Where do I turn in my 'strong Black woman card'?
With a gleam in my eye and my mother’s heels on my tiny, adolescent feet, I longed for the day that I would be able to call myself one of them: a Black woman. A strong, Black woman. Somewhere along the way, as I got older, I slowly started to settle into the sobering realization that society didn’t see Black women and girls through the same lens that I did. It became clear to me that the world would batter us with the very trophy they prized us with for being so strong.
I started to see that little Black girls like myself didn’t get the chance to be seen as innocent or immature to the outside world.
Since the dawn of time, Black women have carried the weight of the world on their shoulders, caring for their own and others, being stripped of their humanity while still being expected to show up every day as super-humans. Black women have had their bodies dissected and mishandled, leaving their temples as a graveyard for generations of trauma. Black women have stood in the gap for those that are underprivileged, undervalued, and voiceless-- all while still not being afforded the full space to properly grieve, seek solace, or simply rest.
If there is no rest for the weary, Black women must be the poster child for insomnia.
Listen to us. Black women have strained their vocal cords, crying out and fervently pleading to be protected and it is not without reason. The proof behind this sentiment is in the media, it is in the statistics that state that 1 in 4 Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18, it is in the way that Megan Thee Stallion had to take to social media to prove to millions of people that she was shot, it is in the way Black women die at disproportionate rates during pregnancy.
I do not believe that Black women, even in our strength and grandeur, want to be the ones to “save the day” with a smile on our face and our anger stored in our back pocket, and with the way we’ve been dehumanized and exploited it’s ludicrous to think that we would volunteer to do so. It is unfathomable to believe that Black women desire to be both a shield and a target for society.
Yes, it's true, our strength has continuously stood firm in the face of intense forces and made way for our Black Girl Magic to shine from one side of the world to another. Our strength has engraved resiliency into our hearts and minds, leaving no room for questions when we get knocked down because the answer will always be to get back up. Our strength has cultivated communities for us to seek healing and comfort from one another…
There is no doubt that there is beauty in this strength that Black women possess, but the fact that there is also an immense cloud of pain that casts a dark shadow over said beauty is undeniable. This strength has been extracted out of the pits of dense quicksand waiting to swallow us whole. Everyone needs to know that our Black Girl Magic, with all of its opulence and sparkle, has its limits-- and as magical as it is, it doesn’t make us invincible or immortal. It doesn’t make us immune to pain, sadness, or fear.
Black Girl Magic doesn’t stop the tears flowing out of my eyes at 2 AM or settle the anger that I feel electrifying my body because I, again, have to face the reality that I stand at the harrowing intersection of two disadvantaged identities being both Black and woman.
It doesn’t make it any easier to understand why it’s been 242 days and counting since the death of Breonna Taylor and it seems as though the collective cry out for justice has only been met with deafening silence. Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove, and Jonathan Mattingly have faced little to no consequences for taking the life of an innocent, Black woman sleeping in the comfort of her own bed. Days, weeks, and months continue to pass by while they roam freely as if the blood that’s on their hands doesn’t stain every surface that they touch.
Oluwatoyin Salau would have celebrated another journey around the sun on August 27th. She would have ventured into the messy, beautiful years of her 20s and her voice would have continued to echo with intensity and passion. Instead, her life was cut short at the hands of someone she trusted to give her the safe space she needed because safety is hard to come by when you’re a Black woman in a world that will turn a blind eye to your suffering but pride you for your strength.
I could continue going down the long list of names of Black women, both known and unknown, that have been forgotten and discarded in the wake of police brutality, domestic violence, health care discrimination, and so on-- one thing that frequently reigns true: a strong Black woman is called upon to stand on the front lines for others, but silenced when trying to make her truth known and find space in this world… even in death.
If you have the eyes to see us for our strength then why is it impossible for you to see us for our humanity?
I yearn for the day when Black women and girls who are praised for being so strong are simultaneously allowed to be seen as soft and delicate and deserving of being protected, heard, and valued. I yearn for the day when Black women and girls aren't demonized for expressing their justified rage and anger. I yearn for the day when Black women and girls can stand in their power without the world jumping at the chance to tear them down.
Lastly, I yearn for the day when society won’t passively sit and watch or forcefully guide our hands to swipe our strong Black woman card to placate the world around us when the transaction that we have made time and time again has shown that it is to our detriment. Make no mistake, Black women will continue to fight and lead with strength, but this card has maxed out and we need you to stand by us and stand up for us.
Thank you for reading, and as always... be great. xox