Let's be honest. It's considered a great virtue to be powerful and strong. For Black women who endure an entire lifetime of unyielding and tiring racism and sexism, the ability to overcome injustice, inequality and opposition should really be considered superhero type shit.
Every day is a fight to remain sane while continuously dealing with microaggressions, derogatory images, and stereotypes. And at the same time, we have to consistently fight to be heard, respected and treated as an equal. I need a nap just thinking about it.
This fight produces us the title of the "Strong Black Woman," but clearly in vain and at a great cost. While we're crying on the inside due our continuous fight with the world, on the outside we come off as simply crazy. We come off as loud, argumentative, mean, sad and void of emotion. I'd image most Black women have been told that they "don't have feelings" a few times in their life and I promise you, it is one of the most heartbreaking things to hear.
At the end of the day, this title is just another caricature and stereotype. While it is true that the antithesis is probably no better, it is a cross that we have to bear. I think we can all agree that it's simply not fair to have the be the Strong Black Woman all the damn time. Instead, we just want to be women, that happen to be Black. Maybe even a phenomenal woman.
Here's the problem.
On command, the Strong Black Woman must be a shoulder to cry on. For family, for friends and for co-workers...even the ones we don't like. We are expected to be sympathetic to no end—substitute mothers and therapists. And God-forbid a SBW happens to be heavy-set. Then not only is she considered to be all knowing and God-fearing, but expected to be physically strong as well.
The downfall to this is while "emotionally strong" may seem like a great quality to have, the SBW is then considered to be less human. She is assumed to experience less emotional (and physical) pain, is granted less time for greaving, is thought of to have less of a sense of loss and is expected to recover faster from trauma.
One thing the SBW does is sacrifice themselves for others on a constant basis. This goes far beyond emotional support as Black women are often solely financially responsible for a good portion of the people around them. Many Black women are in a financial rut because they always seem to be taking care of everyone else, whilst neglecting themselves. The SBW will indeed work 3 jobs at a single time if that's what it takes to nurture, feed, clothe and keep everyone around her warm and dry, usually without help.
Here are some things to remember about the Black women in your life who you consider to be an SBW. They aren't superheroes. They aren't invisible and can't just mold themselves back together after being physically or emotionally wrecked. They do indeed feel pain, just the same as you. They aren't exempt from having mental health issues. They can suffer from depression and anxiety, same as everyone else. They need to be loved...by parents, by siblings, by friends...etc. And last, but not least, they get mentally exhausted. Black women are raised to continue on in this life without pause and rest from injustices and inequalities, but that isn't to say they don't get tired.
Insofar as, so long as we are kept either desiring, or believing ourselves actually to be, Strong Black Women, there is no amount of pure nonsense, abuse, overwork, ingratitude, exploitation, underappreciation, and just plain shit that we will not put up with.
- Wambui Mwangi