll and r,t'hite \vomen'
is a reality force within
were attempting to reach, ir.rwhat way did our rvords illustrate 1.our Within the comtnutlity of \Aromen'racism
white women with hoods on in
point for white women? my life as it is not within yours' The
the street may not like what you
Mary, I ask that you be aware of how this serves the destructrr.e Ofiio nu.,ai.,g out KKK literature on
sight (lf you and I were to walk
forces of racism and separation between women - the assumptrorr have to say, but they will shoot me on
Cutcn' Alabama' where the only
that the herstory and myth of white wornen is the legitimate and sole into a classroomof womelr in Dismal
was that we were both Lesbianl
herstory and myth of all r,r'omento call upon for power and back- i-ni"g ,n"V knelv about each of us
what I nlean'l
ground, and that r.ron-whitewomen and our herstories are note- Radlcal/Feminist, f w owould
- t h e o p p r " s s i o n oyou o wexactly
m e n k nsee srroethnicnorracialboundaries'
worthy only as decorations,or examplesof female victimization. I ask
within those boundaries'
that you be aware of the effect that this disrnissalhas upon the conr- true, but that does not mean it is identical
rnunity of black wonten, and how it devaluesyour owlt words. This Nordothereservoirsofourancientpowerkr-rowthesebor.rndaries,
to the other is to distort
disrnissaldoesnot essentiallydiffer from the specializeddevaluations either. To deal rvith one r'r'ithouteven alluding
that make black women prey, for instance,to the murders even no\\- our commonality as well as our difference'
happening it.ryour own city.* When patriarchy dismissesus, it en- For then beyol-rdsisterhood,is still racism
i "The Tfansformationof SiienceInto
courages our murderers. When radical lesbian feminist theorv We first met at tne Mt'R- panel'
date' I had decided never
dismissesus, it encouragesits own clemise. Languageand Action'" Shoitty before that
I This dismissalstar-rds as a real block to cor.nmunicationbetu'eenus. again to speak to white women about
racism l felt it was wasted
This block rnakesit far easierto turn away from yor.rcornpletell' than ;;;t b".urr." of in"i' destructive guilt and
l to attempt to understandthe thinking behind your choices.Should the U".ui,r" whatever I had to say might better
be said by white women to
the speaker' and probably
next step be war between us, or separation?Assimilation within a one another, at far less emoiionil cost to
to break this silence'
solely western-europeanherstory is not acceptable. with a better hearing' This letter atternpts
in my consciousness'So as a
Mary, I ask that you re-mernberwhat is dark and ancientand divine I would like not tJhave to destroy you
within your self that aids your speaking.As outsiders,\ve need each sister Hag, I ask you to speak to my
other for support and connectionand all the other necessitiesof living, Whether or not you do, t thank you for what I have learnedfrom you'
on the borders.But in order to come togetherwe rnust recognizeeacl-t This letteris in rePaYnlent'
other. Yet I feel that since you have so completelv un-recognizedrne, ln the hands of Afrekete'
Audre Lorde
perhaps I have been ir"rerror concerningyou and no longer recognize
i MaY 6, 1979

-ln the
s p r i n g o f 1 9 7 9 ,t u , e l v t b l a c k \ \ ' o n t e n \ \ e r c r l u r d e r e d i n t h e B o s t o n a r e a .
iI * Mtldern Language Associatiolt'


The Master's Tools Will Never nowef is rediscovered.It is this real contlection,
r'r'hichis so feared by
|'( r^,,orld.Por it is only r-rndera patriarchal structure that
Dismantle The Master's House is the only social power open to wonlen'
Commentsat "ThePersonaland the polincal,,panel maternity
"-interd"p"t-tderlcl' between \{orlen is the only way to the freedorr-r
lSecondSexConference,October 29, jg7g) "I" "be",not in order to be used,but in order to be crc-
*hi.h ullo*t the to
Audre Lorde aiive.rnis is a diiference betrveenthe passive"be"and the active"beingl'
lvomen is the
Advocating tl.rernere toleranceof difference between
I agreed to take part in a New york Uriversity Institute for r e f o i l l i s n r . I t i s a t o t a l d e n i a lo f t h e c r e a t i v ef u n c t i o no i d i f f e r -
the srossest
Humanities conference a year ago, rvith the understanding that tolerated,but seen
I En." ir-tour lir.es.For difference'mustbe not merely
would be commenting upon papersdealing with the rore oi diflerc,rce as a fund of r-recessary polarities bet'uveer.r rvhich our creativity car-r
within the lives of american women; difference of race, sexr.ralitr., like a dialectic. Only then does the necessit,v for interdepend-
ciass,arrd age. For the abserrceof these colrsideratior.r, *'"uk.,rr r,,,,l b".orr]" unthreatening.Or]ly rvithirl that interdeperldencyof dif-
"n.y to seek nert'
feminist discussionof the personal and the political fe.ent rt.et-tgths,acknorvlegedand equal, can the power
It is a particular academic arrogance to assume a.y discussic_r' ,,be"in the rvorld generate,as well as the couragearrd
.f ways to actii.ely
f e m i n i s t t h e o r y i n t h i s t i m e a n d i . t h i s p l a c ew i t h o u t e x a r , i n i . s . u r sustenanceto act r'r'l'rere there are no charters'
many differences,and without a significant input frorn poo. ,.-o,,,",,, within the interdependenceof n]utual (non-dominant) differences
black and third-world \A,omen,and lesbians.And yet I sianclhere ersa liesthat securit;,rt'hich errablestts to clescendirlto the chaosoi knort'l-
black lesbian feminist, having been invitecr to comment n,itl.ri, tl.re edgeand return ,u{itl'rtrue visions of our future, along with the con-
only panel at this conferencewhere the input of black fernirists and coiritant power to effect those cl.rangeswhich can bring that future
lesbiansis represented.what this says about the vision of tl-risco.- into being. Difference is that ralr, and po$'erfr.rlconnection frotn
ferenceis sad, in a country where racisrn,sexismar-rdhor.ropl-robia arc which onr persoltal porver is forged.
inseparable.Tc read this progam is to assumethat lesbian arc-lblack As women, rve have been taugl.rtto eitl.rerignore our clifferencesor
women have nothing to say of existentialisrn,the erotic, \vonreus to viert, tlter.uas catlsesior separationand suspiciorl rather tharl as
culture and silence, developing feminist theory, or heterosexualitv forcesfor change.Withor.rtcor-nntunity,there is r.roliberation, or-rlythe
and power. And what does it mean in personal and political ter'rs most vulnerable aud temporarV arlnistice betweetl an individr'laland
when even the two black women rvho did present rrerewere literalll. her oppression.But cornrnunity must t.totnleall a sheddingof our clif-
found at the iast hour? what does it mean."vhenthe tools of a r-iicrst ferences,nor the pathetic pret(rnsethat thesedifferencesdo rlot exist.
patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that sarnepatriarchvl, It Those of us rt ho stand outsidetl.recircle of this society'sdefinition of
means that only the most narro\\. perirnetersof cl.rangeare possiblc acceptablewolnen; t].roseof us rt'ho have been forged it'rthc crr'rciblesof
and allowable. difference;those of r-tsr'vhoare poor, r'r'hoare lesbierns, who are black'
The absenceof any considerati.n of lesbian consciousnessor the who are older, knorv that sr/rvival ts rlol arl academic.slrill. It is learl.ring
consciousnessof third rn'orldwomen leavesa serious gap u'ithin this how to stand alone, unpopttlar and sonretimes reviled, and how to
conferenceand within the papers presented here. For exanrple,in a make commotl cause$,ith tl.rose other iclentified as outside the struc-
paper on material relationshipsbetrveenwonlen, I u,as conscious.ri tures.in order to define artclseek a rvorld irl r,^,'hich wc call all flourish. lt
an either/or model of nurturing which totally disrnissedmv kno*'l- is learning ho,uvto take our differences ar-rcl rnake thetlr strengths. Fc;rthe
edge as a black lesbian. In this paper there was l)o exanrinatitrrr,f masrcr'stcrolstlill /ieverdisrTlar? tle t|:l- nlc.stershorse. Tliel' rllal' allorv us
mutuality between wornen, no systemsof shareclsupport, no inter.de- temporarily to beat hi|r-rat his rlrt'n gar-r]e, but they r.t,illnever enablc us
pendence as exists betrteer-ilesbiansand wornen-iclentiiiedrvourL.n. to bring about ger-ruinc chanse.Anclthis iact is rtniv tllreatenirlcto those
Yet it is only in the patriarchal rnodel of nurturance tr-ratwonrer "r'hrr wo.,l",] $,ho still define the master'shouse as their only source of
attenrptto emancipateti.remselves pay perhaprstoo high a price for the support.
results,"as this paper states. Poor and third rvorld wontelt knorv there is a difference betn'ecn tlie
For women, the need and desire to nurture eacl.rother is r-rotp.tlrtr' daily n]ar-rifestatior"rs and de1-runtanizations of n]arital slaVery arld
l o g i c a lb u t r e d e m p t i v e ,a n d i t i s w i t h i n t h a t k n o w l e d g et h a t , , , . , .r c u l prostitution, becar.rse it is or.rr daughters lr.ho Iine 42ntl Street. The
100 Au,lt, 1.,,,.,,, I'orde

Black panelists'observation about the effects of relative po\\'efless- oncesaid:

S i n r o n eD e B r ' a i l v o i r
ness and the differences of relationship between black women ;1n6 ] r i i , , , t h e k n o w l e d g eo f t h e g e n u i n ec o n d i t i o n so f o u r l i v e st h a t v V c
to live.and our reasonsfor acting'"
rnen from white women alld nren illustrate some of our ultiquc prob- must drarv our streirgtll irr tSis
lems as black feminists. If white american feminist theory necrl rrc-rr t l o , l r o p n n b f aa r c r e a l c o n d i t i o ' s o f a l l o u r l i ' e s
nui'i'#uua reach drn'n htrt thtttdee'p
deal with the differencesbetween us, and the resulting difference in ^tanedDd thls tllre t ttrge eacltonertf us hereto
P^:::;:;i,r"n,/cdse insid; hersel[anclktut'h that terrctr antl kwtling of att'-
aspectsof our oppressions,then u,hat do you do r,t'iththe fact that the
';:;;;r, personal as
women who clean yorlr housesand tend your children r,r,hilevoLlat- thar IiJesthere' Seev'hosc faceil u'eat's Then the
l''cgil.lto illun'rinaieall our choices'
tend confereltceson feminist theory are, for the most part, poor ancl i,e politi.at can
third world women? What is the theory behind racist feminisnt?
In a world of possibility for us all, our personalvisions help lat' the
groundwork for political action. The failure of the academicferrinists
to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a faiiure to reach
beyond the first patriarchal lesson.Divide and conquer, in our n'orlcl
must become define and empower.
Why weren't other black women and third world lr,orneniounil ro
participatein this conference?Why were tlvo phone calls to ntc con-
sidereda consultation?Am I the only possiblesourceof namesof black
feminists?And although the black panelist'spaper ends on a irnportant
and powerful connectionof love between women, what about intcr-
racial co-operationbetween ferlinists who don't love each otherl
In academic feminist circles, the ansr,t'erto these questionsis often
did not know who to ask."But that is the same evasionof responsi.
bility, the same cop-or.lt,that keepsblack r,r,omen's art out of r,r'or.nen's
exhibitions,black women'swork out of rnostfeminist publicationscx-
cept for the occasional"SpecialThird World Women's Issue,"*ancl
black wornen'stexts off of your reading lists. But as Adrienne Rich
pointed out in a recent talk, white ferninistshave educatedthemselves
about such an enormous amount over the past ten years, ho\'v conre
you l'raven'talso educatedyourselvesabout black \\'omerl and the'clif-
ferencesbetween lrs - white and black - when it is key tclour survival
as a movement?
Wornen of today are stiil being called upon to stretch acrossthe gap
of male ignorance, and to educate men as to our existenceand ottr
needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressorsto keep th.'
oppressedoccupied r,r'iththe master'sconcerns.Nor,t'we hear that it is
the task of black and third lt,orld womer.rto educatewhite women, ttl
the face of tremendousresistance,as to our existence,our differerrces,
our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies
and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought.

, Y i s a n r a j o r e x c e p t i o n .l t h a s f a r r l v c o n s i s t c n t l vp u b l i s h t , i
o f B r o o k l y r . rN
t l . t ew o r k o f r , r ' o m c no f c o l o r b c f o r e i t u ' a s ' f a s h i o n a b l e ' t o d o s o . i e d i t o r ' sf o o t n o t . ' \


On Culture, Class,and Homophobia

I do not believe/our wants have rnade all our lies/holy.
-Audre Lorde*

What lies between tire lines are the things that women of color do
not tell each other. There are reasonsfor our silences:the change in
generation betu'een mother and daughter, the language barriers
between us, our sexualidentity, the educationalopportunitieswe had
or missed,the specificcultural history of our race,the pl'rysicalcondi-
tions of our bodies and our labor.
As Audre Lorde statesin the closingpiece of the preceding section,
"Difference is that ralv and powerful connection from which our per-
sonal power is forged." It is critical now that Third World femir-rists
begin to speakdirectll' to the specific issuestirat separateus. We can-
not afford to throw ourselveshaphazardlyunder the rubric of "Third
World Feminisrn"only to discover later that there are serious differ-
encesbetween us u,hich could collapseour dreams, rather than fuse
As Third World \vomen, we understandthe importance, yet iimita-
tions of race ideology to describeour total experience.Cultural differ-
ences get subsumed rvhen lve speak of "race" as an isolated issue:
where does the Black Puerto Rican sister stake out her alliance in this
country, with the Black community or the Latin? And color alone can-
ir not define her statusin society- How do we contparethe strugglesof
the middle classBlack woman with those of the light-skinned Latina
welfare mother? Further, how each of us perceives our ability to be

i radical against this oppressive state is largely affected by our

economic priviiege and our specifichistory of colonizationin the U.S.
Sorneof us were brought here centuriesago as slaves,others had our
land of birthright taken alr,av from us, some of us are the daughters
and granddaughters of immigrants, others of us are still newly
i m m i g r a t e dt o t h e U . S .
Repeatedthroughout this sectionis each wornan'sdesire to have all
her sistersof color activelv identifiedand involved as feminists.One of
the biggest sources of separation among women of color in terms of
feminism has been hornophobia. This fear that r,r'e(whatever our sexu-
aiity) breathe in every day in our conlr'nunitiesnever fully allows us to

IA *"Betrveen
O u r s c l v e s ' T h e B l a t : k L . r n i l r r ni N e r v Y o r k : N o r t o I . t l 9 7 i l l , p . 1 1 2 .

feel invuinerable to attack on our own streets,and sometimes

er,en i1
the homes we grew up in (let aronein the white man's
lr,orld). Sooften it
is the fear of lesbianism which causesmany of us to feel
pa-ssionare being ignored or discounted by other
our politics anct The Other Heritage
"There'snothing to be compared with horn,you feel
thir. worrd people.
when you,re.',,t.ora
by your own. . ." (BarbaraSnrith).But we refuse to make
a choicebe
trt'eenour cultural identity a.d sexual identity, between lforJuneJordan and Tbishand all other Black women at the San Francisco
our race arcr
our femaleness.we are not turning our backs on our people Poetry Workshop; Januatl' 1980|
nor on our
selves. we even claim resbianisnr as an "act of ."rirtur-r.",
(clarkcl I forgot I forgot the other heritage the other strain refrain
againstthe same forcesthat silenceus as people of color.
We write letters home to Ma. the silver thread thrr.rmy sound the ebony sheento my iife to the
surfaci'g from these pagesagain ancl again is the ge'uine look of things to the sound of horv I grew up which was in Harlem
senseot right down in SpanishHarlen-rEl Barrio and bounded I always say to
Ioss and pain we feel when we are de'ie"d our home
becauseof our foreignersfrom Minnesota Ohio and Illinois bounded on the North
desire to free ourselvesas specificaily femarepersons.
so, rve tu.n to by ltalians and on the South by Black Hariern A library in each of
each other for strength and sustenance.we write retters
to each other these almost forbidden places so no rvonder I didn't take off with
incessantly.Across a kitchen table, Third world fe'rinist
strategl.rs books till I hit the SoutirBror-rx What I didn't forget was the look of
plotted. we talk long hor-rrsinto the nigrrt. It is when
this midniglit oit Ithaca RochesterMinneapolis and Salt Lake bleachedbleeded and
is bur'i'g that we secretry reclaim our goddesses
and our fe]'ale. bleached the streetfull of white ghostslike Chinesevisions And
identified cultural tradition. Here rve p,t nilrie Holiday
back into the the first time Dick and I drove back thru New York past Arnsterdam
hands and hearts of the women n,ho understand her.
The differencethat we have feared to n-rentionbecause Avenue right thru the heart of Harlem I breathed again safe
of our urgert brown and black r,n'alking the streets safe My mami tar-rghtn.re
need for solidarity with each other begins to be
spoken to on tiiesc my teacher taught me everybody taught me watch out
pages,but also the similarities that so often go unrecognized-
ihat a black smelly savage keep out of the way I did too so how
light-skinned Latin wonlan could feel ,,athome,,and ,,Jafe,,
{Morales) come I come to feel safel when I hit Harlem when I hit a city
among her Afro-American sisters.- that among many
of us ihere is zr with enough color rvhen a city gets moved in on lvhen Main
deep-rootedidentification and affinity which ir" *"i"
not, logicail1, Street Vermont looks mottled agouti biack and brort n and
supposedto feel toward eacr.rother living in segregated
white-airerica. white when the sounds of the english Black folk speak and the
we turn to each other to make family ind even ihere,
after the exhil- sounds of Spanishu'iggle thrrr the clean Iit air I still shy and start
aration of our first discovery of each other subsides,\^re
are forcecito from black men from about thirteen on but then I shy and start fron.r
confront our own lack of resourcesas Third world women
livins r' ali men starting from when they think to be men and so do the things
the U.S. without money, without i'stitutions, without
on".o-,'.rri,t1. men do my man'ritaught n.rethat and that stuck but then I learnt
center to call ollr o\A'nlt'e so often 'ever get as far as
dreamed *.hire that on my own too I got myself a clean clear senseof danger
plotting in our kitchens. We disappoint Lach other.
Sometimes ne that'swhat smells not black skin but danger stalking the streets
even die on each other. How to reconcile ,",,,itl.r the death of a frie'd
the death of a spirit? for me I can sn'rellit a mile au'ay rvaftimgto nre in the breeze I
keep dolvnwir-rd raise my head to sniff the air I only muse and
b e g i n b y s p e a k i n gd i r e c t l y t o t h e d e a t h sa n d d i s a p p o i n t n r e n t s .
--We rest my neck when in the herd ar.rdin the day and loping thru people
Here we begin to fill in the spacesof siler.rcebetween
us. For it is traffic on the streetssurrounded by the sounds of wheeled traffic in
between these seemingrf irreco'cilable ri'es - the
class lines, the the streets I think and plan and forget to look but not alone and not
politically correct lines, the daily lines we run dorvn
to each other to at nite I lift rny head I sr-riff I smell ihe danger and wheel anci
keep drfferenceand desireat a distance- that the truth
of our connec- run Iong before he thinks maybe she looks about right a morsel
tion lies.
for my appetite I bor-rnda',r'ay'andpant safe for this tinre
108 Rosurio,lIorrrl,.

safe but all I feel when I sit down with you black woman the onl,,,
danger in my air is from some whirring voice inside that always
says you don't belong and if you don,t utter just just right th;y
will know you don't belong and toss you out
billie lives! billie lives
and I feel that
everytime with every group of any color no matter what they speak hattie Sossett
but what I feel inside nowhere near that grating prating ,roi." i,
yeah biiiie holidaY lives.
well oKl this soundsjust right this here music is music to rrv jezabel
shes probably gof a little house somewhere with yemanya
earshere I hear somethingthat feelslike oh like carlos caraet stewart. plus sojourner truth ma rainey
the queen of shebaand maria
moaning his tangoes like the special beat caribbean drums do I & her mama are there. and what would
ida cox lil hardin and sapphire
forgot this heritage african Black up here in this cold place the thorpe big maybelle dinah washington
they do without sister rosetta
sound of african in english of drums in these musics please
I forgot I tor-rgtatt sally & her aunt mary and fannie lou hamer? and
breathedyou with my air and declared fine and when you'rJ,",ot robinson tammi terrell sara gomez and
don"tforget ruby doris srnith
there I look and ask for where you've gone but I know I knorv probably all there too helping with the free
sisterwoman cuz they are
why I forgot I'm not supposedto remember what I do remernber
community music and life school that billie started' and you know
is to walk in straight a'd white into the store and say good morni.g ir.r
that anaci ihe original spiderman david waiker chaka denmark vesey
my see how white how upper class how refined and kind voice all
baby brother Iesterprez young john coltranebeanheadray malcolm x
crisp with consonantsbristling with syllables protective coloring r'
and stephen biko probably be round the house all the time too' plus
racist fields looks white and crisp like cabbage looks tidy like laicl
the amGtad crerv and shango.but its billies housethat bessiesmith left
out gardens like white aprons on black dresses like pleaseand
her when bessie moved to chicago with nzinga the warrior queen
thank you and you're welcome like neat and clean and iee I swept ochun harriet tubman sweet georgia brown josina machel and
and scrubbed and polished ain't I nice que hay de criticar will peaches.
I do will I pass will you let me thru will they let me be not of course lve know that charlie bird parker Iives cuz folks be saying
see me here beneath my skin behind my voice crouched ar-rd and writing bird livesl all the time. they even got buttons. and this year
quiet and so so still not see not hear me there where I crouch 1980has been declared the year of the bird. but when i woke up this
hiding my eyes my indian bones my spanish sounds mutter_
morning i woke up thinking billie lives! so after i got through talking
ing mielda que gente fria y lea se creen gran cosa a.. on the fno.r" to this sister who calied me up right in the middle of
escupechica en su carifresca en su carifea meate ahi en el orscr
when i was thinking billie livesl i got up and put on a tape of an old
feo y frio yo valgo mas que un piso limpio you valgo mas vc) record by billie and listened to it again for the first time in a long time
valgo cagateen l'alfombra chica arrancaleel pelo yo quiero
- while i made a pitcher of orange & lemonade and drank some' then i
salir de aqui yo quiero salir di ti yo quiero salir you see she's took the tape and went outside to sit in the sun and listen to the tape
me she'sthe me says safe sarita safewhen I see you many some more and write this poem down in a hurry'
and black around the table behind me in the big room ind up in cuz biilie lives and i wanna call her up and make an appointment
front JuneJordan how you belt it out and how I take it in risht ro and go by and visit her one afternoon and take her some violets and
where she sits brown and golden and when sheand I laughi big
orchids and some peaches(and if you dont like my peachesdont shake
last nite I was not "too loud" I was not ,,toomuch,, I was just my tree) one afternoon when shesgot a few hours when shesnot too
right just me just brown and pink and fuil of drums iniide busy and shesrelaxed and dont mind being bothered with somebody
beating rhythm for my feet my tongue my eyes my hands asking her a whole iotta questionsabout all kinds of stuff but the main
my arms swinging and smacking I was just right just right just thingl wanna ask her about is how did she do it and what did she do
right sepanloninas m'hijas trigueiiasbellas sepalo when she made this record that i arn listening to now on this tape that
dan mujer feroz aqui me quedo y aqui estoy rightl had those bigtime bigdaddiesjurnping outta windows and otherwise
offing theyselvesthat time.
110 /i,rllielos...,r'

biip d blips ieaping

oh you never heard of that record. yeah. i am telling you she hacl them bigdaddy
well to tell vou the truth i hadnt either til this other sister told n-re ouita windows in droves honeY'
about it. or rather i had heard of the record and i had even listeneclto in droves do You hear me'
this song in person' i
it. br,rti hadnt heard of the effect that the record had on the bigtinte i wonder what it was like r,t'henbillie sang
my appointment can you
daddies.thats what i hadnt l'reardabout. you know the effect that this suessi better ask her that too when i go for
to sing at the cafe
record had is somehow strangelynot mentioned in the ntovie or in anr. "-"gt"" *n"t that was like. cuz,voukr-rowbillie used
village at one time which was one of
of the books articles etc. that are supposedto be telling the billie holi- ,".i!,y downtown in greenr'r'hich
joints at that time and after billie
day story. thats wby i lvanna ask billie about it and listen to her rr.rnit in"_ ,ri.r. bigdaddiesmain hangout
catch a cab and go uptown
clown abor-rthow it rvasthat she had all then-rbigdaddieslurnpir-rg outta sot off work iorn'n in the village she would
a good
windows and otherwise offing themselvesbehind this record. ilirrti""t,. the afterhout, ,plt and jam and hangout and have
be that if she irad sung tirat
now you know this record had to be bad cuz it had to be taken off ti-re iime talking to people and it could possibly
society gigs that while she
radio. thats how bad this record was. as a public service it was taker.r ,org a.r.i,-,[tne last set at one of those cafe
rvho was downtowt]
off the radio cuz everytin.re the record played on the radio the was upto\vn cuttln up ar-rdstuif you know
plunging don'nrt-ard off the roofs of their penthouses'
bigdaddieswould be knocking each other outta the way to get to the
paperswould hav.ebig
window ar-rdtake concrete noseclives.in droves. and then n'hen shewoke up later that day the
during the early dawn
plus they dont play it on the radio that much even norv. r,r,henthev headlines about who had tiken the plunge
to herself when she read
do play something by billie once every other blue n-roonthey dont fr"rrt. do you think billie had a good laugh
people r't'ho w'ould.say. billie
hardly ever play this. and u,hen rne and this otl.rersisterwho first told those headliues?or are you o"" Jf those
was only a po lil gal.from
me about the effect the record had when rt'e wanteclto listen to it rve wasnt a\i\rareof rt'hat *'u, goitg on? that she
couldnt find nobody that we knew that had it. oh they had heard of it. baltimore rvho rt'asjust t;in;to sing and entertain people or that if
that her mr'rsic
but they didnt have it. so when rve wanted to listen to the record rve she *,as a\ rare the* she *,u, .Jr-tfut"cl ancl heartbroken
nigguh pullease! r'r'ell but if you
had to git on the a train and ride way dolvntown then switch over to *u, U"irrg taken in tl-rervrong way?
in this poern so i am gontra cancel
the path train and ride a while then switcfr again to the undergror.rnd think like that then you dont 6elotlg
write yo own poem'
streetcarfor a few blocks then walk a felv more blocks to this special you right out. go sotnewhere and
i gonna ask billie
library in newark new jersey just to hear it. cuz we couldnt find it in \^,ell an)'\\'ay ',r"heni go for niy appointmetrt atn
si;-s' plus i rvanna see if she will ex-
the nyc public library though later n e found out that if rve had had about it cuz i warlna heailr'hat she
wotlen-give her some kind of special
some money and had had knolr,n $/hat to ask for we could ha.,.e piain how she did it. did theiuju
it-troat and vocal chords and lungs and
bought this album called the billie holiday stor)' volume 2 w.hicl-r herbal potiol'rs to purify trei
way of breathing
containsthis song i am talking about but we didnt have no rnoney lror what not. did the wise women teach her an aucient
a certain type of dream the night before the
did we kr.rowwhat to ask for. ennunciating.did she have
and i cant even repeat what we had to go through to get this tape of recording se"ssior-, during rn'hichthe goddessesappearedand gave
sisterand turn that
the original 78 that i am listening to now. if you get my meaning. u sigr-tani said go aheadi'] in that studio tomorrotv
blank t blanks so we can get thern off our
an)/way.this record was made august6 1941just4 n'ronthsto the day shit arotrnclon thetn bigtime
before the japanese took everybodl' by surprise with that early. backs and move for',n'ardto a brighter day'
i wauna ask billie about it and i i'n"anna seeif she would teach some
nrorning bombing raid or.rpearl harbor in the early sumner days of
o f t r s h o r v t o c l oi t t o o . c l oy o u t h i n k s h e w o u l d ? w h e n i g o s e eh e r i a m
billies career and it was a 78 on tl-reokeh label called gloomy sunday
lessonscuz i know
subtitled hungariarrsuicide song with the teddy wilson orchestra.it gonna ask her if she could give some of us weekiy
their voices the same
was one of those my man is dead so now i am gonna throrv nryself in iome other sistersthat wanl to learn how to use
the grave too funeral dirge nurnbers (tragic mulatress division) tliat way billie did on this record'
time but things are dif-
t h e y u s e dt o m a s h o n b i l l i e w h e n s h e w e n t i n t o t h e s t u d i o . cuz the record was taken off the radio the last
we have learned some
it u,asnt even no bad blues. ferent nolr'. lve are more sophiscatednow and
seduction' you know
it was some of their shit and billie said okay u'atch this and she took more sophiscated methods' like sublirninal
hidden voicesplaying
the tune and she turned it around on them. those tapesu'ith that u'eird nonmusic and those

