The Myth of the Strong Black Woman

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We joke about our steely, resolute, no-nonsense African-Caribbean mothers, aunts or grandmothers. Naturally the media has taken those anecdotes, stories and images and then portrayed us as such in movies and TV shows over the decades. That image sticks. We begin to believe it and wear a mask, feeling under pressure to live up to that trope. So when things get us down, we try to brush things off, while all the time groaning under the weight of the burden. Black women face the double discrimination of race and gender.

The Myth of the Super Black Woman

Even our own natural hair and beauty is criticised for not being European enough, for being unprofessional. Topics Mental health Opinion. It is what your family has basically raised you to be, because in many African American families, the girls are raised to basically do what they need to do.

Deborah Latham-White agrees that black women often pass down the idea of strength at all costs to younger generations out of a love that is perhaps misguided. For centuries, the notion of black female strength has also been used to challenge our humanity and femininity. Long after the era of the cult of true womanhood, by the age of the Equal Rights Amendment, when middle-class white women fought to come down off the pedestal of idealized womanhood and progressive folks celebrated the strength of various marginalized peoples, black women were still seen as uniquely tough.

Black women fight, Bird says, because they have no one to fight for them, unlike women with proximity to white, patriarchal power.

The Myth of the Super Black Woman

It also paints black women as possessing a durability that is nearly inhuman. Society remains uneasy with female strength of any stripe and still prefers and champions delicate damsels—an outdated sentiment that limits all women. This may be why we so rarely see the black women who are victims of violence on true-crime television, despite the fact that black women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence and domestic homicidal violence.

Young, blond Natalee Holloway and mommy-to-be Laci Peterson are damsels, beneficiaries of sympathetic national media attention and a drive for justice; Tamika Huston and Latoyia Figueroa, black women who disappeared under identical circumstances, are not. But lack of empathy for black women has other serious implications.

Black women are allowed to be sick and tired of always having to be strong.

When the distraught Moore attempted to garner help from her neighbors—to simply convince them to call —she found only closed doors. How would you know whether it was just a trick and you were about to be the victim of home invasion, robbery, rape.

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The move by the White House prompted open letters from black feminists and their allies. One letter, signed by more than fourteen hundred women, including Anita Hill and Alice Walker, said:.

The need to acknowledge the crisis facing boys should not come at the expense of addressing the stunted opportunities for girls who live in the same households, suffer in the same schools, and struggle to overcome a common history of limited opportunities caused by various forms of discrimination. We simply cannot agree that the effects of these conditions on women and girls should pale to the point of invisibility, and are of such little significance that they warrant zero attention in the messaging, research and resourcing of this unprecedented Initiative. You have to take good care of him, too.

You have to give love to get love. The consensus seems to be that black women are too tough to love or be loved. The label also distorts how they view themselves and, more importantly, how they take care of themselves or do not. Black women do camp, climb, and hike—just ask Rue Mapp, whose love of nature was sparked growing up in Northern California.

Rue was dismayed to see few other black people on her forays into the great outdoors, so she founded Outdoor Afro, a social organization that connects African Americans nationwide with outdoor activities such as birding, fishing, gardening, and skiing.

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Too often black families lose sight of these women as human beings, and in efforts to emulate them, black women dash their own health and well-being on the rocks. They come to believe, to their detriment, that preternatural strength means that black women can and should bear any physical and emotional burden without complaint. The reality is, a certain kind of strength will be required for her to make it through this life with her sanity and health—to not let racism and sexism kill her.

But I have to be very careful about telling her to be strong, because I also want her to be fully human. But the flip side is that it allows little space for me to be vulnerable, seek support, and otherwise be fully human. The most radical thing African American women can do is to throw off the shackles forged by the strong black woman meme and regain a full and complex humanity that allows them to be capable, strong, and independent but also to be carried and cared for.

Allowing for physical and emotional vulnerability is not weakness; it is humanness. More, it is the revolutionary act in the face of a society eager to mold black women into hard, unbreakable things. Buy Now, Pay Later. This invigorates my own spirit and propels me to join the fight, because I have power, too. Because I know that there are far too many examples of black women who have been strong when they literally had nothing and no other choice. If I ever have a daughter, I want to tell her about these women.


These women, who seem so grandiose and powerful, are fighting evil for all of us. They are real. These are our modern-day strong black women. These are our heroes, and they should be seen and honored as such. Skip to the top of the page , search this site , or read the article again. Tags: black lives matter bree newsome morgan jerkins.

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The Myth of the Strong Black Woman The Myth of the Strong Black Woman
The Myth of the Strong Black Woman The Myth of the Strong Black Woman
The Myth of the Strong Black Woman The Myth of the Strong Black Woman
The Myth of the Strong Black Woman The Myth of the Strong Black Woman
The Myth of the Strong Black Woman The Myth of the Strong Black Woman
The Myth of the Strong Black Woman The Myth of the Strong Black Woman
The Myth of the Strong Black Woman The Myth of the Strong Black Woman
The Myth of the Strong Black Woman The Myth of the Strong Black Woman

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