Black women are amazing, there’s no doubt about that. However, most of what people think we are amazing for isn’t even our own doing. If I had to detail the gymnastics we’ve had to do to survive, you’d be reading all day. Failed by fellow women, failed by our men, black girls have been on their own for a while now and we’ve held our own. We have shrunk ourselves, we have pulled tricks out of hats, traded our physical and mental health and dignity all to get sh*t done.
Now all of this has supposedly toughened us. It has given off the impression that we embody strength. Maybe we do, but trust me, it was never by choice. Black women have never purposely worn the badge of strength, it has been thrust on us by all those who benefit from us wearing this badge. What this has done is that it has made mannier men-and dare I say black- think that we aren’t delicate. That we don’t need care. That we thrive in our position of strength.
Growing up, I watched my “strong” grandmother be given pocket money from her own grant by my grandfather. The logic was that because she was strong, she supposedly could make-do with less money. That very same grandmother could only run to her daughters to cry and share her anger. Her pride and sense of family could not allow her to share her pain with anyone outside her family, because well, her respected preacher husband’s reputation needed protecting.
I further watched my own mother raise 4 children alone. I watched as she too, pulled tricks out of a hat to give these kids the best shot at life. With a man who walked out on her, she had to embody “strength” if any of us were to make it. To this day,I have no idea the extent of my mother’s sacrifices for us. What I do know is that, hurt as she was, she had to swallow her pain and anger time and time again for our sake. She made sure we weren’t jaded.
Now now, some of you are probably unable to relate to any of this because your fathers and grandfathers and uncles and brothers and cousins are amazing (right….). What I do want you to be honest about though is how often the women in your family have been burdened with wearing the badge of “strength” for the sake of the family’s survival. How much bitter shame, heartache and rage they’ve had to swallow back all for the sake of the men in their lives?
Great…now we’re getting somewhere.
This strength badge that only black women seem to have been gifted with has created this perception of the existence of “strong black women”. Our “strength” is tried and tested each time black men mess up and we have to either clean up after them or siqume inyala(cover-up their shenanigans). The irony of this is that men always seem to be the testers of the depth of this supposed strength that they have thrust upon us. It’s a never-ending fountain that they drink from often.
Like all your delicate other women,”black women breathe flowers too” as Nayyirah Waheed so eloquently put it. We aren’t woven in strength, we have had to learn that so as to carry the weight of our deliberately weak men. I for one am sick of this badge that I’ve never asked for. Black women cannot continue breaking and shrinking for the sake of men. Believe it or not, black women aren’t any more stronger than the average person, we’ve just done what needs to be done to survive.