in the supermarketsand other storestl.ratnumb our minds and then

plant suggestionsin our minds that trick us into spending all our
Across the Kitchen Table
money on a buncha stuff that we dont need?and those tapesthey play A Sister-to-SisterDialogue
in restaurantsand elevatorsand on the phone whe' they put you on
Bqrbara Smith qnd Beverly Smith
hold? yeah that's subliminal seduction. people could ride bicyiles or
delivery trucks with hidden high frequency killer diller tape cissettes In June 1980,we sent Beverly and Barbara a number of questions
through certain neighborhoodsat certain hours. regarding their experiencesas Black feminists in the Women's Move-
cuz the record was taken off the radio the last time but we have ment. The following is a transcript of their responses.
developedsome other methods.
yeah billie lives. The Editors
shesprobably got that house that bessiesmith left her when bessre Feminism: More than a "Click" and a Clique.
moved to chicago with nzinga the warrior queen ochur.rharriet tub-
man sweet georgiabrown josina rnachel and peaches. of whrte
The Editors: Wlnt do you seeas the eflectsof tl'Lepervasiveness
i wanna go seeher and ask her if she will teachsome of us how to use middle classwonrenm the feministmovement?In your experience how do
our voiceslike she used hers on that old 78 record i am listenins to nor,r. classand race issuesintersectin the movement?
on this tape so we can Iearn how to have thesemoderntime bietime so Beverlv: . . . on Saturdaynight, what happened is that she was floss-
& sosjumping outta windows and otherwise offing theyservesin droves ing her teeth after the meal. I was just so impressedwith the fact that
so we can raise up offa our knees and move on to a brighter day. she wouid take such good care of her teeth. And so she said that the
saturday august 23 1980. reasonwas that when she was a child her mother had savedup money
for her to go and visit her grandmother or somethingdown South.And
she had been looking forr,r'ardto it all year. I think that she usually
went. But what happened is that this particular year she went to the
dentist right before, and she had 7 cavities. And that wiped out her
vacation. Becauseit n'as a matter of either/or. But of course,that'snot
the poorest you can get either. "My God" I said "I bet there'shardly a
white woman that we come into contact with that would have any
perception of r,r'hatthat meant." And yet it sounded so familiar to me.
Barbara: Exactly. What we want to describe in this dialogueare the
classdifferenceswe experienceon this kind of basic levei which "high-
l e v e l "a n a l y s i sa n d r h e t o r i c d o r r ' tg e t t o .
An example I can think of and which drives me crazy is the arro-
gance some white women display about "choosing"not to finish
school, you know, "dorvnward mobility". But the thing is they don't
have to worry about being asked "Do you have a degree,"and then
being completely cut out of a whole range of jobs and opportunity if
they don't. Raceis a conceptof having to be twice as qualified, twice as
good to go half as far. And I feel like at this point, in these economic
tirnes,it s like being three times as good to go half as far. No way in Hell
would I give up getting a degree or some piece of paper that would
give me more econonricleveragein this "boy's"system.That'snot nec-
essarilya perception that white women l.rave.In fact, I know a lot of
Bar itt rtt Sni tl L,IJer.,r1rSriii tlr
B a r b t t r a S n t t l l t i B e l e r J r- S r r r r l l r 115

white women who never finished college,vet are functioning in

rva1,s life as a \voman. That is a "click".Well I rnean,I guessthere are "clicks"
t h a t i f t h e y h a d b e e n B r a c kw o r ) e r w o u l d t e c o m p l e t e l v
to them. among racial lines, but the thirrg is the\''reso far back in ten.t.lsof class
This ties in with another thing we had tarked about in the that they're almost imperceptible. It just feelsto rne like it'sa different
past, kind of thing.
which is the difference betweer women's poritics, who come
to a
realizationthat oppressionexists sa),at age ZZ,25 or Bar: Another thing when you talk about experiencingracial oppres-
even lg, ,,,ersus
Black won.ren'sand other wonren of colors perspectivelr,hich sion and classoppressionfrorn the ver,vbeginninu, if indeeclyou are a
is that
your oppression is a rifelong thing. There is a poritical recipier.rtof those oppressior.rs is happening to you is from mod-
savr,ryness, I "vhat
don't know rt'hat r,r,orcl to use, canniness- some difference in attitr.rcie erately bad to horrible. In other lvords, being Black in this country
I t h i n k b e t u ' e e ' B l a c k a . d w h i t e f e m i n i s t s .i t h i n k r , th a t i t i s , t h e r e i s v e r y l i t t l e a b o u t i t t h a t i s m i l d . T h e o p p r e s s i o ni s e x t r e m e .
surprisefactor. There is virtuallv no Black personin this Probably the onll' Black people r,r,hereoppressionis sornewhatn-riti-
countrv *,ho
is surprised about oppression.virtualry not one. Because gated are those rt ho have ciassprivilege and that is certainly not the
the thirrg rs .1
we have haclit rnetedout to us fro'r infancl, on. And I think that majorit,vof Black people here. Likerviseif you are a recipier.rtof class
are dealing with white lvornen in coalitions, or r,r.hate'er, oppression,that means that 1'ouare poor, you are lvorking classand
Ie that
often we're at very different placesabout how you deal therefore day to claysurvival is aimost the onl,vthing you can focuson.
with a prob_
lem, how you thi'k about a probrem, hq11iyou react The thing that'sdifferent about women'soppressionis that you can be
to a problem.
Becausethey are comir.rsfrom a perspectiverike, "ohr I white and middle classand female ancl live a so-called"nice"Iife up
clicrnikno*.. I
d i d n ' t k n o r . t ' I. n e v e r k n e w u n t i l . . . I n e v e r k n e u , u ' t i l . . . , , u n t i l a c e r t a i np o i n t , t h e n v o u b e g i nt o n o t i c et h e s e" c l i c k s "b, u t I t h i n k
T h e r er s a
differencewhen you come in to the quality of life for the upper or rnidclleclasslr,hite \vonlan is so far
)'o'r poriticsbecauseyou're Black ar-rcr
oppressedon that level. ahead of the quality of Iife for the Black person, the Black child, the
Ber': what I *'ould really v'ant to talk about is *,r.ry w o r k i n g c l a s sc h i l c lo r t h e p o o r c h i l d .
the \\,ol'en's Bev: I u,ant to attempt to nrake cor-nparisons between different types
movement is basicalll'a middle classmovement. whai
does it rnean? of oppressions.When I think of poverty, I think of constantphysical
At leastmiddle classin tone. r arn not sayingeveryone in
the wornen,s and material oppression.You knor'r',you aren'tpoor one day and well-
movement is middle classbut the thing is that I tliink that
it is rni.ldle to-do the next. If _vorr're poor it'sa constantthing, everyday,everyday.
classwo're'who dor.rinateir terms oi.u'bers ar.rdin
terr-ns.f l'hat In some nays it's almost more constantthan race because,say you're
actually getsdone, a.cl just how' thi'gs get do'e. what
gets macrethe middle class and vou're a Black person who is of course subject to
priorities and what have you.
r a c i s n r .y o u d o n t n e c e s s a r i l ve x p e r i e r r c ei t e v e r v s i n g l e d a y i n t h e
what reallv are the sirnilaritiesand differences betr.veen
\\,omer,s same intensitv, or to the sarnedegree.Whereas,poverty is just some-
oppressior.rand class and racial oppression?My perceptio'
about thing vou experienceconstantly.So ,uvhatI was trying to come up with
racial oppressionand classoppressionis tl-ratit's somethi'g
that starts is - Is there any oppressionthat \\romenexperiencethat is that total, in -! ';{
from Day One.
other rt'ords literally affects their phvsical well-being on a day to ,*
Berr: You'reborr"rinto it ancl its lrinding.
B e v : I t s g r i n d i n g .A ' c l i t c o n t i n u e s M . y s e r . r saeb o u t t h e o p p r e s s i o no f
day basis?
Bar: Can I r.nakea joke, Ber'? $
worrlen is that it's sornethingthat people corre to often
alr'ays, in a nrore intellectual,rrun,',"..It'ssomethingthat's
t o t h e r n . I t s s o ' r e t h i . s t h a t t i r e ' r e a c la b o u t a ' d
tii'es, but 'rot
Bev: What?
B a r : H e t e r o s e x u a l i t , vW. e l l r r o v i n e r i r h t a l o n g . . .
s a r , , o i i v e a h l , ' .I i!

.rean even the concept of the ,,click,',you k'on. that *

abont in Ms. magazine.
you ian ,ead
Bev: Yes, they ore sufferir.rg.. .
Well, battering is rnaybe sornething, but r-rotnecessarily,only in rs
Bar: They still have"clicks,'l sorne extrerne incidences.
Bev: Right. They still tatk about when you ha,,,ean Bar: Well I think in a \\'a)'\\'e re alnrostcon.rparingapplesand pears.
rnakes you realize your oppression as a \voman, We don't have a language1'et or a framework as to what is the tme
other women'soppressit',1,
niakes you realize
yor kn.rt', some revearingi'cident ir-rvour
nature of rvomen'soppression,giveu u'here it takes place and who it
comes from and I'rou'.Ma1'bethe battered \voman is not beaten every

Barbara Smtt h i Bet'er ly Sm i t h l
BarbaraSmtth Bcr.'rlt Srntlh

day, but she has to wait on her husband every day and her chirdren.
in an advanced stage of capitalism. They say that the fact that the
She'seither bored out of her mind or worrying and-scraping, trying
to women's movement developedin this country at the time it did had to
make ends meet, both in the context of the nucrear familyl women,s
do with how capitalism had developed,in other words, a high enough
oppressionis so organic or circular or something.one place on
the cir_ rate of profit or surplus. I don't know what the terminology is, exactly,
c.leis battering, one place is cat calls, another is rape, inother place
is but this material surplus made it possible for women to have the
the fact that no one takesyou seriously even whire you wo.ked
to put "leisure"to dernar.rdcertain rights.
your husband through college.There's a whore range of
stuff, that,s As I see it, the welfare rights movement comes out of the needs
why it's so hard to pin something down.
expressedand experiencedby the women receiving welfare. In the
Bev: I think for purposes of analysis what we try to do is same way, there is a path the women's movement has followed that
to break
things down and try to separateand compare but in reality, originated out of the needs of middle ciasswomen'
the wav
wornen live their lives, thoseseparationsjustdon't work. women
dor-rt Bar: Yes,I think that is quite verifiable. . . There isjust so much class
live their lives like, "well this part is race,and this is class,and
this part conflict in this society that it is hard for people who are economicaliy
h a s t o d o w i t h w o m e n ' si d e n t i t i e s , , , s iot s c o n f u s i n g .
andi or racially oppressedto believe that there are some people rvho
Bar: And Black wonren and women of color in particular may experiencetheir oppressiondifferently. I think that this is where
do',t do
that. I think maybe what we have defined as a'important conponent the laughability of the women's movement comes in. The woman I
of Black feminism is that maybe, for the short run at least, that,s teach a classwith told me how she has a friend who was teachingJohn
right' we don't have to rank or separate out. what we have Steinbeck'sTheGrapesof Wrath to a classwho had a decentnumber of
to do rs
define the nature of the whole, of all the systemsimpinging Black students in it and the Black students refused to believe that it
on us.
Bev: Given these differences between us, that \\romen are
of different was about white people. Refused to believe, you know? John
racesand classes,how can a white middle classmovement actually
deal Steinbeck,Great White Novelistl That'sjust incrediblel What it shows
with all .ilomens oppression,as it purports to do, particularly is the class conflict, the class division, the division that is totally en-
women are not present to represent their own interests?I think
thrs rs forced in this society to keep people unaware of each other's situa-
one of the most esse'tial questions the movement has to face. tions, commonalities, etc.
Bar: what we've got to look at is what is the nature of those issues
that get multi-oppressedwomen involved in movement The White-Wash of Cultural Identity
work. What
are those issuesand how might those issuesbe incorporated
into trre Eds: By virfueof your education,what r:Iassassumptionsare nnde about
women'smovements?I am thinking here of all the Black women
lr,ho you by white feminists?How do you experiencewhite women trying to
were involved in the civil Rights Movement. Fannie Lou Hamer
is a "whitewash"you?
name we know, but there were countlessthousandsof
other women
whose names we dor-r'tknow whose material conditions would Bar: This is very complicated.There is a sociologist,a Black woman
i.dicate that they would have the wherewithal to struggrepoliticarly who's here in Boston,she said somethingvery astuteabout this whole
but then they did. Even more recently, poor women have issue of ciass.She was talking about how sociologistsoften confuse
involved in issueslike tenants rights or welfare organizing, class with lifestyle. They will throw out all their knowiedge about
Bev: SometimesI thi'k maybe twenty-five to fifty years from income level, and assumepeople are of a different class.So thelll see
norv a Biack family who rnakes $6000 a year, but the thing is they have
we might really understand what the origins of trre women,s
mor,e- books and they are stable and blah blah blah and all this crap, you
ntent were, much more so even than we know today.
We mav lose know, they're trying to send their kids to collegeand they do and the
some of the proximity, but we'll gain some of the hindsieht
ana tne sociologistssay, "Well, then, they must be middle class."As she said so
perspective.one of tl-rethings we might discover is that the
origins of succinctly, "$6000 dollars worth of money buys $6000 worth of
the feminist movement were basicalry middre class, but the"re
are goods."{That would make them poor today. TWentyyears ago, work-
reasonsfor that. Already there is analysisabout that from people
rvho ing class).It just dependson what you decide to spend it on. There is a
are somewhat anti-feminist, Marxists and leftists thai
have the difference between classin that narrow senseand values,you know?
perceptionthat the women's rnovement is just an indication
that we,re BecauseI think we come fronl that kind of home. .

, ,sii
118 B , r r h , u aS r r i t t / B
r . ' r t ' rl t S r r r r , ' i Barltara Snith t'B,-'r'erhSnttlli

in the history of that

B e v : S u r e .S u r e . poverty, struggle, oppression' violence
to outsiders' '
Bar: Where there r,r'erepriorities put on things that poor workirtr ihut it iotally unrecognizable
knor'r'one of the things that I'r'e felt
ciassBIack people lleren't supposedto be thinking about. Bev: Just like rvithin ours You
in the women's moverlent' is that there
Bev.: Yeah, it's verv confusing. The fact that education \{as some- for a long tirne being lnvolved
called into practice'
ir ro about Biack identity tl-ratdoesrr'tget
thing that was always valued in our family, not just in our generatior.r, "-t"in
but for generationsback. I think that's lr,herea lot of white feminists B a r : I n d e e d ll n d e e d l
me' It reaiiy makes n-r.e think about
get confusedabor.rtus. Becauseof the fact oi the educationlr,e had anc'l Bev: And that'sver,vupsettingto
and lessconsciousiyor very
the ernphasis on cultural development and on intellectr.raldevel- the choicesI have made eitheiimplicitly
hort' I live my life because'there
opment that has been in or.rrfanrily at least for three generations, consciously.It makes rne think about
identitv that we no longer get a chance
nrakes people think, well, lve must of come from a middle class ur" ro *utty parts of our Black
And that's just something that is very appalling to me'
background. io
Bar: Oh yeahl Surel Bar: It'sjust too true lt's too true'
Bev: It's true , \ve never starved. But I j ust get so f rustrated because-
I t *'oulJf"stliketo.mention.Julv
rooappallingl i1*l]:l Tlf1T"0
Black family who lives ln the nouse
feel people don't understandwhere \ve came from. When I look at the u f"*, auttt ago"ut.,d feeling
photographsin our scrapbookIjust think if they looked at the house, bellnd nrine as I have for the last four yearsaridjust having this
be in that situation' A fe$' da'vs
would they understand better u'hat our class background actuallt' ;i lolrg;g iike, ,vou know' I'll never said'
I knou'about that a'd she
lvas?Becauseof rt'here we were living, the size of the roonrs. . . Iater, I r,r,astalkir.rgto this white \vortan ADd I
there'vith those men?'
Bar: The fact that there was no automatic washing machine. "Well do you really *'u"i to be-sitting out
whole thing' The whole'dar-nn
said, No. Brit the thing is that it's the
Bev: The fact that wl-renyou got a chest of drawers, a dresser,and a the past' for thoseJuly 4ths tl-rat
thingl I realize,too it li'as rny regret for
bed in one of the bedrooms,literally there was no floor space.I think just like the one I n'as watchirrg right outsde.nry rvitr-
tirat a Iot of where \^'ecame from had to do with, as yoll said, r,alues "rr"ntially be that \\ray again' Well
dor,t'and for the iact that it r'','illnever .
and nranaging.One of the values is that yor.rhandled lnoney in such a even give it to each other as peers because.there
I clon't think r,t'e can
\ ray that 1'ou rnade it stretch as far as you possibly could. that is ver-vBlack that
is a kincl of fan-rilybo"di'lg"uttoss generations
Bar: Don't I rememberl (laughing)It n'as a real value that you live as
decently as possibie on thc monev you do rnake. at is that there are ways we act
Bev: One of the thlngs I was getting
Bev: Exactly. white women will never seeirl a
u,hen Black people utE tog"tlt"i that
of the reasonsthat again' to
Bar: There u'as a lot of en"rphasis
on trying. Iargely rt'hite context So ithink tl'rat'sone
are able to "whiter't'ash"us'
Bev: SornetimesI do wish people could just seeus in the c<tntextrve use the pl-rrasethat was asked to us' they
white in a rvhite context' it's
grew up in, who our people are. Nort, I don't think tni' ls about acting
the wa1'yor'ract *ttllll']-tf
Bar: ln order for people to understand lvhat our background \\'as,ill about one' a lack of inspiratlon Because
And I do mean lnsprre'
order to place us, they need to have a lot of comprehensionabout rvhat ;Gi" is becausethey inspire the behavior'
Black life is all about in this country, period. There is a cookbook,called A n d t h e o t h e r t h i n g i s t h a t w h e n y o u a r e i r l a r v i r i t e c o n t e x t ' y o utot ldo
'Well ,,vhy bother'/ Witr' ;"t'" your tirne?' If r'vhat yoLl'retrvirrg
Spoonbreadand Strau,ben-vWine by these two Darden sisters. The what-have-yoll' yoll talk in
reasonwhy I nrention it is becausethey have a family historl,in tl.rere. is get things acrossu'-tJ'to^-t'nicate and
This was a successfulBIack family, and yet these people u'orked like your secondlanguage
in a Black context For exarnple'
hell! They were people who r,l'ereex-slaves.Almost anybody in their Bar: This is so different fron'rbeing
I had visiting
family who wanted to go to a Black college could have, but tl'rat'snot it ir.rstoccurr"a to ,t* ifti' "*p"ti"ie "" :t1,-t-::"U "t r.- s,-
years Shert'asstaying irl tiris e..id

for a nurnber of
nearly the sarnething as a family who sent all of their sonsto Harvard, mine that I l-ravef'lo*'l
familv' And the womau of
all of their daughters to Srnith, or whatever. There'sjust a different house .,r'itl.rthis regular old Black nttclear
kept the whole thing together'
social context. Even though this is a successfulBlack fanrily, there is the hotrsent'u, .l"u.l)'-itl" p"t'on who

120 121
B t t r h a r aS n n t hB
, . i crA Srnr1/i Barbara Sni t hI BeverhSnrith

They had food layed backl (laughing)And the thing is it was really a iot be only viably practiced by
of politics and also because it seems to
of fun for me to see tirat, "pervert" that I am - that,sin quotes- dyke white-skinned privilege'
women who have certain kinds of privilege:
that I am, I could sit down at a table with these middle-aged Black kinds of privilege have to
classprivilege. Women who don't have those
wonlen who were playing pokeeno ar-rdbe able to hang, you know? of this society They
deal with this socretyand with the institutions
And it was very nice. I had a good time. and farm' and invite the god-
.urr't go to a harbor oi.r,u'ly acres of land'
racism is not gender specific
Bev: Orrly one question, Barbara, did you play? (laughing) dess.women of color u." ,r"ry aware that
have experiences that have
Bar: Yeah,I played for a little while. Throughout the day, there must una tftut it affects all people of color' We
have been twenty people in and out of the house.And it was no partic- ,ro,frir'tgto clo with being female,.but are
u l a r o c c a s i o r jrr, r s t t w e r r t yp e o p l ei n a n d o u t o f t h e h o u s e .A t o n e p o i n t deep oppressiou. . . atld even violence'
we were talking about television and the woman said, ,,Oh Barbara got into lesbian separat-
Bev: Maybe the reasotrthat white women
doesn'twatch T.V. She'san intellectual."It was a joke ar-rdI feit goocl
enough in that context with people I hardly knew to understand that in this world
from white men, glven t'"o* tn"." is so muclr oppression
they said that with a great deal of affection. I realizedthey were con.r- In some waysthey
currently that white men have visited on people'
plimenting me and being supportive for something I had accom- white men to even have
felt that ihey had to separatethemselvesfrom
plished. I'm sure they feit protid of the fact that Alice, the doctor, and
a fighting chance.
Barbara, who teaches at U.Mass, were sitting around on a Sunday making real political
Bar: So seldor:.ris separatism involved in
evening.And the thing is that it was not the kind of hostiiity that I have in the society in any direct way' If
.frung", affecting the institutions
sometimes experienced from my so called peers of Black wor.nen women's issues' for
you iefine certain movement issuesas straight
about those very same strugglesand accomplishments.And it cer- theseidenti-
Ia-pl" reproductive rights and sterilizationabuse'then
tainly is not the misunderstanding that I have gotten from r.t,hrte goingto bother.with'
iiuUt" ,"*.,u1lpolitical issuesare onesyou are not
wonren about the rneanir-rg of that. Becauseof course,thesepeopleare in our area' instead of doing political
We have noticed how separatists
trying to send their children to schooi too. might come to a
organizing, often do zap acts For example they
Bev: I wonder is this the trade-off, is this what everyone who hasour way' It is not clear
-3"tkg o", series of r,'t"eti"gs tl-renmove or-rtheir
identity has to sacrifice?one of my constantquestionsis how do other sometimes think of
*frut in"y.e actually tryiig to change' We
lesbiansof color live their lives?The other question I have is - "Is this
'fly separatisnras the politics without a practice'
in the butterrnilk' existencea function of our feminisrn more than can't see it as a phi-
Bev: One of the problems of separatismis that I
our lesbianism?"To ask the question more explicitly- Do black ies- the roots of all oppressionand is
losophy that explains and analyies
bians,who do not identify as fen-rinists and basetheir lives in the Black it l think it has some validity in a tnore
going to go torvard solving
cornmunity, feel this struggle?I think the answer is that they don't all Io talk about being separate from men is
iimiied ,"pn".". To begin
t h e t i m e . I t ' sh a r d t o f i g u r e o u t .
viable. It has some worthwhile aspects'
Bar: I think the isolation is probably a resuit much more of being a You are very aware
Bar: Many lesbians are separatistsin that sense
feminist. I think this has some classfactors in it. This almost takes us that you really
of the choice - that in being a lesbian you understand
back to where we begar.rbecause in order to be involved in this sexuality' to make your
don't need men to define your identity, your
wornen's rnovement, as it stands today, you have to be able to deal That doesn't necessarily
life meaningful or simply to hu"" a good time'
with "middle-classness". And the Black women who can take it are the oppressions-that you
mean that lou have ,,o-.o-ptehension of
often the ones r,r,itheducationalprivilege. with class privilege don't
share with men. And you see white women
critical and antagon-
Lesbian Separatism share oppressionwith white men' The/re in a
and other women of color
istic position whereas Black women
Eds: Is a lesbian separatistposition inherently racist?Is this rtositiona men of their race'
definitely share oppressedsituationswith
viabLepolitical position to take? lesbians of color is that they
What white lesbians have against
Bar: As we said in our collective statement (Combahee)I think we we are concerned with
accuse us of being "male identiii"d" b"tu"te
have real questionsbecauseseparatismseemslike such a narrow kind express anger at us for not see-
issuesthat affect our r,r'holerace' They
Barbartt SnttllttBtr|er1vSrr?llh
r22 B u r h u , t tS n it h1B r l e r A S n r r l l r
end' definitely the
who say "We1l,when classoppression.and.racisrn
ing the light. That is another aspectof hor,vthey carrv otl their racislll. will end'" What lesbianseparatists
They are so narrow and adatnantabor.rtthat that the-vdismiss lesbians oppressionof ot'o-"t ut'd lesbians
isthatwheri;=;;lrid ofmen's91ism
aresaying ilit:::TJ]ii::l
of color arrd wonlen of color who aren't lesbians because we have aspect::j
tnuttm, is o'rif themostracist tJ,:::"i::,:'
some concern about what happensto the nrelt of our race. And it'snot il;il#* lesbianshave
;"":r'#;:'."g",r"'rrr" racismthat u.omen,including
like we like their sexisrnor even want to sleepwith theru. You can cer- ^-^:.^ ^^'_^
thatI havecorncacrosst":"1t.5:l:1:t:

;i";" rt , a-ltnonesty
tainly be concernedas we are living here this sumrner in Bostonr'r'hen
J ; "' "rtl
ilil ;, ; ;;
; ;;i i gu'dthemseives '.1:l::'
o n e B l a c k m a n a f t e r a n o t h e re n d s u p d e a d . * " "": rifestyres.
in theiror,r,n f Jl:"-1,
Many i'"'.:
Ii';#;.HKil;"";;;;;;,isnr w:"19
; .;il;;; in'"-'"t""'separatists
. rl.^^.,^-l:,,-.^'i+l
Ber': It's not only being concerned, it is observing rt'l.rat l'rap-
p e n s - w h o d o e s r a c i s t a c t s a n d l v l - r oa r e t b e t a r g e t s f o r r a c i s r l r .l t
ffi;ffi;; l"Y,l:::i:
to befriend a man (althoughthey may
a rnan and u'otrld not go \rerv f ar
would be incredibly dishonestto say that racism is a thirlg just experi- but they don't go any further than
have a ferv token men in their livesJ
enced by Black womer.r.
t o d i s a v o r t 't h e i r s e p a l a t i s n l '
Bar: And also politically inexpedient. I think that people n,ho defir.re disavowal is' from nly perspec-
themselvesas Black feminists certainly have decided tl-ratthe bulk of Bar: I disagreervith that Tl-reso-cailed
glor.ify those very kinds of choices'
tive, the lack of need to deify or
their political work is in concertwith other Black r'vomen.That doesn't I clon t make much of the fact that I
mean that you're totally oblivious to the realit-vof racisnt.I feelthat the Separatistsget angrv at the fact thai
of the lveek to the other' I feel tltey
o n t ' t h i n g a b o u t r a c i s n ri s t h a t i t d o e s n t p l a l f a v o r i i e s .L o o k a t t h c don'tseea man socialll'frorn one end
that I clonot considerin any way
history of lynching in this country. And also look at horn"Black \volrlerl are tryir-rgto collapsepoliticalpositions the
as {ar as I an-rconcerned' is not
have experienced violence tl-ratis definitely racial. Wher-ryou read trivial. Who yotl f-,ot'"po't'"' with'
about Biack \A,olllenbeing lynched, they aren't thinkirtg of us as bottom line of defining 1'our political are
think that r'vhitelesbian sepa'ratists
fenrales. The horrors that lve have experienced have absolutelt' I also rt,ant to say thlt I don't
womell in the wometr'stnoventent
everything to do u'ith them rtol evenviewirtgLtses \\)omen. more racist than any other lvhite
Becauseif we are women some false chivalry rt'ould enter in and t h a t r v e d e a l w i t h . t i u s t t n i n t < i t t a k e s d i f f e r e r r t f o r r r r s . Wof
to instances oppres-
rnaybecertain things wouldn't happen. I've never read an accout-ttof a separatismhas alnlost a studied obiiviousness
for exat'nplesocialists'are
lynching of a white \^,ornan,or one r,r,howas pregnant.I think there'sa sion rt'hereasanother group of feminisis' -
raclslr would n-ranifestitseli
difference betr,r'eenthe old usual rape-tnr-rrderthat happens tcl all even rnore sectarian The way thelr but-they
\vas an irnportant issue
women and the lynching that happensspecificallyto BIack u'otnetr.A tl-rey r't,otllclknou' that racism
it in an1'*'uy as a theoretrc-"]^li'9tt"t
wouldn't be dealing u'ith "*t"pi
conternporaryexarnpleof that is hon Black u'ornetrrvho are battcreri dealing a'ottnd ouo-"tt of color wouid be
and rvho physically defend thenrselvesare treated differentll' tharl issr.re.Their air.o,tto'i^ln
just as apparent' All white peo-
just as palpable;that attitude *oJd be
rvhite lvomen by the courts. lt's seendiffererrtly by the courts lvhen a diseaseof racisln
ple in tl'riscountr)' are victinrs o{ the
white middle classwolran rnurders her hr.rsband.Therr it's so-called
irrnfu, a Don-racist. Sonretimesit's as sinrple as
There is no sucl-r
self defense. I was just reading a case involving a Black \volrart 1n cr'v lvith and r't'ht-'you can share
who you can laugl'rlvith, u'ho Yotl can
Michrgan where the Black \voman was sold down the river obviousl-v toucir. There are bunches of lvl-rite
mealsu,ith ur-ra,rnor"fu." yo., can
becauseshe u,asBlack. A negativeimage of Black men and rt'omen got
her fate delivered.
riences rt'ith rt'omen oi color'
Bev: One of the most dar.rgerous & erroneousconceptsthat separat- She'sbeen doing surgery
ists have put forr,vardis that otl-reroppressions,in addition to sexisnr, Bar: Beveriy is fixing this little teddl'bear'
bear shor't'sremarkable stan-rina'
are attributed to men only. Sorne separatistsbelier,'ethat althor.rg)r on it f or the Iast .o"f i! oi noutt' The
you courd say that we are having a series of I

women are racist, lr,hen men disappear and no longer rule racistr.t like r-rohur.nanbeirig. i
lvill not be a problenr. It's very analogousto people u,ho are Nlarxists operationsil.rour lir,'es Il *
* A n e v c r . rl t r o r L -s t r i k i n g e x a n r p L ' o f [ h c c o n n e c t i o n b e t r l e e n a l . e s b i a n s e P e r r a t i s t it'
, I nouldn't be deaiing with
,nl-roi, rrot nT1'self
s t a n c e a n c l t h e c l i s a . , ' o w arlr f r a c i s r n a s a c e n t r a l f e r n i r t i s tc ( ) l ) c c r r c a t t b e s e e t t i t r t h . - '
to this conversation'
j n c r e c l i b l vn e g a t i v c r c s l l o n s e st o F l l l v B u i k i n ' s f i r r e a r t i c l e ' R a c i s t n a n d \ \ ' r i l i t t s : S o n t c Bar: I don't see that as beil'rgrelevant I
l r n p l i c a t i o n sf o r W h i t c L e s b r a nC r i t t c s "c o l t r i r t qp r i n r a r i l v f r o t t . ts c p a r a t i s t s .
Bev: lt is relevant l'nl talking abortt
horv l got involved in this surgery I
Ilarbura Sntit h,iBelerlr' Snirl lr r u Sntt t h l BelerA' Srnt llt
Bar Ltct ).25

