Dear strong Black woman, it’s time to not be so strong.
As one strong Black woman from a long line of strong Black women, I can say without a doubt that I don’t want to be strong anymore, I want to be human. Somewhere along the way, we were told that being both a woman and Black means that we are, and must always be superhuman: we do it all, without complaint. The weight of these expectations are heavy, and this burden is not our own, but something placed upon us from generations past.
Black women, we are the backbones of our families, we are the foundation; however, when the weight of it all gets to be too much to bear, where do we turn? Who helps us when our knees buckle or our brows furrow in frustration? No one. They call us angry, hard and cold, and in the end, it’s a double-edged sword. The Black woman is cold. No, we’re busy carrying the world. The Black woman is hard. No, we’re resilient because that’s what the world has required of us. The Black woman is angry. Maybe, but that’s within our right; however, just because our Black joy looks different than the world may expect doesn’t mean that we are not full of joy and wonder.
If being “strong” means that I’m not allowed to be human, then I no longer want to be strong. As complex, dynamic, living being we have every right to experience a full and diverse range of emotions. Do not paint us in shades of gray and melancholy because you can’t read our faces, or understand our hearts. Do not immediately disregard our plea when we say we want more from this life. We deserve more.
I believe that the Black woman was given this “title” of strong as a way of invalidating her humanity, and today it serves as an excuse to disregard her cries. According to Wambui Mwangi:
This is like having a bullet-proof vest when the shooting starts: the unprotected get to scream and wail and run for cover whilst the SBW who are already armoured and thus have no fear, should promptly assume their assigned rescue service, feeding service, administrative, and problem-solving roles.
Whence, in addition to everything else, comes the ugly fact that SBW are granted less time for grieving, assumed to have less sense of loss and suffering and required to have a faster recovery time from trauma than everybody else, so that they can go and take care of the anguish and malaise of others. (Source)
Since when is “strong” synonymous with emotional dumping ground, and martyr? It’s time we take off the cape. We’re literally being strangled, ladies. And since we’re “strong” there’s no one to help: “Do we ever ask ourselves what sort of toll it took on her, what scars were left, whether she ever needed to lock herself in the bathroom and weep, if she ever thought of giving up and why she didn't?” (Source)
There is a very visible and genuine lack of empathy for Black women, and it’s taking a toll on our minds, bodies, and they way in which we view ourselves. If the world won’t see us for who we are, we have to see ourselves first. It starts with self-love, self-care, and self-acceptance. Yes, you can do it all, but you don’t have to. Yes, you can be strong, and still ask for help. According to Tamara Winfrey Harris:
“Black women are more likely to suffer from chronic health problems that may be alleviated by self-care, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stress. One in four black women over the age of 55 has diabetes. We are more likely to die of heart disease than any other group in the United States. Black women have a rate of depression 50 percent higher than that of white women, but in 2003 the California Black Women’s Health Project found that only 7 percent of black women with symptoms of mental illness seek treatment. And, according to a 2009 National Institutes of Health manuscript, a 2008 study of African American women’s perspectives on depression found many “believed that an individual develops depression due to having a ‘weak mind, poor health, a troubled spirit, and lack of self-love.’” (Source)
Take off the cape, and see what it means to flourish. Be human. Be dynamic. Say no. Stop, and breathe. Love yourself. Take time for yourself. That, ladies, is what real strength looks like. Tamara Winfrey Harris says it perfectly:
“I am not sure that the “strong black woman” is dead. But she should be. And it is black women who must kill her. Others are far too invested in her survival. For black women, the most radical thing we can do is to throw off the shackles forged by the stereotype and regain our full and complex humanity—one that allows us to be capable, strong, and independent, but also to be carried and cared for ourselves. Allowing for physical and emotional vulnerability is not weakness; it is humanness. More, it is a revolutionary act in the face of a society eager to mold us into hard, unbreakable things.” (Source)
Are you ready to write your own story?
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.