Homophobia in the Black Community Bev: Any behavior Black people say is despicable,they can disre-
Eds: Describeyour experiencein dealing with hontophobic B?acksrslers. gard by saying this doesn't belong to the Black community. Theres
Bar: There'snothing to compare with how you feel when you,re cut hardly a thing in this world in our experience that is not referred to
cold by your own. . .I think the reasonthat Black *orrr"n are so being either Black or white, from animals on - people talking about
hor'ophobic is that attraction-repulsionthing. They have to speakout white dogs. They weren't talking about dogs that were white in coior,
vociferouslyagainstlesbianisnrbecauseif they donlt tl-rey'ray have to they were talking about dogs that belong to white people.
deal rn'iththeir own deep feelingsfor wornen. They make great case Bar. So often lesbianismand male homosexualityis talked about as a
for how fucked up it all is, a'd therefore cover tl.reirassesadmirablv. r.t,hitediseasewithin the Black community. It is just so negatingof our
Is homophobia more entrenched in the Black community than in the lives. Very upsetting.
whitecommunity? Eds: Are Black women more vtilnerableto homophobicattack?
Ber,,: You can argue about that until
Jesuscornes,really. Bar: Yes, Black wonten are lnore vulnerable to homophobic attack
Bar: I really must say historically,politicalry there are more reasons becauselve don't have white skin privilege, or classprivilege to fall
f o r t h e B l a c k c o m m u ' i t y t o b e h o m o p h o b i c ,o n e o f t h e m b e i n s t h a t back on if somebodywants to start a smear campaign againstus. As I
the women's movelr)ent has r.ade felt,er inroads into the Black"conr- said in m)'essay, "Tort'arda Black Feminist Criticism," it's iheterosex-
munity, as lt'ell as gay rights. we can assumethat a communitv that ual privilegeJalrt'ays the last to go. We don't have any of the other
has been subject to the ideas of the movernent is going to l-,uue'-.rr" privileges.It really is jumping off the edgein a very fundamental way.
consciousness.And given hor,r,, up until the last couple of years the Somebody rt'l'rois already dealing with multiple oppressionis more
feminist movement has not touched Third world .o,r-rr-,..,r-,iti"r, vulnerable to another kind of attack upon her identity.
can expect their attitudes to be much as they have been i'the past. Ber,: I also feel that Black \{omen are more vulnerable to physical
o'e of the reasonsthat I have thought for ho.rophobic attiiucles attack as lesbiansbecatisethey're Black. The storiesyou hear over the
among Black women is the whole sexual stereotypingused againstall years of Black lesbians being attacked for being lesbian, usuaily by
Black people anyway, but especiallywomen in relati,cnto ho]nosexu- white menl
ality - you know, the "Black builcragger"irnage. Lesbianisrnis ciefir- Eds: What is therelationshipben+'een Blackwomen'sresistance to identi'
itely about somethingsexual,a so-carleddeviant sexuarity.So the rn.a,v as
fying feninists, antl lesbianisn?
most Biack women deal with it is to be just as rigid and cl,csedabour rr Bar: It's real connected. Femitristshave been portrayed as nothing
as possible.white people don't have a sexual image that ar.rotherop- but "lesbians"to the Black community as well. There was a consider-
pressorconununity has put on them.
able effort in the early seventiesto turn the Black comrnunity off to
Bev: This country is so racist that it is possibieto take many, many feminism. You can look at publications, particularly Black publica-
things and conceptsthat have 'othing to clowith race and taik about tions making pronouncements about w'hat the feminist movement
the.r in racial terms. Becausepeople are so dichotomized into either u'as and rvho it reached that rvould trivialize it, that would say no
black or white, it defines a co.tinuum. This is so strict and so over- Biack lvomen \Arereinvolved, that did everything possibleto prevent
whelming in this country, you can take things that have nothing to dcr thosc-coalitions between Black and white won'ren from happening
with race and refer to tl.rernracially. becausethere u'as a great deal of fear. Black men did not want to lose
Therefore, Black people have the option of takirrgthings _ sexualitl, Black rvomen as allies. And the white power structure did not want to
behavior, conflicts, whatever they do',t litie - and ,uying ,,That,s seeall \A'omenbond acrossracial Iines becausetl-reyknew that would
w h i t e . " L e s b i a n i s mi s n o t t h e o n l y t h i n g s e e na s a w h i t e t h i n g . A r e a l be an unbeatableunstoppabiecornbination.They did a very goodiob.
g o o d e x a m p k ' i s s u i c i d e .B l a c k p e o p l e s a y , " y e a r r ,s u i c i d e i s 1 r v h i t e You can just document those happeningsdurir-rgthat period.
thing." So,yes, most Black women think that to be a feminist you have to be
Bar: oh yeah, we used to berievethat. A'd of course one felt all the a lesbian. And if not that, ther-rat least you have to deal with being
worse for having consideredit. I'm thinking of Ntozake Shange'splay around lesbians. And you see, that is true. It's very hard to be in the
"for colored girls who have considered suicide.,,It,s verv
L.u,r". t womens movemenr and not be around lesbians. And if you're so
mean, she'sdealing with a lot oI myths, by saying that we l.,ur," honrophobic that you can't deal with the thought of lesbianism then
consideredit, if it's supposedto be a white thins. "r"',
126 Ba r bara Smit h 1Bever ly' Sni t )t 1.27
Barbara SrnithiBeverllSmith

you probably won't be involved. I think these things are changing. thereis a
oissesme off that they think of themselvesas radical. I think
More and more Black women are becoming sensitiveor sympathetic
differencebetweenbeingextremeand being radical'
to the women's movement.
This is wh,v Third world women are forrning the leadershipin the
Third World Women: Tokenism or Leadership feminist rnovement becausewe are not one dirnensional,one-issued
in our political understanding.Just by virtue of our identities we cer-
Eds: How, as women of color, can we prevent ourselvesfront betng tainly define raceand usually define classas being fundamel.rtalissues
tokenizedby white feminists?How do you seeThird World womenformue that u,e have to address. The more r,t'ide-rangedyour politics, the
the leadershipin the feminist movernent? more potentially profound and transformative they are'
Bev: One looks at that question about tokenism and just throws up Bev: The way I see it, the function that Third World women play in
her hands. There are so many possibilitiesof tokenization.One of the the movement is that we're the people who throw the ball a certain
rnosttokenizedsituationsthat Barbara and I find ourselvesin is when distance and then the white women run to that point to pick it up. I
we are asked to speak at a certain place. You can be certaiu to be the feel we are constantlychallengingwhite women, usuaily on the issues
only Black personthere. You'regoing to be put in the position of speak- of racism but not always. We are alrvayschallerrgingwolnen to go fur-
ing for the race, for all Black feminists. One of the things that helps rs ther, to be more realistic.I so often think of the speechthat sojourner
to get paid and to put it on that level so you don't feel so exploited. Tfuth made not becauseof the contentsso much but more becauseoi
Bar: I think that the service Gloria thought of having and calling it the function. She says,"Norv children, let'sget this thing together.Let
"Dial a Token"- I mean that'sa good thing. For one thing it puts it out me explain r,r'hat'sgoing on here. Let my lay it out for you'" I must ad-
there. It's saying, "Hey, i know what you're doing and I want to get mit that the reasonI think of it so often is that I have thought of rlyseli
paid for it." in that situation."Let n]e explain this to you one more time, let me take
Another thing, try not to be the only Third World person there. I was you by the hand, etc."I find myself playing that role' But there'sa way
thinking of the meeting that Cherrie \^'entto when she was here witl-r ino"gh that I feel that Third World women are t"totin actual leadership
us. Ar.rdeven though there were severalThird World wolnen we were posit,:orsin the women's rnovernentin terms of policy making, etc. Rut
still tokenized.{laughing)I guessthat I am really talking about support we certainly have the vision. we are in the position to challengethe
as opposedto defusing tokenization. feminist movement as it standsto date and, not out of any theoretical
Bev: Given the state of things between Black and lvhite women, commitnrent. Our analysisof race and classoppressionand our conr-
we're going to be tokenized quite a bit. It's so hard to get around that. mitment to really dealingwith those issues,including homophobia, is
Bar: A solution to tokenism is not racial separatism. There are somethingr,r,eknow we have to struggler,r'ithto insure our survival. It
definitely separatist aspectserrrergingamol)g the Black and Third is organic to our verY existence
World feminist community and that is fine. But, ultimately, any kind Bar: Thank you, sweetheart.Teddybearjust gave me a kiss'
of separatismis a dead end. It'sgood for forging identity and gathering Bye Girls.
strength, but I do feel that the strongestpolitics are coalition politics
that cover a broad baseof issues.There is no way that one oppressed
group is going to topple a system by itself. Forrning principled coali-
tions around specific issuesis very important. You don't necessarilv
have to like or love the people you're in coalition with.
This brings me back to the issue of lesbian separatisrn.I read in a
women's newspaper an article by a wonran speakingon behalf of les- ;
bian separatists.She claimed that separatistsare more radical thar.r I
other feminists.what l really feel is radical is trying to rnake coalitions
with people who are differe^t from you. I feel it is radical to be dearinc
with race and sex and classand sexualidentity all at one time. I think

that is really radical becauseit has never been done before. And it really

two cultures' both

. . . Lesbiansirave beetl forced to live between
which has denied and endangered.our
male-do-inated eacir of
driven lesbians
Lesbianism: an Act of Resistance existence . . Het"rosexual, patriarchal culture has
and suicide'r
i.rto r"r.".y and guiit, ofterrto self-hatred
Cheryl Clarke The evolving synthesis of lesbianism and ferninism - two women'
- is breaking that silence and
For a woman to be a lesbianin a male-supremacist,capitalist,misog- centered and powered ideologies
i-soffered as one srnall cut againstthat
ynist, racist, homophobic, imperialist culture, such as that of North ,".r".y The foiowing analysis or all-
is rrot intended to be original
America, is an act of resistance.(A resistancethat should be champi- stone of silence ur-,a,'"tt"ty lt history
the wornen hidden from
oned througirout the world by all the forces struggling for liberation inclusive. I dedicate this work to all
and triumph have rnade it possible for me to call my
frorn the same slave master.)No rnatter how a woman lives out irer les- *nor" suffering
name out loud.*
bianism - in the closet,in the statelegislature,in the bedroom - shehas
rebelledagainstbecoming the slavemastersconcubine,viz. the male' of all worner.rfrom heterosexual
unJpnitorophical meansof liberation
dependent female, the female heterosexual.This rebellion is danger- of all women
;yd;; -";t also identify with the r't'orld wide struggle
ous businessin patriarchy. Men at all levels of privilege, of all classes levels' As far as I am con-
to end male-supremacisi tyranny at all
and colors have the potential to act out legalistically,moralistically fenriDist must conrmit herself
cerned, any wonan *4-ro.uils heiself a
and violently when they cannot colonize women, when they cannot
t o t h e l i b e r a t i o n o f a l l w o m e r l f r o t n c o e r c e c l l r e t e r o s e x u a l i tThe
circumscribe our sexual,productive, reproductive, creative preroga- on Madison Avenue'
manifests itself in the family, the state' and
tives and energies.And the lesbian- that woman who, as Judy Grahn of all people from patri
Iesbian-feminist strugglesfor the liberation
says,"hastaken a woman lover"r - has succeededin resistingthe slave and for the transformation
archai domirration thllugh heterosexism
master'sirnperialism in that one sphere of her life. The lesbian has and relationships that have
oi utt ,o.io-political strllctures, systenls'
decolonizedher body. She has rejected a life of servitude implicit in of male domination'
b"".t d"g.uied and corrupted r'rnder-centuries
Western,heterosexualrelationshipsand has acceptedthe potential of o"" kind of lesbian' no one kind of lesbian
However, there rs
mutuality in a lesbian relationship- rolesnotwithstanding. "o
Historically, this cr.rlturehas come to identify lesbians as women, Iabor under to survive
kind of responseto the pressuresthat Iesbians
who over time, engagei:na rangeand variety of sexual-emotioDalrela-
tionships with women. I, for one, identify a womarl as a lesbian u'l-ro iesbians or identify with
relationships r"'ith wonlen call themselves
saysshe is. Lesbianismis a recognition,an awakening, a rearvakening Many worrren are only lesbiansto
any particuiar lesbian comnrunity'
of our passionfor each {woman) other {woman)and for same (woman). pass as heterosexuals as they traffic
a particular community and
This passionwill ultirnately reverse the heterosexualimperialism of to being black and passing for
;;";g enemies. (This is analogous
male culture. Women, through the ages,have fought and died rather oDe'strue origins.)
white with only one,sin-rmediaGiamiiy knowing
than deny that passion. In her essay,"The Meaning of Our Love for
Women IsWhat We Have Constantlyto Expand"Adrienne Rich states: "nigger-in-the-woodpile"story retells
sooner or later discovered'The
. . . Before any kind of feminist nrovernentexisted, or could exist,
itself. Many women are politically active as iesbians' but may fear
lesbiansexisted: women who loved women, who refused to com- heterosexualturf '
ply with behavior dernanded of women, who refused to define holding hands with theii lovers as they traverse
predo'ninance can be likened to the
themselvesin reiation to rnen. Those women, our foresisters,ntil- 1if,is ,?sponse to heterosexual
Iions whose names we do not knorv, were tortured and burned as reactionoftheblackstudentwhointegratesapredominatelywhite
her room open wher.rshe
witches, slandered in religious and later in "scientific"tracts, por- dorn-ritoryand who fears leaving the dotr of
trayed in art and literature as bizarre, amoral, destructive, deca-
dent womerr. For a long time, the lesbianhas been a personification ,,A il(tcr,unent.esPousL-s"struggiing.against
Black Fer.nir.ristStut"-",ri:. Becausc thil radical
of feminine evil. racial s e x u a l h e t c r o s e x u a l a n d c l a s s o p p r e s s i o n , "i t t r a sb e & r n l c t t t . t l a t l i f e s t o f
feminist thought action a n d p r a c t l c e

130 C l t r r r 1 C 1 , i1 13I
Cheryl Clatke

plays gospel rrusic.) There is the woman who errgagesin sexr.ral-

connection bet$'een the oppression of African peoples in North
ernotionalrelationsl-rips with u,omen and labelsherself blse,rual.
{This Arnerica and the unir.ersal oppressioll of women' As the women's
is comparable to the Afro-An'rericanwhose ski'-color ir-rdicates
her rights activist and abolitionist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, pointed out
rnixed ancestry yet who calls herself "mulatto" rather than black
l during the 1850s racism and sexismhave been produced by the same
Bisexual is a safer label than lesbian, for it posits the possibility
of a animal, viz. "the white Saxon man'"
relationshipwith a man, regardlessof how infrequent or non-existent
Gender oppression (i.e. the male exploitation and control of
the female bisexual'srelationshipswith n-renrnight be. And then
tirere women's productive and reproductive energieson the speciousbasis
is the lesbianwl.rois a lesbianan1'r.t'here and everyr,a,,here and rvho rs rr.r of a biological differencel originated from the first division of labor,
direct and constart co.rfrontation with heteroiexual presurrption,
viz. that betlveen women and men, and resulted in the accumulation
priviiege, and oppression.(Her strugglecan be.o,rrpu."d to that
of thc of private propert)', patriarchal usurpation of "mother right" or matri-
civil Rights activist of the 1960'swho was out there or"rtl-restreetsior
lineage,and the duplicitous, male-supremacistinstitution of hetero-
freedom, while so rnany of us viewed the action on the televisio^.1
sexualrnonogarny(for women orrly).Sexualpolitics, therefore,mirror
wherever we, as lesbians,fall along this very ger.rerarized poritical the exploitative, class-bound relationship betweer-rthe white slave
continuum, we 'rust know that the institution oiheteros""uulity master and therAfrican slave - and the impact of both reiationships
i, o
die-hard custor.nthrough which rr-rale-supremacist ir-rstitutior.rs insur.e ibetlveen black and white and woman and rtran) has been residual
their own perpetuity and co'tror over us. !\br.rer.rare keDt, 'rarr- beyond en-rancipation and suffrage.The ruling classwhite man had a
tained, and contained through terror, violence,and spray of semen. centuries-oldn'rodelfor his day-to-day treatment of the African slave.
is profitable for our colonizersto confine our bodiei and alienate Before he lean-redto justify the African's continued enslavementand
from our own life processesas it was profitable for the European the ex-slave's continued disfranchisement with arguments of the
enslave the African a'd destroy all memory of a prior freedom African's divinely ordained mental and moral inferiority to himself ia
s e l f - d e t e r m i n a t i o ' - A l e x H a l e v . o t r . r . i t h s t a n d i n gA. ^ d j u s t a s smokescreenfor his capitalist greed| the w,hite nlan learned, within
foundation of western capitalis'r depended uporithe Noith Atlantic the structure of heterosexual nlonogamy and under the system of
slave trade, tl.resystem of patriarchal dominatior.ris buttressedbv thc patriarchy, to relate to black people - slaveor free - as a man relatesto
subjugation of r,r'omenthrough heterosexuality.So patriarchs 'rust a woman, viz. as property, as a sexual commodity, as a servant, as a
extoll the boy-girl dyad as "natural"to keep us straighi a'd complia't source of free or cheap labor, and as an innately inferior being'
in the sarneway the European had to exto[ caucasia'superioiitr. Although counter-revolutionar-v,Western heterosexuality,which
justify the African slave trade. Asainst that historic
backdroo, t/r.: advances tnale-supretnacy,continttes to be upheld by many black
wotTlanwho choosestctbe a lesbittrtlivesdanpert,ush,. people, especially black n-ren,as the most desired state of affairs
A s a m e m b t ' r o f t h e i a r g e s ta n d s e c o n d r r i o s to p p r e s s e dg r o u p r , l ' between men and women. This observationis borne out on the pages
people of color, as a woman r,r'hoseslave and ex-slaveforesisters of our most scholarlybiack publicationsto our most commercial black
fered some of the most brutal racist,male-supremacistimperialisn-rin publications,r,r'hichview the issueof black male and female relation-
western history, the black lesbian has had to survive aiso the psvchic ships through the lens of heterosexualbias. But this is to be expected,
mutilation of heterosexualsuperioritl'. The black lesbian is as historically l.reterosexualityrn,asone of our onlv nleans of power
i.to the experienceof i'stitutional racisrn- Iike every other over our condition as slaves and one of tr,r'ollleans we had at our
nigger i'
America - and r,ust suffer as well the homoprrobit sexism disposalto appeasethe white man.
lJ tt.,"
black political community, some of whom seem to have forqotten Norv, as ex-slaves,black men have more latitude to oppressblack
s.oonthe pair-rof rejection, deniar,and repressionsarrctionedLl, women, becausethe brothers no longer have to competedirectly with
America. while 'ost political black resbiansdo .ot sive a the lvhite man for control of black tl'omen's bodies. Nou', the black
damn if
white America is .egrophobic it becomesdeepry prof,lematic r,r'hen man can assLlnlethe "master"role, and he can atter.l-rpt to tyrannize
.contemporar)' black political cornmunity (ar.rother malc-_ black u,or.)len.The black nran may view the lesbian - who cannot be
dorninated a'd r.rrale-identifiedinstitution) rejects us because
of our- manipulateclor seducedsexually by him - in Druchthe same way tl-re
commitment to rvornen and wonren's liberafion. Mar-ry
black male white slave master onceviewed the biack rnale slave,viz. as someper-
members of that commu'ity seernstill not to understand
the historic verse caricature of manhood threatening his position of dominance

132 Chen^lClarh, 133

over the female body. This view, of course, is a "neurotic illusion" his
undermines the black man's only source of power over her, viz'
imposed on black men by the dictatesof mare suprenlacy,which tht: lesbians and all black women involved in the
black man can never fulfill becausehe lacks the capitai means ancl
struggle for liberation must resist this manipulation and seduction.
racial privilege. T1treUtact<dyke,likeevery dyke in America, is everywhere-inthe
Historically, the myth in the Black world is that there are onlv trt,. socialsecurity
home, in the street,on the welfare, unemployment and
free people in the United States,the white man and the 6tack working in faciories, in the armed forces, on
rolls, raising children,
woma-n.The myth was establishedby the Black man in the long school system, in all the professions, going to
television,in the public
period of his frustration when he longed to be free to have the in middle-management, et. al. The black
material and socialadvantagesof his oppressor,the white man. on college or graduate school,
dyke, Iike every other non-white and working class and poor woman
examination of the myth this so-calledfreedom was based on the
sexualprerogativestake' by the white man on the Black female. It in America, has not suffered the luxury, privilege or oppressionof be-
was fantasiedby the Black man that she enioyed it. r ing dependent on men, even though our t.nalecounterparts have been
while lesbian-feminism does threaten the"biack r'an's predato^. pr:"t"ttt,
'have have shared our lives, work and struggle, and, in addition
c o n t r o lo i b l a c k w o m e n , i t s g o a la s a p o l i t i c a ri d e o l o g ya n d p i - r i l o s o p h i . undermined our "human dignity" along the way like most men in
is not to take the black man's or any man,sposition on top. patriarchy,the imperialist family of man. But we could treverdepend
Black lesbians who do work within ,,by-for-about-blick-people on them "to take care of us" on their resourcesalone-and, of course,
g r o u p so r o r g a n i z a t i o nes i t h e r p a s sa s " s t r a i g h t ' o rr e l e g a t eo u r l e s b i a r r - it is another "neurotic illusion" imposed on our fathers, brothers,
ism to the so-called "private" sphere. The more male-dominated or lovers, husbandsthat they are supposedto "take care of us" because
black nationalistbourgeoisthe organizationor group, the more resist- we are wonlen. Translate:"to take care of us" equals "to control us"
ant to change, and thus, the more homophobic and anti-feminist. hr Our brothers', fathers', lovers', husbands' only power is their man-
these sectors,we learn to keep a low profile. hood. And unless manhood is somehow embellished by white skin
In 1979, at the annual conference of a regional chapter of the a n d g e n e r a t i o n so f p r i v a t e w e a l t h , i t h a s l i t t l e c u r r e n c y i n r a c i s t ,
National Black social workers, the national director of that body rn,as capitalistpatriarchy.The black man, for example, is accordednative
given a standing ovation for the following remarks: elite or colonial guard or vigilante status over black women in im-
Homosexualsare even accordedminority statusnor,t,. . . And whitc perialist patriarchy.He is an overseerfor the slave master.Becauseof
women, too. And some of you black *omen who call yourselves his malenesshe is given accessto certain privileges,eg' employment,
feministswill be sitting up in meetings*'ith the same white rvome,., education,a car, life insurance,a house,sotle nice vines. He is usually
who will be stealingyour men on tlie sly. a rabid heterosexual.He is, since emancipation, allowed to raise a
This type of indictment of women's revorution a'd imoricitrv oi "legitimate" family, allowed to have his piece of turf, viz' his wife and
Iesbian liberation is voiced throughout the bourgeois black
1malel children. That is far as his dictatorship extends for, if his wife
movement. But this is the ir-rsidious nature of male suDremacv.whilr- decides that she wants to leave that home for whatever reason, he
the black ntan may consider racism his primary oppression he is doesnot have the power or resourcesto seduceher otherwise if she is "::
hard-put to recognizethat sexism is inextricabry bouna up with the deterrninedto throw off the benign or malicious yoke of dependency. 5
racism the black woman nrust suffer, nor can he seethat no women (or The ruling class white man on the other hand, has always had the J
men for that matter) wili be liberated from the orisinal "master- power to count women among his pool of low-wage labor, his means

slave"relationship,viz. that between men and women, until we are all of production. Most recently, he has "allowed" women the right to sue
liberated frorn the false premise of heterosexual superioritv. This for divorce, to apply for AFDC, and to be neocolonized'
corrupted, predatory relationship between men and women is the TLaditionally,poor biack men and women who banded togetherand
foundation of the master-slaverelatio.ship between white and black stayed together ind raised children together did not have the luxury to
p e o p l ei n t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s . iultivate dependenceamong the members of their families. So, the
The tactic many black men use to intimidate black women fron'r black dyke, iike most black women, has been conditioned to be self-
embracing feminism is to reduce the conflicts between white women sufficient, i.e. not dependent on men. For me personally, the condi-
and black women to a "tug-o-w ar" f or the black penis. A.d since the tioning to be self-sufficient and the predominance of female role
black lesbian, as stated previously, is not interestedin his penis, sl.rc- models in my Iife are the roots of my iesbianism.Before I becamea [es-
134 Clrerr'1Clurli,

bian, I ofter.rwondered why I was expectedto give up, avoid, a'cr tri'i-
alizetire recognitionand encouragementI felt from wolren in order tir rnust vehemently resist being bound by the white man's racist, sexist
pursue the tenuous busi^essof ireterosexuality.And I arn not u.ic1ue. laws, which have endangeredpotential intimacy of any kind between
As political lesbians,i.e. lesbians who are resisti.g the prevaiiing whites and blacks.
culture's attempts to keep us invisible and poweiless, \\re must It cannot be presumed that black lesbiansinvolved in love, work,
-hate and
becomemore visible (particularly black and other lesbiansof color) tcr and social relationshipsr,n'ithwhite lesbiansdo so out of self
deniai of our racial-cultural heritage, identities' and oppression. Why
our sistershidden in their various closets,locked in prisons of self-
should a \\roman's commitment to the struggle be questioned or
hate and ambiguity, afraid to take the ancient act of woman-bonding
accepted on the basis of her lover's or comrade's skin color? White ]es-
beyond the sexual, the private, tl'repersonal. I am not tryire to reifr.
lesbianisrr-r or feminism. I am trying to point out that lesbian-fenri'isnr bians engagedlikeu'ise ,,t'ith black lesbiansor any lesbiansof color
has the pote'tial of reversingand transforming a major conrponert cannot be assumed to be actir-rgout of some perverse, guilt-ridden
ir.r r a c i a l i s td e s i r e .
the system of womer's oppressio', viz. predaio.y l-,"te.ose*uaiity.
If I personaily ar-r"r tired of going to events, conferences,workshops,
r a d i c a ll e s b i a n - f e m i n i s upru r p o r t sa n a n t i- r a c i s i ,a r r t -i c l a s s i s ta.n t i -
planning sessionsthat involve a coming together of black and other
woman-hating vision of bonding as mutual, reciprocal, as i.finitelr.
iesbiansof color for political or even social reasonsand listening to
negotiable,as freedom from antiquated gender prescriptior-rs and pro- black lesbians relegate ferninisn-rto rvhite women, castigateblack
scriptions, then all people struggting to transform tie characte:r ,,1
women who propose forming coalitions with predominantiy white
relationshipsin this culfure have somethingto learn
from lesbrans. feminist groups, minirnize the rt'hite woman's oppressionand exag-
The woman who takes a woman lover iives dangerouslv in patri_
gerateher port er, and then finally judge that a black lesbian'scommit-
archy. And woe betide her even more if she choosesas her lo,r", o
ment to the liberation of black women is dubious becauseshe doesnot
woman r,t'hois not of her race. The silence among lesbiar-r-fernir.rrsts
sleepn ith a black woman. All of us have to accept or reject allies on
r e g a r d i n gt l r e i s s u eo f l e s b i a nr e l a t i o n s h i p sb e t w e e nb l a c k a n c ln h r t t ,
the basis of politics not on tl-respeciousbasis of skin color' Have not
wolnen in America is canseclby none other thar.rtl.recerturies-olcl
black peoplesufieretlbetraval from our own pectplel'
taboo and laws in the u'ited Statesagainst relatio.sl.ripsbet*,eer.r
Yes, biack worlell's experiences of misog-vnyare different from
people of color and thoseof the caucasian race. Speaki'e ireterosexu-
white women's. Hou'ever, they all add up to holv the patriarchalsiave
ally, the laws and taboos were a reflection of the patriarchal sla,,,e
masterdecided to oppressus. We both fought each other for his favor,
master'sattempts to control his property via controlring his lineagc
approval, and protection.Such is the effect of irnperialist,heterosexist
through the institution of monogamy (foi women only) ircl justifiect
patriarchy. Shulamith Firestone,in the essay,"Racism:the Sexisnlof
the taboos and laws with the argu'rent that pr.rrityolthe ciucasia'
the Farnily of Man", purports this analysisof the relationshipbetweet-t
racemust by preserved (aswell as its suprer-nacy). Aov'ever, rve kno*' white and black rvornen:
that his racist a.d racialist laws and taboos did not apply to l.ri'r ir.r
Hon' do the rvomen of tl-risracial Tfiangle feel about each other?
ternrs of the black slave lt'o'a' just as his classistlairls and tabo.s
Dir''ideanclconquer: Both ',votrteuhave qrown hostileto eachother,
regarding the relationship between the ruling class a.d tl.reinde'- white women feeling conteurptfor the "sluts"lvith no rnorals,black
tured servantsdid not apply to hirn in terms of the white \\,olna' ser- women feeling envv ior the pan-rpered"por,t'derpuffs." The black
vant he choseto rape. The offspring of any unions betrveenthe rvhite woman is jealous of the rvhite ltoman's legitinlacy, privilege, ar-rd
ruling classslave master and the black slave \\,oman or rvhite
woma, c o m f o r t , b u t s h e a l s o f e e l sd e e p c o n t e m p t . . . S i n r i l a r l y t h e w h i t e
indentured servant could r.rotlegally i.herit their white or rrrling \^.oman'scontempt for the black woman is mixed with envy: for the
sire'sproperty or name, just their mothers,conditio'of ser.,,ittide. black r'vor-r.ran's sreater sexual iicense, for her gutsiness,for her
The taboo againstblack and white people relating at any otlrer re,,,e freedom frorn the mar riage bind. For after all, the black u'olnan is
. l
t h a n m a s t e r s l a v e ,s u p e r i o r - i n f e r i o h n o t u n d e r t h e t h u m b o f a m a n , b u t i s p r e t t y m u c h h e r o w n b o s st o
r a st e e n p r o p o u n d e di r . A r 'errca
t o k e e p b l a c k l ' o m e n a n d r n e na ' d l v h i t e w o m e n a n d m e r , corne and go, to leave the house, to lvork (much as it is degrading
r ' h o s h a rc w o r k l o r t o b e " s h i f t l e s s "W. h a t t h e w l ' r i t ew o m a n d o e s n ' tk n o w i s
a cornrnonoppressionat tl.rel.ra'dsof the ruling class'.,hite rnan,
fronr that the black rvomatr, not under the thunrb of orlentatl, can ttolt' be
orgar-rizingagainst that co'rr'o' oppression. we, as black
lesbians, squashedby all. There is no alternative for eitl.rerof them than the
choice between being public or private property, but becauseeach
136 Chert.rCttrt ,, CherylClarke

still believesthat the other is getting away r,r'ithsomethingboth can

be fooled into mis-channeling their frustration onto each other to stop fighting each other for our spaceat
So,all of us would do well
rather than or-rtothe real enemy, 'The Man.'r +re hottolrl, becausethere ain't no more room' We have
spent so lluch
- -
Though her statementof the choicesblack and white r,r'omenhave arr!
Time to love ourselves' And that' for all
under patriarchy in America has merit, Firestone analyzes only a 1i6e hating ourselves' is the final
u! lo.r".r, as comrades' as freedom fighters'
specific relationship i.e. between the ruling classwhite wornan ancl i;;ir"t
slave or ex-slave black woman.
Becauseof her whiteness, the white wornan of all classeshas bee'
accorded,as the black man has becauseof his maleness,certain Drrvr_
leges in racist patriarchy, e.g. indentured servitude ur oppor"d 1.., ENDNOTES
a Common Wbman' Diana
enslavement, exclusive right to public assistanceuntil the 1960s rcrahn, Jucly "The Colrmon \\bman"' The Worh of
"legitimate"offspring and (if married into the middle/upper class]the Press.Oakland, 1978'P' 67
Prose1966'1978 W.W'
luxury to live on her husband'sincome, etc. zRich, Adrien ne' On Lres,Secrets'and Silettce:Selected
Norton. Ner,r'\brk, 1979'P Z25'
The black woman, having neither maleness nor whiteness, has by?oor Black
3Robinson,Pat and Group "Poor Black.Women'sStudy Fpltt
always had her heterosexuality,which white men and black rr.ren N"* Vottt' in T Cad-e(ed) Thc' Black Woman: An
Women of Mount Ve"#, p 194'
have mar-ripulatedby force and at will. Further, she, like all poor xl." et'l.tltun Library' Nerc York 1970'
people, has had her labor, which the white capitalist man has also aFirestone,Shularnith, The Dialecticof Ser: The Casefor Feminist
taker and exploited at will. These capabilities have allowed black 113'
Bantam Books, New York' 1972' P'
wolnen minimal accessto the crumbs thrown at black men and lvhite 5 R i c ho
, p . c i t . ,P . 2 9 8
women. So, when the black woman and the white woman becorne
lovers,we bring that history and all thosequestionsto the relationship
as well as other people'sproblems with the relationships.The taboo
againstintimacy between white and black people has been internal-
ized by us and simultaneously defied by us. If we, as lesbian-fentin-
ists, defy the taboo, then we begin to transform the history of
relationshipsbetween black women and urhrtewomen.
In her essay, "Disloyal to Civiiizatior.r:Feminism, Racism, Gyne-
phobia," Rich calls for feminists to attend to the compiexities of the
relationship betu'een black and white wornen in the United States.
Rich queries:
What caricaturesof bloodlessfragility and broiling sensualitystill
imprint our psyches,and where did we receivethese imprintings?
What happened between the several thousand northern wltite
wonen and southern black \^ronteltwho together taught in the
schoolsfounded under Reconstructionby the FreedmentsBureau,
side by side braving the Ku Klux KIan harrassment,terrorism, and
the hostility of white communities?*:'
*One such exarnple is tlre Port
R o v a l E x p e r i n . r e n t{ 1 g 6 2 ) , t h e p r e c u r s o r o f t h e
Freedmen's Bureau. Port Royal \!as a program of relief for,,freed nten and n,onren,'in the
S o u t h c a r o l i n a S c a I s l a n c l s ,o r g a n i z e d u n d e r t h e a u s p i c e so i t h e B o s t o n E d u c a t r o n
c o m m i s s i o n a n d t h e F r e e d m e n ' sR e l i e f A s s o c . i n N e w y o r k a n d t h e p o r t R o 1 ' a lR e l i e i
Assoc. ir Philadelphia, and sanctioned by the Union Arny and the Federal
Governnrent. SeeTheJ ournLtlof CharhttteFctrterron t he "port Royal Experi nrent" l Beacon
P r e s s ,B o s t o n , 1 9 6 9 ) .T h r o u g h h e r N o r t h e r n b o u r g e o i s m ) ' o p i a F o r t L ' n r e c o u n t s h e r
e x p e r i e n c e sa s a b l a c k t c a c h e ra n r o n gt h e l r l a c k f r e e d m e n a n d u , o n r e na D d h e r N r . r r t h e r n
w , h i t cr v o m e n p e e r s .

\.., :
fiarbara Noda
Lowridirg Through the Women's
in the Outer .N{ission.We shared a sn'eet piece of rtraternrelonthat
Movement floated like a bright red iceberg in the middle of our plate, unmistak-
Barbara Noda sbly a bite of paradise.Old differencesover "correct"politics slithered
harmlessly from our mouths with the black seeds lr,'espit out. We
One road winds downthe mountains, past
apple orchards,ar.rdinto talked about Asiar.rArnerican poetry and Thie Lake, cci-existedfor a
the half-awake town of watsonv're, rnonent ther-rParted lvaYs.
ca'liforniu. xot q"i*"irri,,.u",i
by the university studentsof Santa cruz For one \r,ho rt'as so sincerely dedicatedto the "cause"for her to be
or the tourists of Mor.rterev,
an eye-distancefrom the brue roar of pacific, broadsidedwhile driving past the pine ar-rdsand that border Highn ay
watsonvirle i" ,titt o
sleepy town where lowriders drag main One and killed instantly is a mystery beyond all cornprehensiot-t.
in search of non-existe.t
action' The lowriders are left to their own There is no understanding of such things. Ntaybe we kttell' sornething
destiny, to ..rrir"-u!uinr, o
backdrop of fog-shrouded artichokes n,hen then that w.e needed to forget in order to live more meaningful iives,
the iun ^u, go;"'do*.n.
Thor'y spearsthrust into a star-studded when n'e joined the lorvriders in the flagrant pursuit of their destiny.
night, and the rowriders baiL
out at desertedbeaches,drink six-packs
of beer and stareat the foa'.
Sharonskitchen irr watsonville was the center fl
of a different kind oi
activity. We assembledin the evening:
who would soo' be led to christia'it"y; I rode the elevator dort'n from the 21stfloor, n'rarchedto the bakery
a black lesbian *,tro ti'ei ,,-,u
cottage behind Sharon'shouse who *u, where Sharonused to buy pastrieson her visits to the city, and ate ury
ur-runforgivabre .o-u.rti. u,-,0
who probably led a past life as an opera Iunch in Portsmouth Square.I had beer-rpluggeclinto il dictaphone all
singer;a chicana, seif_nameci
aftela.levolutionary, struggling to earn morning and Chinato'"vnsquirrned with life.
a ioctorate in the Universrtv
of California's ethereal mounlaintop Pidgeonssoftly gurgling. Game tablesobscuredand surrounded by
program called ,,Historr."'oi
Consciousness";and myself . the beating heartsof groups of men. Women carrl.ing bagsof groceries
We werg probably among the first of our nearly flying above sedateheads,like kites trailed by srnail children.
kind back in the early ser,_
enties:a third world won-re.sgroup. There, Old people deciphering the ar.rcientlanguageof their wornottt books.
i. the quiet of reside.tial
watsonville, we discussed the-"coronized" The red benches.My red sweater.The color RED sangout at tne, and I
and the "coronizer,,.Sharor-r
distributed green tea, chinese pastries, was a glorious part of it.
a'd Airne cesaires Durlr.,)rr,
on Colonialisrz'As the evening wound down Across the street lr,as the leveled site of the I-Hotel. A fortress
we stormed out together -
third world sisters-and dragged main barricaded with the strategyof ardent organizers,it was now a park-
with the masses,Oru"rt i"".
and howled at the enrpty, irrnoce't face ing lot. The damp cold of the building the lonelinessof the teuantsand
of the sky *,h" ;p;.;;;;;
Whether Racewas of us (I was not sure whether rt e had been the youthful guardians of
if ;"jlj'::1,'iJ: the building or stray catswho had'uvanderedin) had been dernolished
nothingelsein the world that we saw around into a flattened expanseof less than nothing. Even nothir-rgspeaks.
us had any"solidide'rtv
or meani'g. It was a vaporous season,like This was rnerel,vcity grirne, fumes, noise, pollution. The l'rurnanity
a lost ,,rrr.,-"., ur-,dd".;;;_
ately we needed to hold onto each other that had kept us warrn and huddled together through rnakeshift
and..;;;;;; ,;;;rli",r-'
the underworlcl. Christmas dinners, internal crises and external lvarfare had been
Ngy,.to many years later, it is still difficult strained from the air. Not even a mirage existed, only the city life
. to believe that Sharonis
dead. I keep thinking that one day I,ll see around me.
her in the midst of a denrorr_
stration, shouting through a megaphone
and glaring i"to ttr"puf"
who dares to tell her to ,,goback to where
you came from.,,She is"y. nor
from china' But perirapsshouting into a
megaphonewas not her rvar,.
I remember the last time I saw heiin newly

I4- I
I,'lerle Woo

who advocatesnot only equality for Third world

\nto a crazywoman
,.,"opl" f o r r v o m e t t ,b u t f o r g a y s a s n ' e l l ? P l e a s ed o n t s h u d d e r ' M a
Lh"n t speak of houtosexuaiity. Until we cau ail present ourselvesto
the world in our cornpleteness, as fully and beautifuliy as we see
Letter to Ma ourselves naked in our bedrooms, we are not free.
Merle Woo After what seemslike hours of talking, I realizeit is not talking at all,
but the filling up of time n'ith sounds that say, atn Your daughter,
D e a rM a , J a n u a r y ,1 9 8 ( ) vou are my mother, and we are keeping eachother company,
I was depressed over Christrnas, and r,vhen New Year's rollecl is enough."But it is not enough becausemy life l.rasbeen forrrled by
around, do you know what one of my rcsolvesrr.as?Not to con-rebv your life. Togetherrt'e have lived one hundred and elevenyears in this
and see you as much anymore. I had to ask n"ryselflr,hy I get so dou-rr country as yellow wolnell, and it is not enoughto enunciateworclsar-rd
lvhen I'r-r.r with yor.r,r-nymother, who has focused so much of her Iiie words and words and then to have thenr only meatl that we have beer-r
on me, who has endured so much; one who I ar.r.r proud of and respe.ct keeping each other contpanv. I desperatelywarlt you to unclerstand
so deeply for simply surviving. me and my work, Ma, to know what I arn doingl When you distort
I suppose tirat one of the nrair.rreasonsis that rn'henI leave vour what I say, like thinking I an-ragainst all "caucasians"or that I am
h o u s e ,y o u r p r e t t y l i t t l e r o u n d n h i t e t a b l e i n t h e d i n e t t eu ' h e r e u ' e s i l ashamedof Dad, then I feel ar-rgerand tnore frustration and want to
while you drink tea (with only three specksof Jasrnine)and I sr.r.rokt slashout, not at )'ou, btrt at those external forcesrt'hich keep us apart.
and drink coffee, I am dolvn because I belicve there are chasrns What deepens the chasms betlr,'eenus are our different reactior-rs to
those forces. Yours has been one of silence, self-denial, self-efface-
between us. When you say, "I support you, honey, in everything votr
d o e x c e p t .. . e x c e p t .. . " I k n o w y o u m e a n e x c e p t m y s p e a k i n g o u t a n c l ment; you believing it is vour fault tltat you never fully experienced
writing of my anger at all those things that har,'ecausedthose chasnrs. self-pride ar-rd freedom of choice. But listen, Ma, only rn'ith a
When you say I shouldn't be so ashamed of Daddy, forrner gambler deliberate consciousnessis my reaction different from yours.
retired clerk of a "gook suey"store,becauseof the time when I lr,assir When I iook at you, tl.rereare inlases: inlagesof you as a little ten-
and sarv him humiliated on Grarrt Avenue by two u'hite cops, I knou' year-old Korean girl, being sent alone from Shanghai to the lJnited
you haven'teven been listening to nre when I have repeatedl_v said that States,in steerager'r,ithor.rlyone skirnpy little dress, bcing sick and
lonely on ArrgelIslanclfor tl'rreemonths; thet.rgrolving up in a "Ilonle"
I am not ashamedof him, not yorr,not who \ve are. Wi.rer.r you ask, "Arc-
run by white missionary women. Scrubbingfloors on your har.rds and
you so angry becauseyou are unhappy?"I know that u,e are not talk-
knees, hauling coal in heavy ntetal buckets up three flights of stairs,
ing to eachother. Not with understanding,although many words have
tending to tl-reyounger children, putting hot bricks on your cheeksto
passedbetween us, many hours, many afternoonsat that round table
deadenthe pain from the terrible toothachesyou alvvayshad. Working
with Daddy out in the front roorn lt'atching television,and driiting out
all your life as maid, r,vaiiress,salesclerk,office r,r'orker,rlother. But
ever)' once in a while to say "Still talking?"and getting nrore peanLrts
throughout there is an irnage of you as strong atrd courageous,and
that are so bad for his health.
persevering:climbing out of windows to escapefrom the Home, then
We talk and we talk and I feel frustrated by vour censorship.I knou'
later, frorn an abusive first husband. There is so nluch more to these
it is unintentional and unconsciotts.But whatever I have told you
imagesthan I can say,but I think you kuolv what I rnean.Escapingout
about the classesI r,r,asteaching, or the stories I rvas workir.rg on
of windorn s offered ot-rlytemporary re-spites; surviving is an everyday
you've always forgotten within a month. Maybe you c--an't listert-
chore. You gave me, physically, what you never had, but there was a
becausemaybe when you look in my eyes,you will, as you've alrvay's
spiritual, entotionallegacyyou passeddort'n which was reinforced by
done, sensemore than what we're actually saying,and that makesyou
society:seif-contempt becauseof our race,our sex, our sexuality.For
fearful. Do you see your repressed anger manifested in nre? What
deeply ingrained in me, Ma, there has tleen that strong' cornpulsive
doors lvouid groan wide open if you heard my words u,ith complett-
force to sink into self-contempt, passivity,and despair.I atn sure that
understanding?Are you afraid that your dar.rghteris breaking out of
my fifteen years of alcohoi abuse have not been forgotten by either of
our shackles,and into total anarchy? That your daughter has turnecl
u s , n o r r r i v s u i c i d a ld e p r e s s i o n s .
t42 llerl'!1i,, 1'13
Merle Wott

1'\on',I kno,,t'you are going to think thzit I hate altcidespise),ou for -effacement.Right now.,rny techniquesare education
silenceand self
y o u r s e l f - h a t r e d ,f o r y o u r i s o l a t i o n .B r " r It d o n ' t . B e c a u s ei n s p i t e o i Yellorn,Feminist meansbeing a core for change,and that
and writing.
your r,t,ithdrern'al, ir.tspite of your loneliness,yoll ltave not onl\. sur- means having the belief in our potential as human beings. I rvill
vivcd, but becn beside rne in the u,orst of tirnes r,r,henyorlr conti)elnv with anyone, support anr-olle,r'r'hoshares my sensibility, nly
rneant everything in the r,vorldto rnc. I just need rnore than tl'ratnr_rrr., But there are barriers to unity: rvhite tvon.renrt'ho are rac-
Ma. I have taken ancltarkenfront you in tem"rsof neediltgyou to ntother and Asian American men lvho are sexist My ve ry being dcclares
me, to be by rny side, ar-rdI necd, t.te1s,to take from you trvo rnore those two groups do not share my cor.npletesensibility.I would be
things: unde-rstandingand support for rt'ho I anr now and rny'uvork. mutilated, if I did not fight agair-rstracist't'tatrcl sexist't"t
We are Asiau Amcrican rnrontenand the reactiorrto onr identitr.is
u , h a t c a u s e st h e c h a s n . risn s t e a do f c o n n e c t i o n s B . u t d ( ) ) , o L rr e a l i z e And this is rvhen the pair-rof the struggle hits hotne. Horv many
Ma, tl-ratI could never have reacted the \{ay I have if 1'ou had not white women have taken on the responsibility to educatetl're:rnseives
provided for me the opportunity to be free of the binds that har".e helcl about Third World people, their history, their culture? How inany
you dowr"r,and to be in the process of self-affirmation? Becausec,i white women really think about the stereotypesthey retain as truth
your lifc, becauseof the physical security yor.rha,,.egiven nte: rnv cdu, about women of color?But the perpetuation of dehumanizing stcreo-
cation, my full stomach,my clothed and starcl'redback, rny piarroanti types is really very helpful for u,hites; they use them to justify their
dar.rcinglessons- all those gifts you never received- I salv rnyself as giving us the lolr,estwages and all the work they don't want to per-
having wortl.r;now I begin to love rnyself more, seeour potential,ancl form. Ma, how can l'r'ebelieve things are changing when as a nurse's
fight for just that kind of social change that u'ill affirm me, nt)r race. aide during World War II, you \vere given only the tasks of changing
my sex, my heritage.And while I affirrn myself, Ma, I affirm you. the bed linen, removing bed pans, taking urine samples,and then only
Today, I am satisficcl to call nryself either an Asian Americar.t three years ago as a retired volut-rteerworker in a local hospital,white
Feminist or Yellow Feminist. The tr,r'oternls are inseparablebecause women gave themselves desk jobs and gave you, at sixty-nir"re,the
race and sex are an integral part of me. This mealts that I am workins same work you did in 1943?Today you speak more fondly of beir-rga
with others to realize pride in culture and women and heritage (the nurse'saide during \Vorld War II and hor,r'proud you are of the fact
heritage that is the exploited yellovv in-rmigrant:Daddy and you). that the Red Crossshort ed its appreciationfor your service by giving
Being a Yellow Feminist means being a comrnunity activist and a you a diploma. Still in 1980,the injusticescontinue. I can give you so
humanist. It does not rnean "separatisrn,"either by cutting myself off many examples of groups which are "feminist" in u'hich \^Iolnenof
fron-rnon-Asians or men. It does not mean retaining the same power color were given the usr.ralleast important tasks, the shitwork, and
structure and substitutingwomen in positior.rs of control held by nten. given no say in how that group is to be run. Needlessto say, those
It does mean fighting the whites and the men who abuse us, straight- Third World \\romen, like you, dropped out, quit.
jacket us and tape our mouths; it means changingthe economic class Working in rt'riting and teaching, I have seen how white wornen
system and psychologicalforces {sexisrn,racisnt, and homophobiaJ condescendto Third World \\rolnenbecausethey reasonthat because
that really hurt all of us. And I do this, not in isolation, but in the of our oppression,which they knorv nothing about, we are behind
cornrnunity. them and their "progressiveideas"in the struggle for freedorn. They
We no longer can afford to stand back and \ ratchwhiie an insatiable don't even look at historyl At the facts! How r,t'eas Asian Americarr
elite ravagesand devours resourceswhich are enough for all of us. women have alrvays been fighting for n-rorethan mere survival, but
The obstaclesare so huge and overwhelming that often I do become were never acknor.n'ledged because we were in our comr-nunities,
cynical and want to give up. And if I were struggling alone, I know I invisible, but not inaccessible.
would never even atternpt to put into action rvhat I believe in r-ny And I get so tired of being the instant resource for infornation on
heart, that (and this is primarily becauseof you, Ma) Yellow Women Asian American lr,omen. Being the token representative,going frorn
are strongand have the potential to be powerful and effective leaders. ciassto class,group to group, bleeding for rt'hite \vonlen so they can
I can hear you asking now, "Well, what do you mean by'social have an easy answer - and then, and this is what really gcts to
change and leadership'?And how are you going to go about it?' To me - they usually leave to never cot.ttinuetheir educationabout us ot.t
begin with we must wipe out the circumstancesthat keep us down rn their ort'n.
/ ",3,,,''q::ilT:ij:;*;i"'1il:j,):iilxli"::;
ta:,':,:l;:l Merle lita41

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.\k,rb t\i,, , 147
Merle Wcxt

Today, as I rvrite to you of all these memories, I

deeply hurt lvhen I realize hou,many people, how
feel even rnore supportedyou, and as the years pass,I think I begin to understandyou
so,rlurry-f*pl" rnore ano more.
becauseof racism and sexism,fail to ie! what power
nu" ,u..ifi." b" In the iast felv years, I have realizedthe value of Homework: I have
not joining hands.
studied the history of our people in this corlntry. I cannot tell you how
But 'ot all white \ ronrenare racist,a'd not ail Asian
are sexist. And we chooseto trust them, love and
American rnen oroud I am to be a Chinese/KoreanAmerican Woman. We have such a
l'ork with the'r proud heritage,such a courageoustradition. I want to tell everyone
And there are visible changes.Real tangible, positive
.nu.,f"r. fn" about that all the particulars that are left out in the schools.And the
changesI love to see are those chang", *ithin
ourselves. full awarenessof being a woman nlakesnle \\'ant to sing.Ancl I do sing
Your grandchildren, 'ry children, Enriiy and paul.
That makes three with otirer Asian Americaus and wolllcn, Ma, auyone lvho lvill sing
generatio's. Emily loves herserf.Always has.There
are shadesof self- with rne.
doubt but much less than in you or me. She
says exactlv what she I feel norv that I can begin to put our lives in a larger frarrlelvork Ma,
thinks, nrost of the time, either in praise or in criticism
of herself or a iarger {rarnervorklThe outlir.resfor us are time and blood, but toclay
others. A.d at sixtee. she goes after whatever
srre wants, usuarr' there is breadth possible tirrough making connections rvitl.r others
centerstage.she trusts antr rovespeople,regarciless
of race or sex (but, involved it"t cotnmur-tit1'strttgele. In loving ourseives for who lt'e
of course,shescautious),loves her community and
works in it, speaks are - Arnerican 'Nolren of color - \ve can make a Vision for the future
up againstracisim and sexism at school. Did you
knor' that ,h" go, where \ve are free to fulfill our hnman potential.Tl-risnelv framervorli
Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker on lter
reading list for a will not support repression,hzrtred,exploitationand isolatiolr,but r,t,ill
southern writers classwhen there l'ere onry white
autrrois?That she be a hurnan and beautifr.rlfrarneltrork, created in a cornn-rutritV,
insistedon changing a script done by an Asian
American man when bonded not by color, sex or class,but by love and the common goill for
shesaw that the depictio'of the charactershewas
playing was sexist? the iiberation of mind heart, anci spirit.
That she went to a california state House confererice
to ,i"ut out for Nta, ioda1,,)'ou are as betrutiful and pure to nle as the picture I ]'rave
Third World students'needs?
of you, as a little girl, untler n-r1'dresser-glass.
And what about rrer rittre brother, paul? TWerve
years olcr. A'd
remember, Ma? At one of our SaturdayNight I iove you,
Family Dirrrl".r, how he
lectured Ronnie (his uncle, yetl) abouihol,i lvlerie
h" *,u, i male chauvinrstT
Paul told me once how he kner.r,he had to fight
to be Asian American,
and later he added that if it weren't for Emily
and me, he wouldn,t
have to think about feminist stuff too. He sayi
he can hardl1,enjoy a
movie or TV prograln anyn)ore because oi
the sexism. O, .or_r,i.
books' And he is very rnuch aware of the different
treatment he gets
frorn adults: "You have to do everything right ,,
he said to Emilv ,,aid I
can get away with alnrost anythine.',
F)mily and Paul give us hope, M'a. Becausethey
. are proud of u,ho
they are, and they care so much about our culture
and iistor;. E;ily
was the first to write your biography becauseshe
knol's how crucial it
ls to get our stories in ,,vritins.
M a , I w i s h I k n e u , t h e h i s t o r i e so f t h e r v o n r e l tl r )
o u r f a n t i l l ,b e f o r e
you. I bet lhat l'ould be quitc a storv.
But that 'rav be just as *,ell
becauseI c'a'say that you started sor'ethi'g. Maybe
you ieel arnbir.a-
l e ' t o r d o u b t f r - ral b ' r r t i t , b u t ' o u d i d . A c t u a i i y ,
1''u tuld be proudof
s h
w h a t y o L l y l ' b e g u r rI.a n r . I f l ) ) ) .l ( , a c t i o nt o h c i n , J y c l l o u . \ V o r r r a n
a is
cliffere't thar yo.rs l'as, plcase kror,v tirat
that is not a judgment
or yoLl'a criticis'i or a de'ial of you, vour
*'ortrr. I have irrou,

[\ftirtha Qutntarnlt's

than as scattered
latter are in a better bargaining position as a SroILp
I Come with No Illusions individrials fighting their orvn persor.ral battles'
F o r m y s e l f - a s a L a t i n a l e s b i a n / f e m i n i s t i,t a l s o m e a n sa r e a l l l a r -
Mirtha Quintanales rowing of options and privileges. I have extren]ely limited
to polr,er, no legitimacy. If there are many like
No money, no access
Querida Chabela(IsabelYrigoyen), Colurnbus,Ohio Nor is it goirlg to be easy for me to connect with
me I do not know.
December 27 l97t) learn that there are. Their resources are likely to be as
them if I should
. . . Woman love. Never knew it would be so hard to leave anyone. is a socio-ecor.ror-nic, political reality that acts as a
limited as mine. This
Even though it means everything to me to ntove on, to finally e,'ba.k of a strong and visible community. Not oniy
barrier to the formation
on this self-healingjourney. Torn by guilt. My rover. working-class
the "socialgoodies"(money, power, fame and other minor privileges)
"white" woman from a small town. She has no more privileges tha^
I but life'snecessities(ajob, a roof over my head . . ' ) depend on my ties,
do. As alone as I am. She is not my enemy. World upside donvn.
my interactionslvith American men and women To say "I do not like
. . . W h a t l i e s a h e a d ?A m y s t e r y . D o n o t d a r e e v e n c o n s i d e r t t r e
the nature of this tie with the powerful" is dangerous; for the
possibility of a love relationship with a Latina, a Cuban woman, e'c.
implications are that I may strive to break free fron'rit and in doing so
to dream that I could find such partnership. . . famiiy. work. lt is ,r'
reduce ntv chancesof making it in this societv'
life. It is all I have. It is what now ultimately propelsme to make this
But what of human feeling? It is after all, great personal need, not
move. You, my friends, willsweeten my life. I k'ow that. But I cor.rrc
political anal,vsisthat drives n]e to take this stand, to turn away frorn
to you with no illusions. I join you becauseI must. Give of myself tcr
my American sistersand put all my energiesinto creating a comlnu-
those who can give to me of then-rselves. sisters. Sharing. I look for niiy with my Latina sisters.What is the nature and significanceof tl-ris
expect nothing more. Is there really something more?
n""d? tt it true that love knows r.roboundaries?Or that being "human"
Setting myself up? Closing up, putting up barriers? perl.raps. -
- somehorv rneans being ultir-r-ratelyundifferentiated "all aiike"?
Perhapsjust trving to be "my own woman.,,peihaps just trying
to be Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that in fact
one, not one-half. can I find happiness"alone"?Americans tell rne "human nature", bound as it is to "culture", it-Dpliesvariability and
I should strive for this blessedstate of self-contentment as ,,one,,
if r difference. Yes, we all need to eat and sleep, keep ourselveswarm,
intend to survive. Yet ofte. I have doubts. Is this the kir-rd
<rf protect ourselvesfrom harm, be nurtured into maturity; touch and be
world I want to live in? A world where ultimately onlv the ,,1,
touched etc. But, how we choose to meet these needs varies arld
rnatters?Millio's of people livi.g in self-co'strr.rctecllittle
bu"c, changesfroln tinre to time, piace to place and is dependent both on
history and the particular set of environrnental circumstancescon-
I ponder over the meaning and possiblerepercussionsof the choices textual to oLlr lives. what both puzzles me and distressesme is the
I am about to make. what doesit rneanto say to myself that only otht--r
degree to lvhich \ve seem to be "culture bound " As if "setting the
Latina, bicultural lesbian women can satisfy my needs?what are the
cuitural mold" implied never qr-ritebeing able to break free from it. At
implications of separatingmyself from American wonlen and creati'g
least not cornpletely.This seems to be particularly true in the most
a separatecomnru.ity with women I identify as my co.nterparts? private activitiesof our lives - horv we expressand sharefeeling in the
It means,for one thing, that I a'r admitting failure. Failure to adjust context of our intimate inter-personalreiationships.The wonder of it!
adapt, change, transcend cultural differences. yet this is not orlv a And the pain. . .
personal failure. It is one which I share with miilions. The realitv of Con mr.rchocarino, tu ar-rriga
ethnic minority enclavesthroughout the world tells me a great ieal Mirtha
about the process I am going through. It is neither unique nor nenr'.
A.d ultimately it may have a lot more to do with ,,success,, than with
failure. It is after all, a survival strategy- particularly in the contexto[
a power imbalance between "natives" and ,,foreigners,,-l'here the

\ ,$ar
15(J A l i r i / t , tt ) l l i t t t ' i ' r ' t i ' '

I Paid Very Hard for My Immigrant reiection ilt rt'l.rite, lllelillstrealll

f i t t i l c r c e i t h e
lc-sbial.r/ferllinistcircles as \\'ell'
Ciearlyshe d o e s l l o t
Ignorance The Biack u - o r l a l ) s c ( ) l t r r ) t i t n i e l ) t sf |,0 n l $ ' h t r t I c a n g a t h e r , t r r c
Thirtl World urollle ll, wolllcll of coltlr' And I an-r
Mirtha Quintanales understaltdablv n'itl-r
ir.r the rliddle. As a Tliird World Caribbean
fuite uncomfortzibly
D e a r B a r b a r a( S r n i t h ) , li,ro,r.,u,.r I unclerstancl lvhat it lttcalts to have grcr\(ll up "colonized"in et
irllperialist forces.As ar.t
Jar-rua11' 1980 societ,ybuilt on slaver).altcithe oppressiollof
allcl a crlltllral nrinority \,\,olllan u,l]o happensto be white-
Thanks for your letter. I can appreciate your taking the timc to irn,nigLant
skiru"ed, I empathize $,ith the paill of e thr.ric invisibility arld the perils
write. It can get so difficult for busy people to keep up rvith corrc-
a vcrV telltloLls sittratitll.r - sitlce acknorvlcdgenretrt
s p o n c l e n c e. . l o n l , v h o p e t h a t v o u h a v e t a k e n s o r n e t i r n e t o r e s t , of passing\alu'ayS
gather your energies. I'm just beeir"rningto emerge from a several- o f e t h n i . i i . r i s i r e r . i t a b l f . c c o * p a r i e d b y s t e r eo t y p i n g ,p r e j u d i c e
- just Lrersollal,but
week period of sen'ri-hcrntitdoutrn1'self.I, too, u'as exhausted.Too various kinds of cliscritnir.ration the problclll is not
" l ile ") Ho\\' to
m u c h w o r k t o o r n a n y r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e-s o f t e n t h e r , r , o r r ) , onf o t r n o v r n g " s y s t e n t i c "" p o l i t i c a l ' o l l e l l l o r e r c a l i t v o f A I r l c ' r i c a t r
reconcile thcs.- diffcrent liirtds tr[ "1llin'raly t:tllcrgetlcics":ract' trtlcl
f a s t e n o u g h ,o r t o o f a s t t o h a v c a n y k i n d o f a n i m p a c t . A f t e r a b r i c i
peaceful interlucle, the prc.ssuresare beginning to builcl agarn culture? O{ cor.rrsethis kiDc'loi corlilict tends to obsctlrethe issue
for thc
O h n , e l .l . . classanc'lits rclationship to racr: allcl ethnicitl' so illlportant
I rt'anteclto tell you about r.r.rv r.isit to San Francisco,about conr'g u n d e r s t a r l d i n go i t h c d i l e n l n l a .
togetherwith rn1'Latina lesbian/femir.rist sisters.The joy and the pain Not all Third worlci \\,onlel)are "\\'olllenof color" if b1'tllis collcept
of finding each other, of realizing horv long n,e've"done u,ithout", of we lnealt exclusively"r]on-$,hite".I an] onl,votle exat]]ple.And not all
hor,'ciifficultit'sgoing to be to heal otrrselves,to find our voices. . But w o r n e n o f c o l o r a r e r e a l l y ' T h i r c l\ , V o r l d - i f t h i s t e r t n i s o n l y r . r s e di u
i.rorvpcrfectlv r,r'onderfulto finaiiv have a family, a communitv yet I refelencc-to uttclc-rdeveloped tlr clevt-lopingsocietiesiespeciallythosc
find that there is too much to tell. Cannot easily compress it all in a not allied u.ith arty superpo\\.eri.Clearl,vthen it rt'ould be difficult to
letter. How I r,t'ishthat u,c could rneet and talkl So much of the Black justify referrinq to Japanese \volttell,rvho are \\'ot.ncnof color, as Third
lesbian/fe,trinistexperienct-speaksto our ort'n . . . I passedarounclall Worli ,.'.',r.,.r",'r.'Y"f , i} u'e exter-rcithe ctlncept of Thircl Worltl to ir.rcluclc
internally,"colonized'Iacial and ethl.licr.r.rinoritl' grotlllsin this cotll)tr-v,
the-literature vou'd handed out at conferences- including Conditions
so ntar]_vdiffcrL:ntkinds oi groups could bc cotrceivably i|rcluded,that
5. And the Latina sisterswere amazed. Lorraine Bethel's"What Chon
the cruiial issr.re o[ socialancl institutional racisur and its liistoric tie to
Mearr LVeWhite Girl?" rt'as cspeciall_v telling. . . Many of our feelir-rss
slaverf in ti-reU.S.coulclget tiih-rted, lost in the shrrffle. The same thing
given forrn, meaning. Pleaselet her kr.ror,r,,that l'rertvork has been verv
wouldlike 11'I.rappenif lve extet-rclecl tllc nreanirlg of "lvonlen of color" trr
helpful to us - particularly in sorting out u'hat ll'e lvant and don't rvar-rt
include all those \,von)en irr this cor:trt11'lt1to arc victims of prejudicc
in our relationsipswith r,vhite,rnainstrearnAmerican feminists. yes,
respccts), but u'ho lle'\'ertheless hold racial
there is a lot lve can learn front each other. and discrir.r'rination 1i|rntanV
But Barbara, I arrt u.orriccl. At the u.ronrentI aln in the processcrf p r i r i l L ' 5 s. ea t t t i I t t a Vt ' r t ' t l l r e r a c i s t s '
oreanizir.rga ror.rndtablcIor tl.reNWSA- conference,on the topic o1 I clon'tknorv $,hat to thirtk all)'lllore. Things begirl to set even nlore
r a c i a l a n d e t l . r n i cn r i n o r i t v l e s b i z r n isn t h c U . s . f ' h e r e a r e t u ' o o t l . r c r corr-rpliczrted rvhen I begirl to consiclertl.ratn-ran-vof us rvho ider-rtifvas
w o n r e n i r - r v o l v e c l - a G r t e k f r i e n c l o f m i n e f r o m B e r k c l e v . a r t c la "Thi;d World' or "\\brire' tlf Col.r", have qr.l't-t up as or are fast
Black woman fror.r-r San Francisco.And I feel the tensior.rbuilcling. becor.ning"micltlle-class"stlcl highlv edttcatt'cl,apd therefore lllore
pri,,,ilcgeclthan nranv of our $'hite, poor aucl r,l'orkit-tg-class siSters'
The Greek \n".olrlan's many attenrpts to "connect"rvith Third World les-
Son-re tiutcs i get angrv ert nrV lovcr bectiuse she does not se elI to relate to
bians zrrid"Wontenof Colcrr"{tnostpoignantlr.at Iastyear'sconferencel
rny beirrgu,iubu,i;'leslriar.r. r\.cl y'ct, ca. I realll'rclate to tlie fact_that
h a v e b e e n n t c t w i t h o u t r i g h t r e j e c t i o r . rU. t r f r > r t u n a t e i vb, e i n . gl o u d ,
shegrerr:'rpit.t;tt'er1'stliall to$'t't'i|r a rt'orkit"rg-class farlrily- with littlc
aggle-ssiveancl vcry Greck-identified, she l.rasfound a great deal of
-o,i"1, feu. otl.re r resolrrces little er.rcou|agemeltt to get an educatiotr,
' \ i r t i o r r a l \ \ i r r r r c ns S t u t l i c s etc.?ies . .ancl r.rct. There hzrve ber:n tit.tles ir-r lifc
r-r'rv I'r'lletl nly farrrilv
152 Ir,,lirthaQuinl,tttttl,'s

But I am also a bit concernedwhen a Black sister
had little rnoney or food. There have been times in my life when I lived or all women who are not strict
from day to day not knowing if I would be alive "tomorroW'-nor dismisses all non-black women,
If you are not WASP in this
Lo*"n of color" or strictly "Third World'"
kr.rowingreally how it felt to plan for "next rnonth", or "next year." the immigrant experience
Yet, even though I grew up having to heat my bathr,r'aterand sleepin a ,orn,ry, if you or your family have known
much acquainted with the
very lumpy bed, even though I grew up often being ashamed of brine- oi gtr"ito tife, you are likely to be very
political reality of internal colonization. Yes, racism
ing rny friends home becauseour furniture was old and dilapidated I ,o.Iuf , -
".oro.,1i., with regardless of our
is a SfC MONSTER we all need to conteud
went to private schools, spent summers at the beach, traveied, haci tirink we need to keep in rnind
plenty of toys and books to read; took music and dancing lessons,went ,ti., .oto, and ethnic affiliation. But I
is used both to create false
ihut i,, this country, in this world, racism -
horsebackriding- nty parents being very consciousof, and being ven, significant ones cultural
differencesamong us a/?dto mask very very
able to give us the best (if not always in terms of rnaterial comfortsl
politiial . . .And yes, those who have been racially
that their middle-classresourcesgave them accessto - including the ".o.rorni., the meaning of
opp."rr"d mr"tstcreate separatist spaces to explore
servicesof a long string of nurse-maids inty mother worked, and rn - to gather their energies'their
their experiel-Ices to heai themselves,
Cuba often the maidshad maids - even if it meant putting little girls to to build their ar'^ies. And yes,
,i.""g,h, to develop tl-reirown voices,
work as servants and baby-tenders- economic exploitation galorel). of racial oppression must come
thoseof us who have not been victims
Yes,I have suffered in this country. I have been the victim ofblatant own complicity with this sYstem
to terms with our own racism, our
prejudice and institutional discrimination. As an ethnic minoritv color and body
that discriminates and oppresseson the basis of skin
woman and a lesbian I have lived in the margins, in fear, isolated,dis- be irresponsible iiberal folly to
features. And of .orr.r" lt would
connected,silent and in pain. Nevertheless,those early years of rela- racism could be eliminated by
p.opor" that social and institutional
tively "blissful" middle-class childhood (although I have to say that non-racist, by beconing "integrated"in
ii-piy "becoming"personally
after age 7 it u,as hell - political violence and death always lurking) in for white folk to think that a long
or' pii.rut" lives. . . How ridiculous
my own country rvhere I was simply part of the "ntainstream"if not a other kind of oppression' that an onqotng
history of slavery and every
Iittle better off becauseof nty fathers professionalstatus,have served politicai exploitatior-r could be
and insidlousr"uiity of social, economic,
me as a "cushion"throughout my life. Even in the United States,as an a few individual choices ' ' And even
magically transcended through
essentially middle-class iand white-skinned woman), I have had
"opportunities"{or have known how to make them for myself ), that - genera-
impossible to truly knort' what it means to have grown up
my very lvhite, working-classAmerican lover has never had. Having our
tion after generation- Black and female in America. of course
managedto graduatefrom college {one out of three in her gradr.ratir-rg "turn", and st'rregardless of how "conscicus"we
skin is noilik"ly to
high school classwho rnanagedto make it to college)againsttrernen- be
claim to be of the,,Black experience"in America, we shall always
dous odds, she is still strugglingwith the fact that she may never reall_v the
limited by our own history and the reality of our white skin and
Iearn the ropes of surviving well in mainstream, middle-class
privileges it automatically confers on us'
American society. And need I add that mainstream white, middle-
Ironically, when a Black Arnerican sister (or anyone for that r.natter)
classAmerican feminism is as insensitiveto her needsas it is to mine'/
puts me, oi other ethnic \A/onlenof this society in the same category
I realize that I cannot fight everybody's battles. But need I create of
with the socially dominant White American Woman on the basis
false enemiesin order to wage rny own? I am a bit concernedwhen a my
lighter-than-black skin coior, she is in fact denying rny histo-ry'
Latina Iesbian sister generalizes about/puts down the "white She too
.ilt.,.", ny identity, my very being, my pain and mv struggle
wolnan" - especiallyif she herself has white skin. In the midst of this
is being pirsonallyiu.itt. W'hen she fails to recognizethat the."social
labeling, might she not dismiss the fact of her own ra,'hiteprivil- soci-
privile[es,'of lighter-than-black eth'ic-'rinority lesbiansin this
eges- regardlessof her identification with Black, Native American, are' on our
u.iltr-lost Ltally dependent on oLlr denial of who we
and other Third World women of color?Might she not dismiss the fact "ty differ-
ethnicdeath,shealsofalis prey to the racist my'thologythat color
that she may often be far better off than many white women? I cannot who
encesare the end-all indications of sociai inequality. That those
presume to know what it is really like to be a Black woman in butall hold
happen to have the "right" skin color are not only all alike
Arnerica,to be racialiy oppressed.I cannot presume to know what it is inay
the'same social priviieges. Yes, lighter-than-black skin color
really like to grow up American "White TLash"and destitute.
15.1 Mrrlll.r ellirr1.lii,r1,.. ' 155
Plirtha Qt'inlt'tLl'

c o n f e r o n s o l n c c t h l t i c n t i l t o r i t \ ' \ \ , ( r l t t e nt i t c o p t i o n o f b e c o r - n i n , , How insignificantour troubles

ceive.India. India was the ur-rraveling.
" a s s i n r i l a t c c "l "i n, t e g r a t c di"n r n a i n s t r c i t nA . . How ridiculously srllall my own
r n t e r i c a r sn o c i c t l ' .B t r t i s t l r i s se"r, it-r the United States.
r e a l l y ; r p r i v i l e g c ' . , r ' h e irtr a l s , u v sn r e a l l sh a v i n g t o L r c c o n i ei n v i s i S l t
l i r r g g t " r . . . l c i o n ' tf e e l g u i l t or s h a m e ,b u t t h i s t a u s e a . . . T o f i ' d u s
g h o s t- l i k e , i c l e n ttiy - l c s s ,c o r n n r un i t y - l c s s ,t o t a l l ya l i r ' n a t c - dT' lh e 1 t , : r r l s .o"uUUtingover rt'ho r)tay or may not be calleda feminist, who mav or
of "prassirg"as r'r'l.ritei\nrcrican are pcrils inclccd. It shc-,ulcl be easr. may not join or take part in this or that particular political group, etc,
e n o u g ha t l c a s tf o r l c s b r o ntso r . r n t l i , r s t a nt d h e n t e a n i n go f b e i n ga n c lr , , l t fn" privilege of having feminist "groups"- most women in the
n o t b e i n g , o f " n - r e r g i r . ragn"c l 1 ' e t r c n t a i r . t i n su t t c r l v a l o n c a n c l i n l l t c "t.. lesbians - who really knows the fate of most
world just eat shit. And
marsir-rsof our society. lesbiansin the world, especially the Third World?
And while it is true that a lesbian/fer.ninistcolnrnunity ar.rclculture Is it not possible for all of us here in America to turn right now Io
have emerqed, whiie it is true that Black, Latir.raand other 'I'hirci alt the sisters of the lr,orld-to form a comlnon, human-woman-
Wc-rrld/lesbians "of color" have begur.rtcrspeakup, it is nc_rt true that rve lesbianbond?
have yet engagedin a truly un-biaseci ur.r-prejudiceci clrcrk;crre. \\'e arc I h a v e l o s t s o m e s l e e pl a t e l y p o n d e r i n go v e r t h i s r a c e / c u l t u r e / c l a s s
s t i l l r l e a s u r i n g e a c h o t h e r b y t h e v a r c l s t i c ko f t h e w h i t e , c a p i t a r l i s t p r o b l e m . . . W e ' v e g o t t o d o s o m e t h i n gIl\.{ a n y o f u s L a t i n a sa r e n o n -
I m p e r i a l i s t ,R a c i s tA m e r i c a n P a t r i a r c h .\ V e a r e s t i l l s e e i n gr a d i c a jd i f - white-as a matter of fact, most of us are racially mixed to various
ferenceswhen they don't exist and not seeir.rg thern',vhenthey are crrt- degrees.Ask a Black or "mulatto"Puerto Rican woman what her iden-
icai. And most disastror.rsly, lve arc failing to recogrrizentuch o{ u'hat tity is though, and most likely she will tell you "Puerto Rican All
we share.Is it not possible for rrs to recognize,rcspect ar.rdsettlc our Chinese American \\romen are non-white. But ask any of them what
differences;to validate our various sroups'strugglesand neeclfor sep.- her identity is. She will not tell you "yeilow",she rn'illtell you Chinese,
arate spaces,and yet to open our eycs to the fact that dividecl \\'c are or Chinese American. N'{anyAfrican peoples are "Black",but ask a
only likelv to succeedat defeat? Nigerian, an Ethiopian, etc. r,t'hather identity is, and she will tell you
It is pure folly to think that a small group oi Lati^a or Black or Chirese "Nigerian",or "Ethiopiarl",or whatever . . Obviously "BlackCulture" is
Arnerican lesbianscan, on its ou,n, create a feminist revolution. It rs an American phenotl]enon. Many of us don't reaily understandthis. I
purc folly to think that middle-class.,r'asp feministscan do so... know I didn,t for a long time. when I first came to this country I just
Barbara,I ache to live with a.d love *'ith nr,vLatir.ralesbia'/fen-rinist assumedthat Black people were simply American {for that matter I
sisters- to speak "Spanglish",to eat arroz cor-rfriioles, to dancc to the just assumed a/1 Americans shared the same "American Culture") l
salsa,to openly talk sex and flirt r,r'ithone another; to secretl_v pra)' to grew up with people of all kinds of skin-color - but we lvere ali Cuban
Yemayd,Chango,Oshun, and the Virgen de Guaclalupe. I rur-rto the.nr and understood each other, even though we coulclrecognizethe most
for refuge, fur dear lifel minute "color differences,"even though we could recognizeclassdif-
But i,vherrI nreet1'ouand r.'therBlack lcsbiar.r sisters-anclallt u1o\.1.(l ferences. How u,as I supposed to knort'- giverr the propaganda-
b y w l i a t \ \ r r -s L r e ntro s h a r e ,I a c h e[ o r v o u a l s o .I s p e n dt i n r eu ' i t h S t a c r that there \vas no such tl'ringas a "melting pot"?Hor'vrvasI supposedto
i A n a s t a s i aa) n d o t h e r S t t u t h e r nE ur o ; r c a ni l l o r t h A f r i c a n/ l \ I e C i t e r r a , know that racism was so \^'idespreadand so deeply ingrained in
n e a n l c s b i a n s i s t c r s - a n c i a n t s t i r r c c ib ; ' r , r ' h a tw c s e e l l t o h a v e r n American society? I rvas shockedin my sophon)ore year in college
common, I feel deep yearning for theru. . . I read the r,r,ordsof otl.rer when several Black wotnen implied that I was a racist when I said I
ethnic Arrerican lesbian sistersand I find that I understand therr"r anci could not figure out lr,l-ratwas different about being Black or Yellow,
want to share in these women's lives. And I iive, love and work rvith or White. or Red in the United States.I could understand not knowing
w o r k i n g - c l a s ss i s t e r s H . a v e l i v e d , l o v e da n d n o r k e d i n t h e p o o r u r b a n about a "culture",but not knowing about a "race"?Was "race"per se so
ghettos of Chicago and Boston. Have spent some time in the poor, important? Was it really linked to a "culture"?This rvasa weird notion
rural, isolateclmountains of New N1exico.Have traveled to Latin to me indeed!
A m e r i c a nc o u n t r i e s ,t o I n d i a , T h a i l a n d ,T a i r v a n ,I i o n g - K o n e ,J a p a n- Well I paid r,'ery hard ior mf immigrant ignorance l'nr still pay-
f e e l i n g t h e p a i n o f m y p o o r a n d h a r d - r t ' o r k i r r gs i s t e r s - s t r u g g l i n g ing - even though l have learned a great deal since then about
againstall odds to stay alive, to live u'ith dignitv. I cannot sleep sor-nc- American sub-cultures and about American racism. Many of rny
times haunted by the rnemoriesof such ali-encon-rpassir.rg prcx,ertl,- Latina sisters have had sintilar experiences,and the big question is
the kind of poverty that even poor Americans could not begin to cor-r- always there - Will rve ever really be acceptedby our Biack American
M ir t ha Qu i tt |,.Dtt:)i,..:

sisters?I cannot really convey the pain - especiallyin those of us u,hcr

are Afro-Hispanic-American but light skinned - of seeingso much
ourselvesin, of being so drawn to African-American women, ar.rd
feeling that we are very likely to be denied a connection, to
Earth-Lover, Survivor, Musician
rejected. The fucking irony of itr Racism. It has so thoroughly poi-
Naomi Littlebear
soned Americans of all colors that many of us can simply ,-,31
from a Ietter in response to Cherrie's
beyond it. I'm sorry about this long letter Barbara- especiilly this last The following is an excerpt
on "language& oppression"as a
part. But I have not been able to get over this pain. I used to ha',e thrs t"qr"t, that Naomi u'rite an essay
recurrent dream (for years)that I would alternatelybecome black anci Chicana:
white and black and white over and over and over again. . It felt Cherrie, JanuarY'1980
really good. But I've never quite figured out all of rvhat rt in my mind about the things we talked about'
I have a clear image
meant. . . Well, take care Barbara. language, identification - given the brief acquaint'
vour anger about
o f w h a t y o u w e r e s a y i n g- i
l"l" r iersonalll' could relate to a lot
In sisterhood, why i wrote the book i'm
l"un'r"t'hat those ieelings had a lot to do with
Mirtha - that wai a very important time in my life' However I
balancedpart of my
realize"no*,thatit wasn't for me exactiv the most
to shake off the dust
life. It r,t'asonly a time in which i hurt so bad i had
rny criti-
of one too nlany insults in order to carry on' Nonetheiess'
in me' It was not
cism, analysis,etc. did not come from a natural place
the way i was
the'voice oi -y mothers" nor did it completely reflect
propir, r.t,irite middle class leftists r't'ho lt'ere trying to redirect
spiiit. t was supposedto be the angry chicana speaking her vengeance
againstwhites, againstthe capitalist system'
I am a sad. chicina lesbian\\)omonwho is woman-rdentifiedearth lover,
my aches
survivor, musictan- musicand beauty are my toolsagains.t
-strrvirrg to brittg peace into an otherwise tumultuous past,
and pains
I am not the scholar analysiyou are which I totally respect'I'm clear
about why i am and hou, i am - i cannotextricatethe lesbianfrom my soul
no more tian i couldthe chicana- i havealways beenboth'
- this
The rvornan I am right now is not struggling with language
violence - i am
time - i am closest and ciearest right now about
haunted by dreams frorn rny childhood and not-too-distant past' I
could not adequately write ibout languageunless i was right there
with the problem, as you seetnto be - you are fairiy bursting r'r'ithrea-
,on, und important ihoughts insights into our mutual experience
with the degiadation and denial that came with our language ioss

* T h e D a r hS r c l co l t h e ; 1 f t x ' r . B o o k o f e s s a y s& p o e t r ) ' o n

1 o l i v e P r e s s ,P o r t l a n c lo r e . l .
I i f e i n t h e b a r r i o a n c lt h e t o p i c s o f t l . r ec h u r c h F a r r i l y , E c l u c a t i o n& t h e L e f t
158 I'iaonti Ltttlebgl, 159

Imagine the processyou would have to go thru if I asked they expected us to be - r,n'ejust slipped
write me a paper on violence in the barrios and how that affectedyoul
),ou tcr not al all where
- becauserl,'eknew damn well it was a lie'
personal life? I need to feel control of my own life - violence hason sume ihtorrgn
I reiuse to be separatedfrom your life by these words. I read
deep level renderedme helplessand given me a deepfear of being po\rer. the story-telling, mY qazy aunts, the laughter, deep-
loud & clear:
less- our languagebeing stripped from us createssimirar fears. I neecl
heartedjoy, celebral\nganythirtgwith a six-pack of beer'*
to figure out what is closestto me. I have done some work in exorcis_ -
I remetnber. And as long as i know yor.rtoo were once there it is
ing the demons of communication - my current observation is that
r somethingthat can warm us both this winter.
feel comfortable with words again, except when i try to make scre'-
Becausei haven't seen my cousinsin years.
tific discoveries- that is me reactingto male energy that says!\'onlen That is what i miss, that is r,r'hati'm iooking for'
are stupid & emotional.
My emotions & intuitions are there for a purpose. They are horresr March 23 7980
perceptions.I don't have to try to be grassroots.I do have to try to Now that the ice has melted and the flowers begin to bloom i
relate my straight feminist politics. welcome the seasonof growing. Thank you ior sharing with me. I do
wa'ting to be loving and have a fan-rilyis my connection rvith r-rv believe we have in commou - the cultr.rralrip off , the anger, the
culture. I am doing that. Goirrg to n-reetingsis not part of my ethric wisdom, the fullness of life.
background. . . .I have started this letter many times, wanting to send you tl'rese
I got real turned around when i got in'olved v,'ith leftist politics. I stories. I appreciated your letter very nruch. It's still on my desk
am now trying to piece rny life together,discardthe violence & hunrili- reminding me hor,t hard we are working to be visible'
ations, accept that i am a complete person with nothing lacking. N,I1. We are touring again, maybe we'll meet.
mind & heart are capableof deciding what's best for me.
For once in my life i have to let my self deservea honre, food on the
table, and a handful of Ioving friends - this is a time of hearins and
t a k i n gt h e b l a m e o f t h e r a p e sa n d a t t e m p t e dr a p e s ,t h e c h i l d b e a i n s , i
received, taking all that pain off my shoulders and giving it back to
who it belongs.
I want you to acceptme as i acceptyou. Be an amiga, not a comrade
to me. I will send you more words if you like but right no,,vthe hurts
all around me and i feel like flying away. I will fight back rvith rnusrc
but don't ask me to fight with words. Trust rny it-rstincts,my, knorvl-
edge- i am not a shelteredlittle wetback - i've beer.rthroush so mr.rch
pain that i've popped out the other side. We have been thiu so mucl.r
pain that now we have no place to put that pain but to leave it out of
our lives - because the pain was given to do its worst damage b1.
festering in our soul, by grorving comfortable in our flesh that *'e
more often hurt each other'tho infested by the same disease.
I have no solution but to go on. I rvill not carry the stigma that scr
tnany have tried to burden me r,vith.These words are mine becarrs.:
this now is ny language- 13 years of English, 13 years of Span-
ish - that's when I flipped out - the day of my two ,,chiidren,s,, anni-
versary. I was pron.rptedby devils - clinical radicals rvho instructecl
me in self-autopsy. Pleaseapplaud ury victory over those fuckers - rr
is your victory as well - reme'tber they think we,re all related \\'e're
N a o r n i i s r e f e r r i n g t o c x p e r i e n c c sC h e r r i e . l e s c r i b e si n h r ' r e s s a v ," l , a G t i e r a
Speakingin Tongues
TheThird WorldWomanWriter

"who told you anybody wants to hear from you, yor.raint nothing
but a black .,vonran."-hattie gossett
"Who am I, a poor Chicanita from the sticks,to think I could write."
- G l o r i aA n z a l d f a

As first generationrt'riters, we defy the myth that tl-recolor of our

skins prevents us frorn using the pen to create. hattie gossett'spiece,
the introduction to her first book, is presentedhere in recognition of
that act of defiance.But it is not enough to have our books published.
We must alsoactivelv engagein establishingthe criteria and the stand-
ards by r'vhich our work can be viewed. As Barbara Smith laid the
groundr,r'orkin developing literary criticisrn for Black women in
"Towarda Black Fer.ninistCriticism,"* here Norma Alarcon plants the
seed vvhich germinates a feminist criticism involving the l-ristory,
mythology, and writings of La CI-ricana.This article representsthe
kind of iiterary criticism tirat is beginnir"rg
to apprearin every segment
of the Third World women's con-rmunity.
We are Third World \\romenlvriters, so similar yet so different, sirni-
lar in the issuesr,r,'e
confront, different in approachand style. What we
have in comrnon is our love of writing and a lor..eof the literature of
women of color. In our cornmon strr,rggleand in orrr rvriting rve
reclairn our tongues.We lvield a pen as zrtool, a weapon, a rneansof
attractpower, that will draw self-love
survival, a rnagicrt'atrdthat ,,^,'ill
into our bodies.
And though often we may feel ambivalent about our devotion to the
female self, rve continue to srvint fearlesswith the lengthof oro' own
bodres(Wong)in a seaof rt'ords. We continue to swim toward that raft
and lifeline rvhich is ourself - ourseif as mother, ourself as hero. What
we clroosefinalli' is to culllvafeour coloredskins.
a teacher taught r.t-re
more than she knelr,'
Patting r.neor1the head
putting r,r'ordsin n'ry hand

i. Brooklvn NY 1977.

- "pretty little lndran girll" Speaking In Tongues:A Letter To

saving them -
going to give them 3rd World Women Writers*
back to her one day. . + Gloria Anzaldua
A woman who writes haspower. A woman with power is feared h r
the eyes of the world this makes us dangerousbeasts. 21 maYo80
Dear mujeres de color, companions in rvriting -
*Anna Lee I sit here naked in the sun, typen'riter against rny knee trying to
walters in The Third rrrnnn-illtntrih'lNcmen \ \ , r ' t t t ' r .isr t r ) t t L ' 5
D e x t e r F ' i s h e r{ e d . l i H o u g h t o n l \ . l i i f l i n 1 9 8 0 1p . l 0 9 .
visualize you. Black \\'orlan huddles over a desk in the fifth floor of
someNerv York ter-rernent. Sitting on a porch in south Texas,a Chicana
fanning awa)'mosquitos anci the hot air, trying to arouse the smoul-
dering embers of it'riting. Indiar.rwoman walking to school or work
lamenting the lack of time to r,r'eavern'riting into your life. Asian
American, lesbian,sir.rgle n-rother,tuggedin ail directions by children,
Iover or ex-husband, ar-rdthe rn',riting.
It is not easy rvriting this letter. It began as a poem, a long poern. I
tried to turn it into an essaybut the result was wooden, cold. I have not
yet unlearned tl.reesotericbullshit and pseudo-intellectualizingthat
schoolbrainn'ashed into my writing.
Horv to begin again.Horn'to approximatethe intimacy and in-rrnedi-
acy I want. What fornr? A letter, of course.
My dear tl-redangers u'e face as \vomen writers of coior
are not the same as those of r,r,l.rite wolnen though we have ntany itt
common. We don't have as much to lose \\,e never had any privileges.
I wanted to call the dangers "obstacles"but that would be a kind of
lying. We can't transcerrd the dangers,can't rise above them. We must
go through them and hope we lvon't have to repeat the performance.
Unlikel,v to be friends of people in high literary places, the
beginnir-rg\'vornanof color is inr.'isibleboth in the white male main-
streamworld and in the lvhite \vonlen'sfeminist world, though in the
latter this is gradualll' changing. The lesbranof color is not only
invisible, she doesn't even exist. Our speech, too, is inaudible. We
speak in tongues like the outcast and the insane.
Becauservhite eyes do not want to know us, they do not bother to
learn our lar-rguage, the languagewhich reflects us, our culture, our
spirit. The schools we attended or didn't attend did not give us the
skills for rvriting nor the confidencethat we were correct in using our
classand ethnic languages.I, for one, becameadept at, and majored in
Englishto spite, to shorv up, the arrogant racist teacherswho thought

: a n F r a n c i s c o l ,t h e F e n l i n i s t
r v r i t t e n l o r \ \ b r t l . sI r t O a r P o c f t e l si B o o t l c g g e r S
Writeri' Gu iiclHantlbook.
Gl0rnt.1ti:l)idttt, 167

a l l c h i c a n o c h i l d r e n r v e r e rd u r n i r a n d c i r t r . . A n . l S p a n i s h n a s n o t
I think yes, perhaps if rve go to the ur.riversity.Perhaps if we
taught in grade school.Ancl Spanishwas nc)treqr.riredin F{ighScl.rool.
become maie-women or as middleclassas we can. Perhapsif we give
A n d t h o u g h n o r , rI' w r i t e r x ' p o e ' s i n S p a r i s ha s v r . e l al s E n g l i s hI f e e l
up lovine wonen we will be r.vorthy of having something to say
t h c r i p - o f f o [ m y n a t i v et o n g u e .
worth saying. They convince us that we rnust cultivate art for art's
I lack imaginalrorryou say sake.Bort' dowtr to the sacredbr.rll,forrn. Pr.rtframes and metaframes
l/o. I lack language. around the u'riting. Achieve distancein orcierto win the coveted title
"literary u'riter" or "professionalrvriter." Above all do not be simple,
The languageto clarify
rny resistanceto the literate. d i r e c t ,n o r i l n n t e d i a t e .
Words are a war to me. Why do they fight us?Becausethey think lve are dangerousbeasts?
They threaten my familv. Why are n'e dangerousbeasts?Becausewe shake and ofter.rbreak the
white's comfortable stereotypic images they have of trs: the Black
To gain the lvord
domestic, the lumbering nanny with twelve babies sucking her tits,
to describe the loss
I risk losing everything. the slant-eyed Chinese lt'ith her expert hand - "They knorv how to
I ma]" create a monster treat a man in bed,' the flat-faced Chicana or Indian, passively lying
the word's iength and body on her back, being fucked by the Man a 1aLa Chingada.
slr,ellingup colorful and thrilling Tlre Third World woman revolts: Werevoke,\\)eeroseyour whitetnale
l o o n r i n go v e r n t y r r r c l hre c h a r a c i e r i z e d . imprint. lYhen t'<tttconteknoc'kingon our doors witlt vour rubber starnps
Her voice in the distance to brand our faces with DLlhIB, HYSTERICAL, PASSM PUTA
unintelligible illite rate. PERVERT, when ,-ott conte with ;'our branding irons to burn MY
These are the monster'swords.r PROPERTYot1our buttocks,we will vomit theguilt, self-denialand race-
hatred;,ouhaveforce-fedinto us right back intoyour mouth. Weare done
Cherrie Moraca
being cushions for your projected fears. We are tired of being vour
sacriftcial lambs and sclpegoots.
who gave us permission to perforn-rthe act of l'riting? whv d.es I can rt rite this and yet I realizethat mar-ryof us women of color who
writing seem so unnatural for me? I'll do a'vthing to postpone it _ have strung degrees,credentials and published books around our
empty the trash, anslver the telephone.The voice recurs in rne: I,l/fto necks like pearls that n'e hang onto for dear life are in danger of
am I, ctpoor chicanita from the sticks,to think I could wrrte?Horv dare I c o n t r i b u t i n gt o t h e i n v i s i b i l i t y o f o u r s i s t e r - w r i t e r s". L a V e n d i d a , "t h e
even consideredbecorninga writer as I stoopedover the tornatofields seil-out.
bending, bending under the hot s'n, hands broadenedand callousecl. Tlrc darryerof sellirryout one's own ideologies.For the Third Worlcl
not fit to hold the quill, nurnbed into a'animal stupor bv the heat. wornan, who has, at best, one foot in the feminist literary world, the
Horn'hard it is for us to thinlawe can chooseto becomeu,iiters, muclt temptation is great to adopt the current feeiing-fadsand theory fads,
lessfeel and believethat we can. what have we to contribute, to eive? the latest half truths in political thought, the half-digested new age
our own expectationscondition us. Does not our ciass,our cultuie as psychological axion.rs that are preached by the r,t'hite feminist
well as the white man tell us r,r'ritingis not for women such as us? establishment. Its followers are notorlous for "adopting"won-renof
The white man speaks:Perhapsif you scrapethe dark off of yotr face. color as their "cause" while still expecting us to adapt to their
Maybe if you bleachyot* bones.stopspeakingin tongues,stop writing lt ft- expectationsand their language.
handed.Don't cultivatey,ourcolored skins nor tonguesof fire if you wirtt to Hor'v dare lve get out of our colored faces.Horv dare we reveal the
make it in a right-handedwnrld. hurnan flesh underneath and bleed red blood like the white folks. It
"Man' like all the other anirnals,fears and is repelled bv that l'hiclr takes trernendous energy and courage not to acqr.riesce,not to
he does not understand, and mere differenie is urri to connote capitulateto a definition of feminism that still renders rnostof us invis-
somethingmalign.": ible. Even as I rr,ritethis I am disturbed that I am the only Third World
\^,onranrvriter in this handbook. Over ancl over I have found myself
168 Ckrritr -'1rr.:o1dr,.r
Qlorn Att:rtl,1tta

to be the only Third Worlcl woman at readings, worksholrs, ancl world I

rl-leetings. keep the spirit of lrlv revolt and n'r,vselfalive. Becausetl"le
does not
We cannot allott, ourselvestct be tokertized.We nutst ttrake otu' rtu'tt a."ut" in the $'riting compensatesfor what the real worid
s o I c an
g i v e m e . B y w r i t i n g I p u t o r d e r i n t h c -w o r l d , g i v e i t a h a n d l e
writing and thal t>f Tlird World yvomertthe first ptriorit,t'.We cannot and
[rasp it. I write because life cioes not appease my appetites
educate white women and take thern by the hand. Most of us are "nung"r.
I write to record rvhat others erasewhetl I speak, to relvrite
willing to help but we can't do the white \\ronran'shomework for her.
the stories others have mis.nvrittenabout nre, about you. To become
That'san energy drain. More tirnesthan she carresto remember, Nellie
more intilnate lvith rnyself and you. To discover rnl'self, to pleserve
Wong, Asian Ar.nericanferrinist writer, has been called b1' r'vhite the
wolnen wanting a list of Asian American uotnetr rt'ho catr givt myself, to make rnyself, to achieve self-autonomy' To dispell
-ytt]r tl-iatI aru a ntad prophet or a poor sufferir-rgsoul. To convince
readingsor workshops. We are in danger of being reduced to purvel'-
myself that I am r,n,orthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit
ors of resour-ceIists.
Toshow that I can aDd that I wi/1write, never milld their adn'ronitious
Coning face to face with one'slinitatiorts. Thereare only xt marty'thirtts
to the cor.rtrary.And I will write about the untnentionables,never
I can do in oneday'.Luisah Teish addressinga group of predorninantlv
mind the outrqqedgaspof the censorand the audience.Finally I w'rite
white ferninist writers hacl this to say of Third World \\'omen's
becauseI'm scaredof rt,riting but I'm more scared of not writing.
Why' slutttldI try to.ittsttfi'whyI write? D(tI needtojustify beingChicana'
"If you are not caught in the maze that {r.,r'e)
are in, it's very difficult
being wonnn? Yctumight as well ashme to tttt to .iustib *hy I1n.alive
to explain to you the hours in the day u,e do not have. And the hours
The act of rvriting is tl'react of n-rakingsoul, alchernv.It is the quest
that we do not have are hours that are translatedinto survival skills
for the self, for the center of the self, which we women of color have
and money. And when one of those hours is taken aw.ayit meansalt
hour not that rve dor.r'thave to lie back and stareat the ceilirtgor an come to think as "other"-the dark, the feminine' Didn't we start
hour that we clon't have to talk to a friend. For me it's a loaf of writing to reconcilethis other within us?we knew we were different,
bread." setapa*rtexileclf rom what is considered"normal,"white-right And as
we internalized this exile, rve came to seethe alien within us and too
Unclerstand. ofterr, as a result, rve split apart frorn ourselt'es and each other.
My family is poor. Forever after rve have been in searchof that self, that "other"and each
Poor. I can't afford other. And we return, in widening spiralsand never to the samechilc'i'
a new ribbon. The risk hood place rvhere it happened,first in our families, with our mothers'
of this one is enough with our fathers.The rvriting is a tool for piercing that rnystery but it
to keep me moving alsoshieldsus, gives a margin of distance,helps us survive' And those
through it, accountable. that don't survive? Tl'rewaste of ourselves:so nrttch nreat throwtr at
The repetition like rny mother's the feet of madnessor fate or the state.
storiesretold, each tirne
reveals nrore particr,rlars 24 mayo 80
gains nrore fanriliarity. It is dark and damp and has been raining all day. I love days like this.
As I iie in bed I am able to delve inrvard. Perhaps today I wili write
You can't get me in your car so fast.J from that deep core. As I grope for words and a voice to speak of
Cherrie Nloraga writing, I stareat mv brorvn hand clenching the pen and tirink of you
thousandsof miles arvay clutching your pen' You are not alone'
"Complacencyis a far nrore dangerousattitude tl-rarroutrage."r
Pen, I feel right at hon'rein your ink doing a pirouette, stirring the
N a o n ' r iL i t t l e b e a r cobwebs, leiving my signai,.rreon the window panes- Pen' how
could I ever ha.,,efeared you. You're quite house-broken br.rtit's
Why arn l cornpelled to write? Becausetl.rert'ritir.rgsavesrne frotn your rvildnessI am in love with. I'll have to get rid of you whet-ryou
tl.riscor.nplacencyI {ear. Br:causeI have no choice. BecauseI must Itart being predictable' rt'he' you stop chasi^g ciustdevils'.The
more you 5,.rt*'itme the r.'ore I love you. It's when I'm tired or have
had too n'rucl'rcaffeine or u,ine that yor.rget past my defensesand
A n . : , . 1 ! ,,1 1 i

you say more than what I had intended. you surprise me, shock I've stuffed myself. Writing paragraphson piecesof
nre fleturning after
into knowing some part of me I,d kept secreteven from mys;lf. ^ t
r i -
r n
1 6 r
. ' ^
" . r h - ^ u 7 7 l so n t h e f l o o r .t o t h e c o n f u s i o no n m y d e s k
-Journal entry. p?pet, "''.},'
far away and perfection impossible.
In the kitchen Maria and cherrie's voices failing on these pages, Luki"g completion
can seecherrie going about in her terry cloth wrap, barefoot *uil.,ing 26 maYo 80
the dishes,shaking out the tablecloth, vacuuming. Deriving a cerra'l Dear mujeres de color, I feel hear,ryand tired and there is a buzz in
- finish this letter. My
pleasurewatching her perform those simple taski, I am thiirking
t/rey. my head too many beers last night. But I must
Iied, there is no separationbetweenlife and writing. bribe: to take mYself out to Pizza.
The danger in writing is not fusing our personal experience
a.d So I cut and paste and line the floor with my bits of paper' My life
world view with the social rearity we rive in, with our inner life,
,r.rr strewn on the floor in bits and piecesand I try to make some order out
history, our economics,and our vision. what vaiidates us as i-runran of it working against time, psyching myself up with decaffeinated
beings validatesus as writers. what matters to us is the relatio'sirips coffee,trYing to fill in the gaPs'
that are important to us whether with our self or others. we must r,rse Leslie,my housemate,comesin, getson handsand kneesto read my
what is important to us to get to the writing. No topicrs loo rrrvral..f
he fragmentson the floor and says,"It'sgood, Gloria." And I think: ldon'I
danger is in being too universar and humanitarian and invoking haveto go back to kxas, to my family of land, mesquites,cactus, rattle-
eternal to the sacrifice of the particular and the feminine u.,i snakesand roadrttnners.My family, thiscommunityof writers. How could
specific historical moment. I havelivedand survivedso loirgwithout it. And I rememberthe isolation,
The problem is to focus, to concentrate.The body distracts,sabo- re-Iivethe pain again.
tageswith a hundred ruses, a cup of coffee, pencils to sharpen.The "To assessthe damage is a dangerousact,":writes Cherrie Moraga.
solution is to anchor the body to a cigaretteor some other ritual. Anci To stop there is even lnore dangerous.
rvho has time or energy to write after nurturing husband or lor.er It's too easy, blaming it all on the'nvhiteman or white feminists or
children, and often an outsidejob? The problen-rsseem insurmour.rt- societyor on our parents. What we say and what lve do ultimately
able and they are, but they ceasebeing insurmountableonce rt,enrake comesback to us, so let us own our responsibility,place it in our olt'n
up our mind that whether married or childrened or rvorkins outsicle handsand carry it with dignity and strength.No one'sgoing to do rny
jobs we are going to r-naketime for the writing. shitwork, I pick up after myself.
Forgetthe room of one'sown - write in the kitchen, lock yourself ulr It makes perfect senseto me now hou' I resistedthe act of writing,
in the bathroom. write on the bus or the r,l,erfareline, ori tl-rejob or the commitrnent to rvriting. To lvrite is to confront one'sdemons, iook
during meals,between sleepingor waking. I write whire sitti.g or thc them in the face and live to write about them. Fear acts like a rnagnet;
john. No long stretchesat the typewriter u'less you're u'ealth1."or it draws the dernonsout of the closetand into the ink in our pens.
a patron - you may not even own a typewriter. while you *,asl-rtl're The tiger riding our backs (writing) never lets us alone. Why aren't
floor or clotheslisten to the rvords chanting in your body. when,vou'r.. you riding, writing, writing?It asksconstantly till we begin io feel we're
depressed, angry, hurt, rvhen compassion and lo.,,eporr"r, r,o,,. vampires sucking the blood out of too fresh an experience;that r,t'eare
When you cannot help but u,rite. sucking life's blood to feed the pen. Writing is the most daring thing I
Distractionsall - that I spring on rnyself when I'm so deep into the have ever done and the rnostdangerous.Nellie Wong callswriting "the
writing when I'm almost at that place, tl-ratdark cellar *.h"r. ,,,,rr.- t h r e e - e y e d e r r t o ns l i r i e k i n gt h e t r u t h . '
'thing" Writing is dangerous because \ve are afraid of what the writing
is liabie to ju'-rp up and pounce on rne. The ways I subvert thc-
writing are rrany. The way I don't tap the rvelr nor leain horv to 'rake reveals:ihe fears, the ar-rgers, the strengthsof a n'otnan under a tripie
the windmill turn. or quadruple oppressior-r. Yet in that very act lies our survival because
E a t i n g i s m y m a i n d i s t r a c t i o n .G e t t i n g u p t o e a t a n a p p l e d a n i s h . a woman lr,ho rvrites has power. And a 'uvotnanwith power is feared.
That I've been off sugarfor tl-rreeyears is not a cleterrentnor that I l-iave What did it ntean for a black wonlan to be an artist irl our grand-
to put on a coat. find the keys and go out into the San Franciscofoq to mother's tinre?It is a question'uvitl-r an answer cruel enough to stop
t h e b l o o c l .- A l i c e W a l k e r . :
g e t i t . G e t t i n gu p t o l i g h ti n c en s e ,t o p u t a r e c o r do n . t o g o f o r a , r ' , r l k-
anything just to put off the r,r'riting.
172 Gloria An::aldit,, 173

I have never seenso much power in the ability to move and transforlr things, the immediacy and the impact of human conflict.e
others as from that of the writing of women of color.
Nellie Wong
In the San Francisco area, where I now live, none can stir the
audience with their craft and truthsaying as do Cherrie Moraga Many have a r,t'aywith words. They Iabel thernselvesseersbut they
(Chicana),Genny Lim (Asian American), and Luisah Teish iBlack). will not see. Many have the gift of tongue but nothing to say. Do not
With women like these, the loneliness of writing and the sense of Iisten to them. Many who have words and tongue have no ear, they
powerlessnesscan be dispelled. We can walk among each other cannot listen and they wiil not hear.
talking of our writing, reading to each other. And more and ntore There is no need for words to fester in our minds. They germinate in
when I'm alone, though still in cornmunion r,t'ith each other, the the open mouth of the barefoot child in the midst of restive crowds.
writing possessesme and propels me to leap into a timeless, spacc- They wither in ivory towers and ir-rcollege classrooms.
less no-place where I forget myself and feel I am the universe. ?hrs Throw away abstractionand the academic learnitrg,the rules, the
is power. map and compass. Feel your way without blinders. To touch more
It's not on paper that you create but in your innards, in the gut ancl people, the personal realities and the social must be evoked - not
out of living tissue- organicwitirtg I call it. A poem works for me rrol through rhetoric but through blood and pus and sweat.
when it sayswhat I want it to say and rrolwhen it evokeswhat I r,r,'antit Write with your eyeslike painters, with your ears lihe musicians,u'ith
to. It works when the subject I started out r,r'ith metamorphoses your feet like dancers. You are the truthsayerwith qttill and torch. Write
alchemically into a different one, one that has been discovered, or with your tonguesof fire. Don't let tlrc pen banishyou from yourself.Dort't
uncovered, by the poem. It works when it surprisesme, when it say's Iet the ink coagulatein your pens.Don't let the censorsnuff out the spark,
something I have repressedor pretended not to know. The meanin.q nor the gagsmuffle your voice.Put your shit on the paper.
and worth of my writing is measuredby how much lput myself on the We are not reconciledto the oppressorswho whet their howl on our
line and how much nakednessI achieve. grief. We are not reconciled.
Audre said we need to speak up. Speak loud, speak unsettling Find the muse within you. The r.oicethat lies buried under you, dig
things and be dangerousand just fuck, hell, let it out and let evL-rv- it up. Do not fake it, try to sell it for a handclap or your name in print.
body hear whether they want to or not.8
Kathy Kenclall Gloria
I say mujer magica, empty yourself. Shock yourself into ne\\.\\'avs
of perceiving the world, shock your readers into the same. Stop the
chatter inside their heads.
Your skin must be sensitive enough for the lightest kiss and thick
enough to ward off the sneers.If you are going to spit in the eye of thc-
world, make sure your back is to the wind. Write of what most links us
with life, the sensationof the body, the images seen by the eye, thc'
expansionof the psyche in tranquility: mornents of high intensitv, its
movement, sounds, thoughts. Even though we go hungry \Neat'e t1()[
impoverished of experiences.
I think many of us have been fooled by the mass media, by societ-r's
conditioning that our lives must be lived in great expiosions,by'
"falling in love," by being "swept off our feet,"and by the sorcerr'.ri
magic genies that will fulfill our every wish, our every childhood
longing. Wishes, dreams, and fantasiesare important parts of otrr'
creative lives. They are the stepsa writer integratesinto her craft:
They are the spectrum of resourcesto reach the truth, the heart ol
G l o r r . l - ' 1 , ' . r , ,r ,


C h e r r i e M o r a g a ' s p o e r n , " l t ' s t l t c P o v e ir1i v1 l nl lq r i , u l lgr t T h e ) \ h r 1 i , , 1 ,;.1 , , who told you anybodY wants to
r"rnpublishecl Lrookof p()enrs.
A l i c e W a l k e r ' ,c c l i t o r ." \ \ j h a t W h i t c [ ' u l ) l i s h c r s\ V r n t [ ' r i n t / L , r , , ...\'1 i . , , ;
hear from You?You aint nothing
Whert I tilrr Latrghinc --A Zoro N'r'rr1t,
Ireminist Press,1979) p 169.
Hrn.skrrrR:,cri/er'. invr'n \irrk:
but a black wornan!
1\4oraga,Ibid. hattieSossett
Nacrnril,ittlebc'ar,Zlle Dar)t,.tlllter\Irrrir iPortland:OIive Press 1!r771 p jr. ttl have to u'rite the irltro-
Chcrrie Nloraga'scssa\',scc 'La Giicra.' first of all let n-resav tliat ii is really a clraq
ou'tl book *
Nellie Wong, "Flor,vsfron'r thc Dark r>{ l\loustcrs anci Derlor.rs:\otts o1 ductionto ,vottr
i meanl etfteri r,r,cr-rt through everytl.ringi had to go tl'rroughto $'rite
Writirrg," Rotlir:all\ltrnrt Ptnrtphlet,iSan Francisco 19791.
this whole book iand lieve r-r.re
be i had to go througl"ra iot) uort' thats
A l i c e W a l k e r ," l n S e a r c ho f O u r X l o t i r e r sG a r d e n s .T h e C r e a t i v i L vo i B l u i . f :
Wcrtnenin tlre Sor.rth,".4fS, N1ay,197;t p. {r0. nOtenough. i liave to do t'uorc. rvirat mOre carl i dO?r,^u'hat l-norecar-ri
in tliis book \\'liich i
Lctter fror-nKathy Kendall,N'[arch10, 1980 conctnrins a u'riter'su'orkshirl, ,ufZ i nut:" said it all lfor the tin]e being anwvay)
telling rne that i
given by Audrc Lorde, Adrienne Ricl.r,ancl l\leridel LeSeur. hopeyou are getting readv to read. no$'the editors are
Nellie Wong, lbid. t are io tell vou rnore.
',ve11. sigh. if i ha'e to' sigh, sigil' but i just want
the deal at
you to kn..,i, f rom the beginnir.ret6ziti do.t. like this part of
poems) the
utt.*hut i really \\'aDt to be doirlg uorv is the rewriting {zl
things that
editing(2 interviervsand 1 article)and the other fine tuning
needtL be done so that i car.rbring tl-risphasc'of rny iourney to a cl.se
and get onto tl'renext olle.
bui the rnain tl-ringi rvant to be doing norv is getting through this 'er-
vous breakdo$,n of the crisis of confidencevariety. you know rt'hen
you are aln'rostfinished lvith sonrethingyou have been working otr a
t n g t i m e i t h e f i r s t p i e c e i n t h i s b o o k * , a s n ' r i t t e n i n 1 9 6 6a n d i h a ' e
beelnediti.g this book since march 1980a'd it is now sepiernber1980)
that is real irnportant to you cuz its your first big visible step in a direc-
tion you have been tr_vingto go in for a lor'rgtinre and l'Io\\'you are
finaliy about to get there and therl suddenly -votistart doubting your
self and sayit-rgthings to yourself like i,t'l'rothe fuck do you think you
are to be .u.iting a book? i mean rt'ho do you think you are?and who
c a r e sw h a t t o u i h i n k i r b o u ta n 1 ' t h i r t eg r r o u g ht o p a y n l o n c y f o r i t d u r i n g
thesedays of inflation and cutbacks and firings and unemplo)'ment
and boois costingat Ieast$ 15 irl l-rardcoverand $5 in paperback?plus
theresa nationailiteracy crisis and a major portion of your audience
not only cant read but seemsto think readin is a waste of tirne?pius
books like tl.risare.t solclin the ghetto bookshopsor eve. in airports?
on top of that you aint nothing but a black rvortlanl rvho told you any-
body rn,antedto hear from you? this aint tl"re60s you know' its the 80s'

* " n t - v s o u l l ( ) ( ) k s b a c k i l t t t ' t r c l e r r r v i l t l u i n r t n i l r d o t l t q c - l t l o b h ' t c s ' l l a t t i e g o s s e1t 9t 8 ( )


t76 hatliego.sserl

dont nobody care nothing about black folks these days. we is defi.
nitely not in vogue. this seasonwe are not the rage.aint nobody even
In Searchof the Self As Hero:
seriouslycourting our vote during this presidentialelection year. and Confetti of Voices
you know what happens when a black \ roman opens her mouth to say
anything other than do it to me! do it to me! do it to me daddy dol dont
on New Year'sNight
you? havent you had enough of that? or are you a masochist?or a fool? A Letter to Myself
see?thats why i would rather be somewhere getting my nervous NeIIie Wong
breakdown over with so i can move on. cuz you know that i know that
all this doubting is a trap laid out in the patripower days of 1o.g ago tr.r You want to run away and hide now, become a breeze beneath a
keep me/us from doing what we know got to be done. but it sure would willow tree, a breath from the dragon'smouth, a blade of grassstrug-
be nice that while i was finishing with the nervous breakdown some_ gling skyward to shoot above the ground, not to be squashedlike an
one else was writing the introduction. it would be a sensitivelor.ins ant, not to be forgotten perhaps like an Asian prostitute. These past
understandingpiece of writing that would tell you what you need to few days now, that have become years of memories and dreams, of
know about me and aboui the stuff in this book so that you can get the work and struggle,of becoming and living, you shiver in the fleeceof
most out of it. but no i cant even do that. i got to sit here and write thrs your inkblue robe, wondering why you tiptoe don'n the stairsto write,
introduction myself and tell you that i was born into this life the child to face your typer,r'riterlike a long, iost friend, welcoming her this
of houseniggahsand that i been struggling trying to get home ever New Year'sNight.
since. You don't question the urgency to write, to expressyourselves,your
innocenceand naivete, your conflicts and passions,your doubts and
s e p t e m b e r9 , 1 9 8 0
beliefs,as a woman, a writer, a feminist, a poet, an Asian American, a
secretary,a thlee yip nui, a wife, trying to learn the businessof life:
the act of loving. You have conte away from a weekend of workshops
at the Modern LanguageAssociationconference,absorbedthe words
and thoughts of writers like yourselves,provoked by the hate and love
directed at a book by Maxine Hong Kingston. The Woman Wanior: A
Girlhood Among Ghosts-for you a book of brilliance, of Iove and
anger, becoming an art form, a testimony and vision of one Chinese
American woman's world.
Ah, but you ask, who determinesChineseAnterican culture,Asnn
American sensibility?These opponents to the art of Maxine Hong
Kingston, or to the confetti of voices fiuttering fron-rthe past, voices
still yet to be heard, to be written down?
Who are you r,r,hohas written a book of poems, who has stored away
over ten years of fiction, poems and prose? Who are you who des-
cribes herself as an Asian An-rericanFeminist, wl.roworks and writes
toward that identity, that affinity, that necessaryself-affirming love?
And you ask yourelves if you must retreat, scared rabbits, into the
forestsof your own imagination,your own prisons and clearings,your
entanglementsof words versus coircepts,of dreams versus reality, of
expressionversus interpretation, of languageversus life, knowing in
all your sensibilitiesas a woman writer that you face the struggles
headon. You know there is no retreat now, no avoiding the confronta-
tions, the debatesand disagreementsbetween what is art and what is
178 ,\-rl1r.,lr,,rr
not art whiclr for you alsomealts: rvhat is Asian An-rericanfentinist art
and politics? there as surel)' as yott arvakct.teach lllornillg arlclshou er atld shower,
I f y o u s i l t g t o o o f t e n o f \ ^ r o e ,y o u r s o r y o u r s i s t e r s ' ,y o u n r a ) , b c h a p p , va s a h u m n t i t t e b i r c lc, o t t t e t r t o l c t t l t e r t ' a i e l f a l l t r t ' e rv o t t r b o d l ' .
t'r'hile)'otl s()apyoLlrcars zttrcitttrcierarrns,
charged with being "too personal,""too autobiographical,"too much a splashit ancisplashit, rvhilc
you shampooyoLlrliair, n'hile 1'otrl-raveti fer,r'ntortrc'trts alotteto let the
woman who cries out, who acknowledgesopenly, shar.nelessly, the
pain of living and the joy of becoming free. You believe, almost tocr i h o u g h t sa r l d i n r p u l s e sL ) t ) \ l ri t r t o s o t . t gr h v t h r n , p o e n l s ,l i f c .
simply, tl-ratyou are establishingyour own traditions, becoming yolrr C o u l d y o u h a v e b e c o r t r ea r e c l u s e ,s i r n p l i ' a t t o b s e r v e ro f l i f e , c o n -
own role model, becoming your own best friend, your o\vlt accessible tent to roattr bv the sea, thir-rkingarld clreanlirlgand stopprirlgto cat
hero. In so doing you do not deny human relatiotrships, but only when ,vouhacito? Could vott har,'ebeconrea hobo, an alcol'rolic,a
acknowledgc them, want thent ancl fight for thent. Ancl vou are s l e e p i n gp r i n c e s s ,c o l t t c n t t , ' l i v c t h r o u g h t h e c l e c c l sa n d a c c o r n p l i s h -
angered by the arrogance of some articles that would tell 1'ou that m e n t so f o t h e r s ?A n d n ' b a t i s t h i s a c l v e n t u r et,h i s h t t t t q e r ,t h a t r o a r st t . t
V i r g i n i a W o o l f i s y o u r s p i r i t u a lm o t h e r , y o u r p o s s i b l er o l e r t r o d c l ,f , , r y o u n o \ \ ' , a s a \ \ ' o l l a l ) , a r v r i t t ' r ,a t r A s i a t tA t t t t ' r i c a t ra, f e r r l i n i s t l ' A n d
the r,t'orkyou have to do: to'"vrite. And why are vou angered excepr w h y ? A n c ll v h a t i s t h i s s a t i s i a c t i o nt,h i s s e l i - a s s r - t r c ' c l noefsisn,c l i v ' i c l t r a l -
for the fact that she was white and prir.ileged,yet so ill that she rvalkcil ity, of spirit, of alonetiessl'And finalll', n,hat is t['risthrust torvarclcot.tt-
munity, tou'ard intererctionu'itir n'ot-tte tt attd trtctr,this irrrou, totr,arcl
into tl're sea.
creativitv, tou'ard freedotril'
And now you have discovered Ding Ling, China's most proliiic
You havc tl-resupport of friends anclsisteru,riters. Yor,thervetl.relovc
woman writer, a feminist, a cornmunist, a loving fighting \\'ollan.
of your husband artd 1'otrl siblinss, artd 1'etvott tr.rrtrfrotn theur, rttr.t
whose stories gleam, bright lights in the dark of Chinas past. Ding
w i t h t l i i s f o r c e ,t h i s n ec c s s i t r 't,h i s l i g h t t o r v a r ca' lr t . t o r v a r cpl o l i t i c sa l i c l
Ling, imprisoned for expressingher anguish,her love and contpassion
w r i t i n s . I r . rt l . r ec l o i t ' ragn t i c x p r es s i n g i n t h e o r g a r t i z i n uc, u t t i n ga r t c fi i l -
for China';women, for recordins the conditions of their lir"'es.Di ne
i n g , i n t l r t - h- , r t r r s) ' ( , u s p c n r l i n v o r . t rs t t t d v o t . ta b r i e h t S t r n c l a l ' a f t e r -
Ling, attacked for her ferninisn'r,supposedlybourgeois,inc'lir,iclr.ralis-
noon, )'ou lvotttler n'liv it sccltts sirrtplc-to rclt)ovL-1'ttut'sc-lve-s frortt
tic, impeding the movenrent of cornmunism in her native land. Nou-
other people. Ycruthink vc.rr,t coulclhetvebcccrt't'tl'zt lttillistcr, or a nrltt,
there is inforr-nationtrickling out that she is r'r'ritingagain,silencedfor'
judging anclcott-ttnetrtitrq on pltilosophy',ot.tt.ttorerlitr', on tirc corttplcx-
so nlany years.Now you want to searchfor more of her rvork, jeu'cls
i t i e so f h u r n a n l i f e, o n t h e i n j u s t i c eo f h u n r a nb e i n g so p p r e s s i n go t h e r
you want to hold in your own hands.Now you $,ant to share her rvork
human beings. You l'ravcno ans\\'L-rs.You hat'c cltrest!onsattd tttttre
to discover the links betr,r'eenthe women of Chir-raand the'uvor.nen t,i
q u e s t i o n sa b o r . r vt i o l e n c e a g a i n s tw o n r c n , a q a i r . r sct h i l c l r e n ,a g a i t r s t
Chinese Anterica, to find the grandn-rothers _vouwish to adopt. ethnic lr.rir-rorities, agair.rst ga1's.\bu onlv unclcrstaltcltirat vott nrr-tsttry'
In yotu'searchyou do not delty the lvritings of Hisaye Yantamoto or
to anslr,ervour questiot'ts.You think at titnes ;'c.rr.t cart alts\\'cr iheltt
Wakako Yautauchi, Jade Snor,n,Wong or Maxine Hong Kingston,
alonc-,but tl-ratis in'rpr>ssible bccause vor.tlive arrrl u'orl< as a social
JessicaHagedorn or Mei-Mei Berssenbrr.rgge. Horvever', y'ou ck-ny-
b e i n g i n t l r i s n r a t e r i a l p h v s i c a Ja n c lc c r i t t o l . t . trivco r - l t l .
t h e s ew o n r c n a s r o l e m o d e l sb e c a u s ey o u r e x p e r i e n c e sa r e n o t t h c i r s .
If yor,rclesirefreectrnr,total f recdotl, voLt;tsk, rloesit Ineattthat vtttr
Their experiencesare not yorrrs though you assir.nilate thenr becaus.'
must die?You are unairaicl,but .vouthirtk of thc-clcad,c-rftl-reclr.'irtg. Of
the rangeof human experiencetickles your solitariness,your desirctcr
w o m e n l i k e S 1 ' l v i aP l a t h a n d A n n e S e x t o t t r, v r i t e r s r ' ' h o k i l l e d t h e n t -
become pluralistic, a free spirit soaringir.rtothe north anclsoutl-rpoles
selr,'es, poets YOu'\'eaclmircc-l; of tu'o AsiatnArnerican teenageclsisters
of everywoman's existence.Yotr respect tl'reservriters, your colttcnl'
who con'rr.nitted suiciclcbecausctheir father clpl.rosecl thcir dating His-
poraries,and yet you do not onl)'l.reartl.reirvoicessimply becauser',r,.t
p a n i c b o y s . Y o u t h i n k o f r . o u r c o n s i r t ' u v hhou r t g h i l n s c l f i r t L a s V e g a s ,
must carve out your own destinv: a \nu'ontan hero, an advL.lttr.lreril
h i s h e a r i n gg o n e, l ' r i ss o n a l i e n e t t e fcrlc l n rh i r t t .V r t r t h i n k o f y t t t L rf a t h e r
doer, a singer,an actor, fearlesslvith the length of your o\\'n borlv. th.'
w b o d i e c lo f c i r r h o s i sc l ft h e l i v c r , u ' l ' r ob r r x r g h t1 ' o r . rt rn o t l t e ra l t d t h r ee
depth of ,vour clark seeingeyes, the sor.rndsof your typeu.ritcr kc-r's.
s i s t e r st o A n r e r i c a .Y o r rt h i r i k o [ r - o u rn r o t h c ru ' h o c l i e Lo] f s l o r t t a c lct a t t -
And 1'ou ask'.where hat'e y,ctugone and what hay,t t,ou dcnte?You clortt
cer, n lro c]csireclher ou'n [ur coat. her rtu'tr qranclscltr; arrd of Bctli
h;rvethe tirnc to count the Lloelns,the stories,tl'reoutpourings of eri.'1.
G u n g a c o o k , a g e n t l co l c ln r a n ,a p i o n e c r ,a g r a n c l i a t h e ru, ' h < 'cr l i c cal t
a n d j o y , b u t t h e y a r e t h e r e i n y o u r f i l e c a b i n e t ,t h e y a r e t h e r e i t r r ' , t l t r
h o m e i n l . r i sr e n t c c lr o o n ra b o v e H a n r b t t r q e r J o c 'isn O a k l a n c l ' C s hirta-
mind, and they are there flowing through your bloodst."otr. Th"r'ut.'
torr',n.And is the question tl.ratof nrortalit-vatrtl hou',vou dc-sirettl
180 .\c11r,,i1;,,,11 l,lellie Wong

woman, that wiil reflect a sensibility

beconrein-rmortal,and not bc a fool, a real hurnan being?you a mortal, 6n independent,freedom-loving
y o u a w o m a n , w h o d o e sn o t v v a n tt o b e s m a l li n a n y s e D s eo f t h e , u l o r d . of Asian America, of feminism, of sharingfood and rvealth with all the
You a poet, you a femi'ist, r,r'hoseeksbeauty in and beyond tlie orcii- p e o p l e with all Your krn.
narinessof the everyday world. flnd you will not stop working and writing because you care/
You talk of children and yet 1'ouhave none. you talk of writing ancl becauseyou refuseto give up, becauseyou won't submit to the forces
l e a v i n ga p a r t o f y o u r s e l v e st o d a u g h t e r sa n d s o n s ,t h e i r d a u g h t e r sa n d that will silencevou, a cheor-rg hay poa, a long steam woman, a talker,
sons,so they will discoverfor themselves tl'reheart and lninds of Asian a dancer who moves with lightning. And you are propelled by your
Anrericans,particularly the u,omen who are strugglingin this fight for sense of fair play, by your respect for the dead and the living, by your
freedom. You don't understand why you have this vision, of lea'r'q thlee yip American laughter and language,by your desire to help
work, signs and clues, knowledge and art, stones,hower.er .ol,gh,,1. order the chaotic world that you live in, knowing as the stars sparkle
polisired,for people 1'ouwill never know. You realizei.ou r,,,'ill be {orre on this New Year'snight that you will not survive the work that still
w l r c n t h c q r r e s t i . n so f t h ef r r t u r ca r i s el i k c * ' i l d f l o l ' e r so n t h ep l a i n ,e i needsto be done in the streetsof Gold Mountain.
this earth. You u,ant to be a part of a legacyand so you write a'rd u'ritc,
questioningand cxploring, not knowing if what you rvrite lr,ill becor.ne
a part of Arnerica'sfreedom so.s, not knon'ing if there is a rairborv.
You believed o^ce in yoLlro\\'' passivitv, your o\\.n porverlessr.rr-ss
your o\ rn spiritual rnalaise.You are now arvakeningin the beginnines
of a new birth. Not born again, but born for tl.refirst time, iriu'.rpha't
anci resolute,6ut of experienceand struggle,out of a flon'ing, iivrnc
mernory, out of cor.rsciousness and lr,ill, facing, confronting, challerrc-
i . s h e a d - o n t h e c o n t r a d i c i i c n so f y o r . r rl i v e s a r . r dt l . r el i v e s o f p e o P ) e
around you. You believc no.,vin the necessityand beaut,vof stmssle:
that ferninism for you rneansrt'orking for the equality and l.rur.iraritv
o f u ' o m e n a n d m e n , f o r c h i l d r e n ,f o r t h e l o v e t h a t i s p o s s i b l e .
You rub your legsin this cold roorn.You shi,,,eruvhen you re.cailr-our
ov,,r.r self-pity lvhen you had no date on Ncrv year's Eve, .uvhenvi,u
regrettedthe farlily gatheringbecauseit rerlinded you that 1.or-r stooci
out, a wornan without a man, a woman r,vithr>ut children. Nolv vor.rarc
s t r e n g t h e n e de, n c o u r a g e db y t h e r a n g eo f y o u r o \ ' n e x p e r i e n c e sa s a
w r i t e r , a f e m i n i s t ,z r no r g a n i z e ra, s e c r e t a r y \. 6 1 y y o u a r e f i r e d b y ' 1 ' o u r
owt't neecls,by tl're needs of vour sisters at.rdbrothers in the socirrl
world, by your journey tort arclsolidarity,againsttyranny in the u'ork-
place,on the streets,in our literature and in our homes.you are fr.relecl
by the clarity of your olvn sight, heated by your o\\'n energy to assert
y o u r s e l v e sa s a h u r n a n b e i r r g ,a r t ' r i t e r ,a w o n r a l t ,a n A s i a n A n r er i c a u
a f e r n i n i s t ,a c i e r i c a iw o r k e r , a s t u d e n t ,a t e a c h c r ,n o t i n l o n e l i n e s sa u t l
isolation, but in a conltrunitr.' of freedom fighters. your poer.nserncl
storieswill do some of tl-rework for you, but poems and storiesalonc
aren't enough. Nothing for you is ever enough and so yotr challenge
yourselves, again ancl again, to tr,v sornethirlgnew, to helprbuild a
It.tovernent,to orsanize for the rights of rvorking people, to r,r.ritcit
novel, a play, to crcate a living theater that will en'rbody
and vision, energy in print, on stage,at work that will assertthe r,r'illu'i
flonnt Alarcrtt
Chicana'sFeminist Literature:
wolnen becon.resas vitriolic as tlte Amc-rican Puritans' loathing of
A Re-Vision Through Ma\intzinl witches-women'
The focus of the betrayalis not a iofty challengeto a "god"who subse-
or Malintzin: Putting Flesh Back on quently unleashedevil trpon the lvorld as punishrnent. Disobedience
-al-..- nl . .
rne LrDJect to a "god' might prlacethe discussionat tirnes on arnideal plane and
Noryna Alarcon relievetension r.r.romentarily as ol1esu'itchesfrom an intensedialogue
about one'sbodt' to a "rarified"field at leastin terrns of tl.revocabulary
Malintzi. (or La N,{alinche) used. However, the male rnytl'r of Malintzin is made to see betrayal
was an Aztec nobrervoman rt,rro\\,as e-
s e n t e dt o c o r t e s u p o n r a r d i ' g i n V e r a c r r . ri zn 1 5 1 9 .S h e s u b s e q u r)f first o{ all in her very sexuality, rvhich r.nerkes it nearly impossible at
ertl' any given lnolrel)t to go beyond tlie vagina as the suprerle site of evil
served cortes as lover, translatorand tacticaladvisor. She is
a;"rri;,; until proven innocent b,vrvay of virginitv or virtue, the rnostpawr.rable
versial figure in the conquest of Mexico. Her rame is
ofteu callecl c o m m o d i t i e sa r o u n d . -
forth to reenact, syntbolically, the Conqr.rest or a'y conquest.part of Becausethe m1'th of Nlalintzin pc'n,adesnot onlv rnale thouql.rtbr-rt
this drama, analogicallyso, is novv being played out also
in Aztlan. ours too as it seepsinto our owt"tcot.rsr;iousness ir.rtl'recradle tl'rrougl-r
Ma.lintzin'shistory, her rege.d ancl subsequentmythic diirensr.rrs
their eyes as rvcll as ollr nrotirers, r'r'ho are entrusted rvith the trans-
as evil goddessand creator of a new race - the mestizo racc-,
e'br.rrs missior.r of cr.rlture, \\'e nrav conre to belit've tliat inclecd our \rer\rsex-
her in a family quarrel, where many mare mernbersoften prefer
to sce uality cor"rdenlns r.ls to enslaver.r.rent. Ar.r crtslavenrent rvhicli is sr,rbse-
her as the mothEr-whore, bearer of ilregiti'rate chirdren,
respo.sirrre quently rnani[estedin self-hatrecl.All rve seeis hatred of n'orrien.\\'e
for the foreign Spanishinvasion; and where female n-rembers
atte'prt m u s t h a t e h e r t o o s i n c el o v t ' s e e n r so t r l v p r' s s i b l et h r o u g he x t r e n r ev t r -
to restore balance i' ways that are sometimespainfuily
ambir.ale't, tue r,t'hosedefinition is at best slipperv.
and at other times attempt to topple the traditio'al patriar-char
rn).trr,ri- T h e p o e tA l n r a V i l l a n u e v an l u s t h a v er e a l i z e d u , n d e r s t o o ct lh e i n s i d -
ogy through revision and re-vision.*
iousnessof the hate syndrome. Her r,r'holebook Bloodrr.rols is a song to
This essaywill explore the traditio'ar image of N{ali'tzin
ir.rchicaro . h e p o e n r" l s i n g t o n . r v s c l [ s" t a t e s :
t h e r e j e c t i o no f s e l f - l o a t h i n g T
culture and ll'ill provide exarr.rples of the rvayscorltenrl]orar,vchicarra I could r,r'eepand raee
feminist writers have reacteclto and used tl.is ir-nagein
their rvork. agair.rst the man lvho never
In our patriarchal mytholclgicalpantrreon,there Lxists e'e,
r)o\\.z1 stroked r-nvfine child hair
wolnan rvho was once real. Her historicitl', her experie'rce,ht--r w h o n e v e l f e . l tt h e p r i d e o f
flesh and blood were discarded.A Kantian, d'alistic nale
cor.rscior.rs- m,v fen'rininit)'. '
nessstole her and placed her on the throne of evil, Iike I t i s n o t j u s t t h e f a t h e r t h a t i s a s o u r c eo i p a i n ; a n r o t h e r ' [ i g u r e
dor'r'nfrozenJudas,cloor'redto moan anclbemoan.The,nl'oma, appearsalso. The r.r-rotl'rer is inrpotcr.rtto help the daughter. All of her
is int.r,
c h a n g e a b l yc a l l e db y t h r e en a m e s :M a r i n t z i n ,M a l i n c h e , energiesseem dirccted, spent in her desire ar-rdneed for rnan, a factor
Mari.a. xlal-
intzin'sexcruciating life in bondage\ rasof no account, t h a t r e p u l s e sa n t l a t t r a c t st h e t l a t r g h t e r .L o v c f o r r n o t h e r i s a n a u r b i -
and co^tintres
t o b e o f n o a c c o u n t .H e r a l m o s th a l f c e n t u r y o f n t y t h i c e x i s t e n c eu n t i l valencerootr'clin the daugl-rter's serlseof aL,andonn.rent by her ntother
recent times mostiy in the oral traditions, had turred her into and her apparently enormous and irrational need:
a l-rarilr.
refere'ce point not o'ly for co.troliing, interpreting
or visualizirg Never finding a brcast to rest
women, but also to \^,agea domestic battle of stifling proportions., and rvarntnl,self . . .'
Unlike Eve whose primevar reality is not histor]cally
docume't As the daughter proceeds to rr.peat her rnother's experience, she
a b l e a n d w h o s u p p o s e d l ye x i s t e di n i o m e p a s t e d e n i c t i n t e , N , l a l i n t ,
ironically discoversar.rdaffirnts a "urt)untiueseif/love'as a con.rbativc
zin's betrayal of our supposedpre-Columbian paradise is
recent ancl t o r c e a e a . i n stth e r e p e t i t i o no f t h e n r o t h e r ' sa b n e g a t i o n a, n d i r r a t i o r . r a l
h e n c e a l m o s t p a l p a b l e .T h i s a l m o s t - w i t h i n - r e a c h p a s t
heightens need of ar-rddependerlcyo1rn'ier.r. Self-love as a tool of survival, hor,r,-
r o m a n t i c n o s t a l g i aa n d a s a c o n s e q u e ' c e h a t r e d f o r
Malintzi' a.tl
*This introduction
t o M a l i n t z e n i s f r a r t o f a n u n p r : b l i s h c cpl a p e r b r . N l r 1 t a _ \ 1 1 r e r . ) r )
e n t i t l e d ," L a M a l i n c h e : F r o r . nl ' e n o c h i t t l a n t o A z t l a n . , ,
lg4 Nonlu Alirrr.,,,, t85

ever, leadsthe male lover to reject her. Her conclusionleavesDOcloLr.r You cramP mv stYle,bab,v
as to what woman may be forced to do: when yotl roll on toP of nle
I/woman give birth shouting, "Viva La Raza"
and this time to at the toP of Your Prick.
The sexual abuse experienceclleavesthe daughter no choice but tcr bo-" o,-tMalinche
G i m n r e s o l l ) cn ) o r c '
be her own mother, to provide her own supportive,r'rurturingbaseft,r
physical and psychic survival. To escapethe cycle of loathing and self_ He cramps her style; she refusessexualexploitation for herself and
loathing, Villanueva's woman has no alternative, even though she lrerdaughtersyet to come, in a way Malirttzin could not do becauseof
would have wanted more options, but to first love the self and the6 the constraintsof the slave society into lvhich she was born.
The Mexican poet Rosario Castellanosren-rindsus in "Malinche":
proceed to regenerateand nurture it by becoming her olvr.rn.rothcr.
that Malintzin was sokl into slaver)' by complicitous parents to
She is forced to transform the self into both mother and daughteran{
rejectsthe male flesh which at this point in time "is putrid and bitter enhance her brother's inheritance. The rtrother eager to please her
new husband agreesto seil her daughter, and therefore enchains her
He must be transfigured.
destiny.Castellanosspeculates,in the poem, that this is the result of
The end effect couid be seen as narcissistic,a perennial accusation
the mother'sorvn self-loathing. A mother lvho cannot bear to seeher-
directed at woman's literature. Yet, if it be narcissistic,r-reverhas a
selfreflected in her daughter'smirror/sexuality, prefers to shatterthe
rnotive force foril been revealed so tellingly and clearly, never har.e
image/mirror, negate the daughter and thereby perpetuate rejection
the possible roots been exposedso well: starvation for self-reflection
and negation.
in the other: man or woman.
Bernal Diaz del Castillo,a brilliant chronicler of the Cor-rquest rvith a
The male myth of Malintzin, in its ambivalent distasteand fear of
greateye for detail, reveals to us that whet.rMalintzin re-encounters
t h e s o - c a l l e d" e n i g m a t i cf e m i n i n e , "e c h o e si n t h i s p o e n r a s i t d o e si n
her mother and brother years iater and ciuringthe ver,vprocessof thc
rlany Mexican/Chicana'spoems, even when her nante is not mcn-
Conquest,she is merely polite. It seems that Malintzin, ir"rsteadof
tioned. The pervasivenessof the myth is unfathomable, often pemre-
offering then"rprotection within the folds of the victorious, leaves
ating and suffusing our very being without consciousawarencss.
them to their cl'"vndevices for survival in an embattled country. In a
The myth contains the following sexual possibiiities:wornan is sex-
way she condernnsthenr to servitudejr,rstas sl'rehad been condemned.
ually passive, and hence at all times open to potential use by Irte-tr Why is there no forgiveness?Within .,vhatcontext ciln we analy'ze
whether it be seduction or rape. The possible use is double-edgetl Malintzin's behavior at this point? We have a reversal, the daughter
That is, the use of her as pawn may be intracultural - "amongstus negatesthe rnother.
guys,"or intercultural, which meansif we are not using her then "the,v" Within the con-rplexmother-daughter relationship, the mother
must be using her. Sincewoman is seenas highly pawnable, nothing keepsbearing quite a bit of tl.reresponsibility for the daughter'serno-
she does is perceived as a choice. BecauseMalintzin aided Cortes in tional starvation,abandonltent or enslavementand yet paradoxically
the Conquest of the New World, she is seenas concretizingwonlarl's both are subordinate and subjected to a rnale culture and tradition.
s e x u a lw e a k n e s sa n d i n t e r c h a n g e a b i l i t ya,l w a y so p e n t o s e x u a le x p l o i - Perhapsour sexual identification with our rnothers leaclsus to expect
tation. Indeed, as long as we continue to be seen in that way !\'e are greaterur.rderstanding from her as well as psychic/sexualprotection.
eart.narkedto be abusablematter, not just by men of another cttltr.ire Villanuer.atells us it is a false expectatior.r rlothers are powerless,
but all cultures including the one that breeds us. looking to satisfy their ou'r.rhunger through rnen, which is agonizing
Lorna Dee Cervantes addressesherself to the latter point irl hcr t o r t h e d a u g h t e r :" h e r p a i n h a u n t e dm e f o r y e a r s . " s
poem "Baby you cramp my style."In the poem Malintzin is mention''tl
Simone Weil suggeststhat the consciousslave is rnuch superior,an<l
by her other name: Malinihe. The poet is asked to bestort,her sexrral I would add that a woman who is conscioLlsof bcing perceived as
favors; the lover'stone implies that her body/self is as availableas tlte I pawn is much superior. I doubt that the historical ]Vlalintzin'"vasir
mythic Malinche is thougl-rtto be by male consciousness:
l; truly consciousslave.In her ambiance slavery was a cultural norrn, it

1ll o
_\i)rtltrrAltt/t.il/ 187

\vas not urusual for rnen or womell to be rovaltv one day and
sla'c wounded, then rt,atch out, Carolina, becauser,vhatfoliows is a cold
va'qri.shcd or sacrificial 'ictirrr the 'ext. It r,r,as zi nor'r within *.hich
s l ' r eh a d t o s e e ka c c o m r n o d a t i o r .I t i s a l s o q u i t e p o s s i b l et h a t r t h a t rejectionand a neu'assigneclrole as a feme-mac1lo."ttlWiii this ner,v
secnas lVIali'tzin'sallegianceto cortes - he'ce pr.rrposefulbetra,val
is role of a "feme-macho"then provide the macho/loversthat are sought
oi a b o v ea n d b c v o n d t h e r v i f e a n d r n o t h e r ? )
"her people" may be explainec-lb1, Weil,s percepiion
of the slavc. that what is rvanted here is for all womer.rto be a kind of Sor
It seer.t-rs
' a s t e r r e l a t i o n s h i p .S h e s a y s ," . . . t h e t h o u g h t o f b e i n g i ' t: 11,Hs]1leaves out the majority of us who are not fortunate
subjectionas sonrebocly's plaything is a thou.qhtr.r,rh',r,la,-,being ca. Juana,
enough to be a women of ger-rius.But becausewe know Sor Juana's
sustair.r: so if a'ran (I add lr,,o'ranJis lcft *'ith 'o means at all of
dreadful fate as a result of her intellectual endeavors,we also know
i n c c o n s t r a i n th e ( s h e )h a s n o a l t e r n a t i r , ,eex c e p tt o p e r s r _ r a c l"i.u1,,
h ieu t s c l i that genius is liardly enough. Even geniusneedsa political base,a con-
( h c ' r s e l ft)h a t h e { s h e )i s d o i ' g ' . l u ' t a r i r v t h e r , " 1 1 ' t l r i n g ,
h e ( s h e ii s stitue.ncv.Sincerlany Mexican/Chicanapoets'challengesare straight-
torced to dtl; il-lother worcls,he
ishe)substitutcs clt'vr,ttiort for p6er1eirr.,, foru'ard, not hr.rmble,I shudder to think at our marginalization;how
. . . d e v o t i o ' ro f t h i s k i ' d r e s t s ' p o ' r s e l f , d e c e p t i o r ,b e c a u s e
thc rta are vve being shunned?
sonsfor it \\,ill not bear inspection.',.,
When our subjection is manifested through devotion we are saints
r e l i g i o ' s l ; ' p e r m c - a t ead' c r . r i e r t e d i r - r d o , l r i . s p a ' i c ' r i r c l s ,
-i'ou. it is and escapedirect insult. When we are disobedient,hence undevout,
ofte' the casethat dcvotio' is erluate'dr^,,itrr .bedie'ce a,rd 'ice r.crsa
p a r t i c . l a r l l ' f o r r v o r n e ua n d c h i l d r c . , s o t h a t c l i s o b e d i c . c e we are equatedwith Malintzin; thai \s,Ihe mythof male consciousness,
i s s c e , a si i not the historicalfigure in all her dimensionsdoomed to live in chains
I a - c ko f r l e v o ' t a l l e g i a n c ea, ' c l r o t r e c e s s a r i l ,av s a r a d i c a lq u e s t i o r r r r r s
(regardlessof rr'hich patriarcl-rymight have seemedthe best option for
o f o u r f o r r n so f l i f e . ' f h i s f a c t o r ' r a k e s i t a h n o s ti n i p o s s i b l et o
s e r s ca survivall.
s h i f t f r o m o b e d i e n c et o d e v o t i o n ;t h e l , h a v eb e e no n c a n d t h e
s a n t el o r C a r m e nT o f o l l a ' sp o e m " L aM a l i n c h e " r r m a k e ist q u i t e c l e a rt h a t M a l -
hurdreds of years.As such, \\ie are a greaterullcorscro's prey
to sr.rb- intzin as won)an is dispossessedof herself by every male ideology
.jugation.'vhichwe tl'rer proceed to call cler,'otio'/lo'e.?.r be oteclienr
with vvhich she u'as connected.Tofolla would simply like to seeMal'
devoted is proof .f love, especiarlyror .u'orrenar.rclchildrer.
intzin recognizedas a visionary and founder of a people. Yet as I have
consciouslyand u'consciously the Mexicarvchicanopatriarchalper-
noted,the realitiesthat this figure encompassesare much too complex
spective assignstl-rerole of sen'itude to woman particuiarly as hetero-
to sirnply replacethem u'ith the notion of a matriarch. However, each
sexual relationships are conceived today and in the past. Ii ar"r"open
implicit or explicit poem on Malintzin emphasizesthe pervasivepre-
Letter t. carolina . . . or Relations between Men and wornen" the
occupationand influence of the myth and women's need to demythify.
chicano poet Abelardo Delgadotestifiesas folrows: "octavio paz in El
The mythic aspectsof disavowal, and the historical ambiance of
ktberinto de le soledadbasrnuch to sa1'as to how rve as chicanos seeour
Malintzin merge in Chicana'sliterature to bring out the follovvingsex-
women . . For now let it suffice to say tl-ratas far as our *.ives ar-rd
ual political then.res:1) to chooseamong extant patriarchies is not a
n.rotherswe rnake saintsof thenr but remain alu,ays in search of a iover
choiceat all; 2) woman's abandonment and orphanhood and psychic/
with macho characteristics(sic).', Obviously when the wife or u,or.ricl- emotional starvation occur even in the midst of tangible family;
b e - w i f e , t h e m o t h e r o r w o u l d - b e - n r o t h e rq u e s t i o n so u t l o u d a n d i l r
3) woman is a slave, ernotionally as well as econontically;4) wonen
print the complex "servitude/devotiorvlove," shewill be quickly seenas are seen not just b,vone patriarchy but by all as rapeableand sexually
faiseto irer "obligation"and duty, hencea traitor. Delgadoalso poi'ts to
exploitable; 5) blind devotion is not a feasible human choice (this is
the creation of a differe.t categoryof wome. - .racho-lover - l'ho *.ill
further clarified by the teiiing absenceof poen'rsby women to the Vir-
provide comforts beyond those that fall u,ithin the pun iern,of u'ive s
gin of Guadalupe, rvhile poems by men to her are plentiful); 6) when
and mothers. Wi-ratis a macho/lover kind of rt,ontan?
there is love/devotionit is at best deeply ambivaient as exemplified by
D e l g a d oq o e so n t o t e l l c a r o l i r . r at h a t ' A I l i t t a k e si s a s i r n p l er e f . s a l Rina Rocha in "To the penetrator:"
on tl'repart of wornen to be abusedby us rnen."Holvever, he car.rtions
I hate the love
about the rrannL-rin u.hich it is tlone, "yor,rnrust shon' tlier.nall that
I feel for you.'-
your mind is on par or above thcirs. You n'rustbe careful that voLrclrr
Feminist women agreert'ith Hegel,despitehis relentlessuse of man
t h i s w i t h s o n r eg r z l c ec, l i g n i t ya n d h u r n i i i t v . . . M e n n r i g h ta c c e p tv o u r .
asuniversal, that the subjectdependson external reality. If she is to be
c l ' r a l l e n g eas f e r , r ' t i m e sa n c l l e t i t g o b u t i f o u r e s o h a p p e , - , tsc , L r e
188 N orma AIar,, t,1 l8g
florma Alarcrin

fully at home this external reality must reflect back to her what she o a r t a k ei n t h e f e a s to f m o d e l i n gh u m a n i s l nc a n b e c o u n t e da m o n g t h e
actually is or would want to be. When we don't participatein creatins i.ew,a.rd those feq' may be enjoying r,t'hatAdrienne Rich calls "a false
our own defined identity and reality as women, when the material power r,r'hichntasculinesociety offers to a feu'women who'think like
and spiritual realitiesdo not reflect us as contributors to the shapingof h"r'o., condition that they use it to maintain thirlgsas they are' This is
the world, we may feel as inJudy Lucerospoem'I speakin an illusion:' the meaning of female tokenism: that power r,r,'ithheld from the vast
I speak but only in an illusion majority of women is offered to the few."t5
For I see and I don't Even as we concern ourselvesrvith Third World women's econonric
It's me and lt's not exploitation,\ /e have to concern ourselveswith psychosexualexploi-
I hear and I don't tation and par,r,nabiiityat the hands of one'sbrother, father, en.rployer,
master,political systemsand sometimes,sadly so, poweriessmothers.
These illusions belong to me As world politics continues the histrionics of dominance and control
I stole then-rfrom another
attempting to figure out just who indeed will be the better macho in
Care to spend a day in my House of Deatl-r? the world map, macho politics' lastpriority is the quality of our lives as
Look at my garden. . . are U amazed? women or the lives of our children.
N o t r e e s ,n o f l o w e r s , n o g r a s s .. . n o g a r d e n s . . .
Iove and don't
hate and don't
sing and dorr't
Iive and I don't
For I'm in a roclm of clouded smoke
and a perfumed odor
Nowhere can I go and break tl.resebonds
Which have me in an illusion
But the bonds are real.15

Feminism is a way of saying that nothing in patriarcl.rvtruly reflects

women unless we accept distortions- mythic and historical. Hou'- Endnotes
ever, as Chicanasembrace feminism they are charged with betraval I Insofar as fenrinine syrnbolic figures are concernec'I,much of the Mexican/
a /a Malinche. Often greatpains are taken to explain that our feminisn.t chicano oral tradition as rnell as the intellectual are dominated by [,a
assumesa humanistic nuance. The charge remains as a clear ir.nage' Malinche/Llorona and the virgin of Guadalupe. The former is a subvcrsive
imprinted on Chicanas (and I believe most Third World women, irr feminine symbol rvhich often is identified with La Llarona, the latter a
feminine symbol of transcendence and salvation. The MexicanL/Chicantr
this country or outside of it) by men. It continues to urge us to ntakt: thesc
cultural tractition has tencled to lnlarize the lives of women thror.rgi-r
quantum leaps towards a male ideologized humanism devoirl t,i national {anclnationalisticJsyml.nls thereby exercising almost sole authority
female consciousness.The lure of an ideal humarrism is seductive over the control, interpretation and visualization of women. Althor.rghthe
especiallyfor spiritual women sucl-ras we have often been brought u;r material on both figures is vast, the follolving sen/e as guides to past antl
to be; but without female consciousnessand envisioning horv as present visio's anJ elucidations:Eric Wolf' "The Virgin of Guadalupe:^A
women we would like to exist in the material world, to leap inti.r Mexican Nati.r.ralSymbol,"rlor.,zal of American Rtlklore' 71 {1958) pp 3'1 39;
Americo Parecles,"NlexicanLegendn'and the fuse c-rfthe Mestizo: A Sttn'c)""
hurnanism without repossessingourselves may be exchanging onc' in Amencon FOI| Legendeclitedb,vwayland D. Hand, Berkeley: UlriYersity oi
male ideology for another. CaliforniaPress,1971,pp.97-107; RichardM.Dorson'sforewardtoFo/liltzlesO/
As women we are and continue to be tokenseverl'where at the prc-s- Mexico,editecl by Ameiico Paredes,Chicago: University of Chicago Press
erlt moment. Everywhere in a Third World context,women invited ttr 1970 esp. pp. x,.'i-xxxvii;arrd Octavio Paz' "The Songsof l'a Malinche , in ?he
Irtbvrutt'hii S,,titrdn,translated bv Lysander Kemp' Neu' York: Grove Press'
190 \'',777177\1,7r ,1

l r a [ ' p c r 5 p g s t t r , co i r r ' o n r a na s
1 9 6 1 ,g r . 6 5 - B B . P a z t a k e s t h c t r a d i t i o D a n
enigma and mystery and then proceeclsto disclosethe ctrlture's lntensl
Ceremony for Completing
nrentalityvis-a-uisthesefigures.Wonrenin thcir assigncdrolesas transn-titters
of thc culture ha'"'eoften adhcred to these \.ic\\'s,ho\\'cvcr, the,vhave n6t
a Poetry Readitg
createdthelr). Chrystos
r Bertrand Russellin Marnage artdX4rnalsaffirms that thc concel)ti()nof fcntalc
virtues has been built up in orcier to n-rakethe patriarcl-ralfanrilv as rve hurvc This is a give-a\\'a)'Poenr
knou''n it possible. Y o u h a r ' e c o l t i eg a t l t e r i l ) g
I Villanueva,AIn'ra."l sir.re to nryself,"\nTlird ChicarnLiteran'F\'i?c. l^'il? 197(.. You have rnade a circle rvith n-re
1977.DepL.of Spanishand Portusesc,University of California lr,"'ine,1977. of the places lvhere I have wandered
1/lrid.,p. 100
I want to give you the first dzrffodilofreningfrom the earth I have sott'l.t
: Ibid., p. 101
to give vorl \rarnt loavesof breacl
t\ El Fuegt de Aztlan I, no. 4
baked irt soft rnotrndslike breasts
iSur.nnrer19771,p. :39 I n t h i s c i r c l e I p a s se a c h o I y o u a s h e l l f r o m o u r m o t h e r s e a
r Ptpsiano eresti. Mico: Fonclotlc Cultura Econirniica i972. rrrr.295-'2t)7.
EVillanueva,op. cit., p. 99
H o l d i t i n y o r . r rs p i r i t & h e a r t h e s t o r i e ss h e r n ' i l lt e l l y o u
'' Weil, I have \\'rapped vour facesarouud nle , a warln robe
Simone. Firstand Inst Notebooks.Tfanslatcd bv Richard Rees.l.oncltrn: ribbor.rrvorkleggings,dressessewn with elk teeth
Let nre cive ,vor.r
Oxford University Press, 1970.p. zl1
l ' S t ' en o t e I f o r n r y c ( l r n n l c n t a no r r t h i : t e x t . lnoccasins\\'ove11rvith red & skl' blue porctlpine quills
rr RevislaChicano-Requeia, I givc -voublanke-ts\t'ovL-Irof florvers & roots
YI, r.ro.2 1prin'ravera 19781. p 35, 3E.
12Sor Come closer
Juana lnes de la Cruz is a fanrous poet-nun of the MexicanColonialPeriod.
A highly creativeancl intellectualu'ornan, she rvas f,rrceclbv the church tLr I have nrore to sive this basket is very large
abar-rdon her writing,aftcr penninga treatisethat challer-reed a prelate'snotior)s I har.estitcheclit oi ,-or.rrkind rvorcls
on the nature of Love and Christ. H e r e i s a n e c k l a c eo f f e a t h e r s& b o n e s
t:t Cantoal F\teblo:An Antlnlog;,of Expeience.s. SanAr-rtonio.Texas:PencaBooks a sacred n.realof choke cirt-rries
1978.pp. 38-39. Thke this nrask cri ltark r,r'hichkeeps out the evil ones
1JRerrlsla Clicarut-Riqueria. III, no. 2 (Prirtravera1975)p. 5. Tl-risbasket is only tl-rcbc-ginning
t'- De CoLores, I, no. I (Winter 1973\,p.52 There is somethiltg in nry arms for a11of you
tn "On Privilcge,Powcr and Tokenisrn."MS. Scptember1979.p. .tr3
I offer vou
this r.ncnroryof sunrise se-entl'rror.rgh ice crvstals
H e r e , a n a f t e n r o o no f l o o k i n g i n t o t h e s e af r o n r h i g h r o c k s
Here,a rcd-tailecl h a n k circlirlg o v e r c l u rh e a d s
One of its feathers d r o p s f o r ;'our h a i r
May I give you this routrtl stotte rvltich holclsan ancient spirit
This stor.rert'ill sootl.reyou
W i t h i n t h i s b a s k e ti s s < l n r e t l t i r tvco r t h a v e t r e e nl o o k i n g f o r
all oi vour life
Con'retake it
Thkc as nruch as vou lvarnt
I give r-orr scerlsc-ria ne\\' \\'a)'
I give 1'orrthe n.tootrsl.rinirtgort a file of sirtging\\'olllell
I gi,,.er'ou tl'rcsound of or,trfeet clancirtg
I gi,,'cvou the sr.rrrnci of crur thoughts fly'irtg

I give you the sound of Peace

moving into our faces & sitting down
this is a give awaY Poem
I canuot go home
until you havetaken everYthing
and the basket which held it
When my hands are emPtY
I willbe full

El Mundo Zurdo The Vision


Prior, I lived in the San FranciscoBay area, with the last four years in
the Mission barrio. I will be 34 this November {double Scorpio,Moon
in Aries). I've been writing since I was 9 and this is the first time I've
Biographies of the Contributors beenpaid.

Norma Alarc6n Cheryl Clarke

Born in Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico and raised in Chicago. Will A lesbian-feminist writer who lives in Highland Park, N.J. She has
receivePh.D. in Hispanic Literaturesin 1981from Indiana University published poetry in Indy Unique Inclination of the Ntght Second Cycle
where she is presently employed as Visiting Lecturer in Chicano- ll977l, a feminist journal of the goddess.She has published reviews in
Riqueno Studies. ConditionsV:The Black Women's Issue (1979)and Conditions\T (1980).
Her poetry also appears in ksbien P<tetrS';An Antholog;t(Persephone
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldria
P r e s sI,n c . , 1 9 8 1 ) .
I'm a Tejana Chicana poet, hija de Amalia, Hecate y Yemaya. I am a
Libra {Virgo cusp) with VI - The Lovers destiny. One day I r,r,illwalk Gabrielle Daniels
through walls, grow wings and fly, but for now I want to play Hermit Was born in Nelv Orleans,LA but has lived most of her life in California.
arrdwrite my novel, Andrea. In my spare tirne I teach, read the Throt, She doesn't miss gumbo as she used to, but "cooks''as a member of the
and doodle in n-ryjournal. Wonren Writers Union of tl'reBay Area.

Barbara M. Cameron doris juanita davenport

Lakota patriot, Hunkpapa, politically non-promiscuous, born with a is a writer lvho lives in los angeles.she is a lesbian and feminist, a
caul. Will not forget Buffalo Manhattan Hat and Mani. Love Marti, devotee of yemaye and a believer in tequila. she was born in cornelia,
Maxine, Leonie and my family. Still beadinga belt for Pat. In love with georgia; has a ph.d. (black literaturel at the university of southertr
Robin. Will someday raise chickens in New Mexico. california. moreover, she is obsessedwith truth. period.

Andrea R. Canaan hattie gossett:

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1950. Black woman, mother and born: central new jersey factory tou'n
daughter. Director of Women And Employment which developsand lives: northern harlem
placeswomen on non-traditionaljobs. Therapist and counselorto bat- enjoys: thinking couversating reading jazzing and opposing patriport'er
tered women, rape victirns, and families in stress. Poetry is major work herstory: n.rother'shelper maid cook wife barrnaid waitress
writing expression.Speaker,reader, and community organizer.Black forthconring book: nt),soal loolasback in wonder/vt'ildwimrnin don'l git
feminist writer. no blues.

Jo Carrillo mary hope lee

Died and born 6000 feet above the sea in Las Vegas, New Mexico. i anVat heart/agypsy recluseht'hofor the moment/is a poet ancla blues
Have never left; will never leave. But for now, I'm living in San Fran- lyricist/i was born and raised in san diego california/the last big town
cisco.I'm loving and believing in the land, my extendedfamily (which before the mexican border
includes Angie, Mame and B. B. Yawn) and my sisters.Would never
Aurora Levins Morales
consider owning a souvenir chunk of uranium. Plan to raise sheep, I was borr.rin Indiera Baja, Puerto Rico irl 1954of a Jer,vishfather and a
learn to weave rugs and blar-rkets,and write in Neu'Mexico. P u e r t oR i c a nm o t h e r , b o t h c o m t n u n i s t s I. h a v eI i v e d i n t h e U . S ' s i n c eI
Chrystos was thirteen & in the Bay Area for five years, rt'here I work as a
Last year I moved to Bainbridge Island. I am living in a house teacher'saide for pay & as a writer and perforrner at La Peiia Cultural
overlooking the water. I have chickens and a big vegetablegarden. Center for sanity and solidarity.
Genny Lim
of ChineseImmigrants on Angel
is co-autl.rorol Island.;Poetryancl Histctryn
248 249

Island 1910-1940,published by Hoc-Doi, July 1980. She is the author American or to choosebetween being Latina or Jewish. I have been a
of Paper Angels, a full length play produced by the Asian America feminist for as long as I can remember.
Theater Company of SanFranciscoin September1980.She has been a
contributing editor to Bridge magazine, a national Asian American Barbara Noda
quarterly, and a contributor to East/Westnewspaper.Her writing has A writer of Japaneseancestry. Born in Stockton,raised in SalinasVal'
been published in California Living, Y'Bird, American Born and Foreign ley. First book of poetry is Sfrawberries,published by ShamelessHussy
Press.Wrote a play called Aw Shucles/Shikata Ga Nai). Writing a novel.
{Anthology by Sunbury Press), We Won't Move llnternational Hotel
Anthology by Kearny St. Workshop), Networks (Anthology of Bay Likes to climb mountains.
Area Women Poets by Vortex), Beetitude, Women Thlking, Women Pat Parker
Listening, and Plexus,among others. is a "revolutionary feminist because(she)wants to be free." A Black
Naomi Littlebear Morena Lesbian Poet, her writing spans over fifteen years of involvement in
This has been no fairy tale. I hated gangfights, streetlife, stumbling on liberation struggles:The Civil RightsMovement, The Black Liberation
dope, actin'tuff, being poor, wearin' second hand inferiority com- Movement, Feminism and Gay Liberation. She is the author of four
plexes, smart-mouthed cholos and their Gabacho counterparts. I books of poetry, includingMovementinBlack{Diana Press}whichcon-
rebuild my broken dreams in Portland, Oregon. tains her collectedlvorks. Pat lives and works in Oakland, CA.

Audre Lorde Mirtha Quintanales

"I was born in the middle of NYC of West Indian parents & raised to I immigrated to the United Stateson Aprrl2,1962 when I was thirteen
years old, a Cuban refugee. Eighteen years later I'm still struggling
know that America was not my home." Most recent work: The Cancer
with the after'effectsof this greatupheaval in my life, always wonder-
Journalspulslishedby SpinstersInk. She is also the author of TheBlack
ing where is home. As a latina lesbianfeminist, I am one with all those
Unicorn, a book of poems published in 1978 by Norton, along with
many other works of poetry and prose. whose existenceis only possiblethrough revoit.
Donna Kate Rushin
Cherrie Moraga
I am a very tired Chicana/half-breed/feminist/lesbian/writer/teacher/ Iives in Boston, Massachusettsand works as a Poet-in-the-Schools
talker/waitress.And, I am not alone in this. I am the first in my family through the Artists'Foundation. Her work has appearedinConditions
to ever be pubiished in a book. Of this, I am proud for all of us. Los 5, Small Moon, and Shankpainter.She believes that the fight is the
Angelesborn and raised,I recently moved to Boston after three hard- struggle to be whole.
working and transformative years in the San Francisco Bay Area. Barbara Smith
(Gloria convinced me to further note that I am a libra/virgo cusp with I am a Black feminist and Lesbian,a writer, and an activist.I was born
t h e # 6 [ t h e l o v e r s ]d e s t i n y ,j u s t l i k e h e r . ) in Cleveland, Ohio in 1946and was raised by a family of Black women.
I have been a member of the Combahee River Collective since its
Rosario Morales
founding in 1974.My writing has appearedin many Black and femin-
I am a New York Puerto Rican living in Cambridge,Mass. - a feminist
ist publications.I co-edited ConditionsV: TheBlack Women'sIssuewith
independentist& communist since 1949.I married, farmed in Puerto
Lorraine Bethel and All the WomenAre White, AII the BlacksAre Men,
Rico, studied science and anthropology and raised three children. I
But Someof us Are Brave:Black Women'sStudies(The Feminist Press)
now break a lifetime "silence"to write.
with Gloria T. Hull and Patricia Bell Scott.I am now dreaming of mak-
Judit Moschkovich ing a film about Third World feminism.
I was born and raised in Argentina. My grandparents were Jeu'ish
Beverly Smith
immigrants from Russianand Poland.My parentsand I immigrated to
I am a 33-year-old Black lesbian. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio in a
the United Stateswhen I was fourteen. My greateststruggiehas been
family which included my twin sister Barbara, my mother, grand'
to be all of who I am when confronted with pressureeither to passfor
mother, aunt, and greataunts.SometimesI get sick and tired of trying

to be a grown-up lesbian feminist which is why I still maintain cordial

relationships with my teddy-bears. Third World Women in the
Ms. Luisah Teish tlnited States- Bv and About Us
is a writer, lecturer, teacher, performer and political activist. Her most
recent work is a collection of poems, 'Nhat Don't KilI Is Fattening.She is A SelectedBibliography*
presently teaching Afro-Cuban Ritual Dance and Culture in the Bay By Cherrfe Moraga
Area and working on a book on Women's Spirituality. She is a native of
New Orleans, Louisiana. 1. Third World Women in the U.S.: Anthologies and
Anita Valerio
Poet. One woman attempting Reality in an increasingly static deline- Fisher, Dexter, ed. The Third Woman: Minorily Women Writers of the United
Slates.Boston:Houghton Mifflin, i980.
ated environment & the continuous bulwark of privilege, etc. I don't
Heresies8. "Third World Women: The Politics of Being Other," 1979.
really believe in the goddess. Born Heidelberg, Germany, 1957- my
Miles, Sara et al., eds. Ordinary Women,Mujeres Comunes- An Anthology of
father was in the military so we lived all over the country. I grew w/a
Poetry by New York City Women, 1978.Available from: Ordinary Women,
mish mash of rich cultures - very confusing. I am now learning to P.O. Box 664 Old ChelseaStation,New York, NY 10011.
celebrate the discontinuity of it all. Most pressing current concern: Mirikitani, Janice et al., eds. Time to Greez!Incantationsfrom the Third World.
saving the earth from nuclear & other destructions. San Francisco:Third World Communications. 1975.
Off Our Backs. "Ain't I A Womon Issue By and About Wimmin of Color."
Nellie Wong
June 1979.
poet/writer/socialist/feminist/cheong hay poa born Oakland China-
town, thlee yip/American style year-of-the-dog-woman whose fem- 2. Third World Iesbians in the U.S.: Anthologies and
inism grows out of Dreams in Harrison Railroad Parkllst Organizerl Collections lThe followingcontainwritingsby lesbiansof color.)
Women's Writer Union founding member/Unbound Feet/secretaryto Azalea:A MagazineBy and For Third WorldLesbions.Available from: Azalea clo
the spirit of her long time Californ' forbears. Joan Gibbs, 306 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11238.{A11contributors are
l e s b i a n so f c o l o r . l
Merle Woo Baetz,Ruth, ed.LesbianOossroad.s, Nerv York: Wm. Morrow & Co., Inc., 1980.
Writer of drama and fiction, is a humanities lecturer in Ethnic Studies/ Bulkin, Elly & Larkin, Joan eds. Lesbian Poetry: An Anthoktgr-.Watertown,
Asian American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She M a s s . :P e r s e p h o n eI,n c . 1 9 8 1 .
is a feminist and the mother of Paul, 13, and Emily Wo Yamasake, 17. Lesbiansof Color, A Quarterlv for Womyn On1y. Available frorn L.C.C., P.O.
Her work has been published in Bridge,An Asian Ameican Perspective , Box 4049, Seattle,WA.
and Hanai, an anthology of Asian American writers. Vida, Virginia, ed. Our Right to love. Englewood Clif{s, N.J.: Prentice-Hall,
Inc.. 1978.
Mitsuye Yamada
is a second generation Japanese American teacher and poet whose 3. Afro-AmericanWomen
book of poems Camp NotesAnd Other Poems was published by the Afro-American Women - General
ShamelessHussy Press in 1976. This collection includes poems writ- Bambara, Toni Cade, ed. The Black Woman: An Anthology. New York: New
ten during the World War II years in a concentration camp in Idaho, American Library, 1970.
but her later writings deal with issues concerning the Asian Pacific The Combahee River Collective. "A Black Feminist Statement." ln Capitalist
woman in the U.S. She is a member of the Asian Pacific Women's Net- Patriarchy and The Case For SocialistFeminism. Zillah Eisenstein, ed. New
work and is currently teaching Creative Writing and Children's Litera- York: Monthly Review Press,1979.
ture at Clpress College in Orange County, CA. * I wish to acknon'ledge with
the followingpeoplefor sharingtheir on'n bibliographies
me ton'ard the completionof this one: Nellie Wong, Mitsuye Yamada,Merle Woo,
BarbaraSmith,Mirtha Quintanales,Gloria Anzaldira,and DoreenDrury.

The Combahee River Collective. "Eleven Black Women: Why Did They Die?" Walker, Alice. Meridian. New York: Harcourt, 1970
A pamplet available from: CRC c/o AASC, P.O. Box 1, Cambridge, MA
The Third Life of GrangeCopeland.New York: Harcourt, 1970.
02139. (Thmbi6n,en espanol.)
You Can't Keep A Good Woman Dowii. New York: Harcourt,
Harley, Sharon & Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn. TheA fro -Ame rican Woman; stru g1le s
1 9 8 1.
and Images.Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat, 1978.
Walker, Margaret, Jubilee. New York: Bantam, 1966.
Hull, Gloria T. et al., eds. All the WomenAre tNhite,All the BlacksAre Men, But
Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women'sStudies. Old Westbury, N.y.: The Washington, Mary Helen, ed. Black-EyedSusans.ClassicStonesBy and About
Feminist Press,1981. Black Women.Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday, 1975.
, "Rewriting Afro-Arnerican Literature: A Case for Black ed. Midnight Birds; Stories of Contemporary Black
Women Writers," The Radical kacher 6, April 1978. WomenWriters.Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday, 1980.
Kennedy, F. Color Me Flo My Hard Life and Good Times. Englewood Cliffs, Afro-American Lesbians
N.J.: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1976.
Bethel, Lorraine and Smith, Barbara, eds. Conditions 5: The Blach Women's
Lerner, Gerda, ed. Black Womenin lVhite Ameica. New York: Y\ntage, 1972.
Issue.Autumn 1979 (contains works by lesbians).
Shakur, Assata and Chesimard, Joanne. "Women in Prison: How We Are."The
Brown, Linda J. "Dark Horse: A View of Writing and Publishing by Dark
Black Scholar,April 1978.
Lesbians."Sinister Wisdom. Spring 1980.
Smith, Barbara. "Doing Researchon Black American Women or All the Women
Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave." The Radical , Seealso "AJro-American Women Writers."
Teacher3,1,976. Combahee River Collective. See"Afro-American Women - General".
, "Toward A Black Feminist Criticism." ConditionsZ. l9TZ. Gibbs, Joan and Bennett, Sara, eds. Top Ranking: A Collectionof Articles on
Racismand Classismin the LesbianCommunity.Brooklyn, N.Y.: February 3rd
Wallace, Michele. "A Black Feminist's Searchfor Sisterhood." The VillapeVorce,
28 July 1975.
Black Macho and the Myth of the Supenuomair.Neu' York l,orde, Audre. "Man Child: A Black Lesbian Fen.rinist'sResponse."Conditions4,
Dial, 1979. 1979.
Williams, Ora. Ameican Black Womenin the Arts and SocialSciences:A Bibtio , "Scratchingthe Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and
graphic Survey.Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecror,r'Press, 1978. Loving," The Black Scholar,April 1978.
, Usesof theErottc. TheErotic as Power.Brooklyn, N.Y.: Out & Out
Afro-American Women Writers Books, 1978.
Bambara, Toni Cade. Goilla, My Love. New York: Pocket Book, 1972. Seealso "Afro-American Women Writers.
, The Salt Eafers.New York: Random House, 1980. Parker, Pat. See"Afro-American Women Writers.
, The Sea BirdsAre Still Alive: CollectedStories.New York: Roberts,J.R. The Black LesbianBibliography.Tallahassee,Fla.: Naiad, 1981.
Random House. 1977. Smith, Barbara.See"Afro-American Women - General."
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Brown, Lindalean. jazz dancin wif mama. New York: Iridian Press, 1981. 4,1979.
Gibbs, Joan. Between A Rock and A Hard P1ace.Brooklyr.r, N.Y.: February 4. Asian/Pacific American Women
3rd Press,1979.
Jordan,June. Pcssron.Boston:BeaconPress,1980.
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, ThingsThat I Do in the Dark: SelectedPoems.New York: Random Aguino, Belinda A. "The History of Filipino Women in Hawaii." Bridge:An
House, 1977 Asian American Perspective,Spring 1979.
Lorde, Audre. The Black Unicom. New York: Norton, 1978. Chu, W. and Torres, S. Fong. "Rape: It Can't Happen to Me!" Bridge: An Asian
The CancerJournals.Argyle, N.Y.: Spinsters.INK, 1980 Anrcican PerspectiveSpring 1979.
Seealso "Afro-American Lesbians." Hirati, Lucie. "ChineseImmigrant Women in Nineteenth-CenturyCalifornia."
Parker, Pat. Movementin Black. Oakland, Calif.: Diana Press,1978. In Womenof America: A History. Carol R. Berkin and Mary B. Norton, eds.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Petry Ann. Miss Muriel and Other Stories.Boston: Hougl.rton Mifflin, 1971.
, "Free,Indentured, Enslaved:ChineseProstitutesin Nineteenth-
, The Street.New York: Pyramid, 1946.
Century America." Sterrs,Autumn 1979.
Walker, Alice. In Love & Ttouble: Storiesof Black Women.Ne w York: Harcourt,
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Ichioka, Yuji. "Amerika Nadeshiko:JapaneseImmigrant Women in the United Anthologies and Collections
States,1900-1924."PacificHistorical Review,May 1980.Available from: pHR
AnAnthologyofAsianAmericanPoetry, Brorrx,N.Y-:
U.C. Press,Berkeley, CA94720. AmeicanBornantTForeign,
Ikeda-Spiegel,Motoko. "Concentration Camps in the U.S.',Heresiesg, lg7g. Sunbury, 1978.
Nakano Glenn, Evelyn. "The Dialectics of Wage Work: "Asian Arnerican Women, Part I." Bridge, Winter 1978'9 P'O Box 477 ' Canal
Japanese-American St. Station,Ner,t York, NY 10013.
Women and Domestic Service, l9O5-1940.'FerninistStudies,Fall 19g0.Avail-
,,AsianAmericatr Women, Part II.,'Bndge,Spring 1979.{Seeaddressabove.}
able from: University of Maryland, College park, MD 20742.
Tsutakawa, Mayumi. "The Asian Women's Movement: Superficial Rebellion?" Diwang Pitipino.Jovina Navarro, ed. Asian American studies, lJniversity
Asian Resot,ces, 1974. Available frorn: Karl Lo, East Aiia Librar.z, Gouen California, Davis, CA, 1974.
Hall, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195. EchoesfromGoldMountain,AnAsianAmericonJournal'AsianAmerican
Wong, Joyce Mende. "Prostitution: San Francisco Chinatown, Mid- and Late_ Studies, California State University' Long Beach, CA, 1978& 79
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