The Perspective of a Young Black Woman
Black women are taught that they have to work three times as hard to achieve anything. First, the usual effort everyone must put in, second because they are women, and third because they are Black.
The saddest thing about this reality is that it does not wait for young adulthood or teendom: the pressure and anxiety of being a Black woman start from the moment they encounter White people for the first time and realize they are in a ‘Big White World’.
The Emotional Cost of Being a Black Woman
Monica Johnson, the university director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center at Indiana University Bloomington, first saw her place in the ‘Big White World’ as a little girl. She had just made her first White friend in her Indiana, USA school, who, after classes, was picked up by a Black woman.
Monica, in her childlike innocence, assumed that was the girl’s mother. When she went home and excitedly told her mother that she had made a Black friend. Monica’s mother struggled to tell Monica that that woman who had so lovingly embraced her White friend was a ‘mammy’.
The next day, Monica would have a realization that changed everything. When she asked her friend if she would have to be a ‘mammy’ if she ever visited her White household, the little girl said she didn’t know.
Not a definite no. Not even an ‘I do not think so.’
But Monica would get help putting everything she felt in words a few years later after hearing Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit.’ A song many believe led to the talented singer’s death because of the power it had to make people listen to the emotional burden Black women are forced to carry. A power that was opening people’s eyes around the world to the unequal politics of America. But Billie would only be the first of many victims.
Police Brutality Against Black Women
Research shows that Black women are sexually assaulted and murdered by the police meant to protect their neighbourhoods. The most memorable of these cases being the Breona Taylor case in the USA that caused global outrage in 2020. Breonna, 26, was shot dead in her apartment when 7 police officers forcefully entered it.
But the riots and pressure that came afterwards marked a definitive turning point. There was even the institution of what was known as Breonna’s Law, which regulates how no-knock warrants are conducted. But this could not have happened if only Black women had taken to the street.
There is power in numbers and allies. A current example can be seen in Iran, where the tragic death of Mahsa Amini sparked outrage across the entire country and all demographics. Nobody stood back because they thought it was ‘feminism’. They all saw that there was only one cause they were fighting for: humane treatment for all. Fighting for the rights of women of colour is not about being overly political or bad feminism; it is only humanist.
How the ‘Strong Black Woman’ Identity Both Helps and Hurts Black Women
To deal with the stress of racial and gender discrimination in their daily lives, many black women describe feeling under pressure to project themselves as superwomen: strong, selfless, and devoid of emotion.
But this superwoman schema only has limited benefits. The constant anticipation of negative, racist experiences and the pressure to perform over and beyond just to be considered average outweigh the mental and physical benefits. Becoming our sisters keeper is in the cards. A change in our frame of mind around what women are supposed to do, how they are supposed to be, and why the powers that be continue to try to control and define women is what we are fighting.
It is political, but we must cross political lines and unite. It is social, because our value has nothing to do with how big our breasts and booties are. And it is spiritual, because without a strong sisterhood and revered image of the woman (for clarity, born with a woman’s anatomy for reproduction), the human race will deteriorate and women everywhere will be in peril.
If both men in general and White people became stronger allies to the issues faced by Black women, would they have to wear heavy ‘armour’ every time they stepped out of the house? If you want to make diversity and inclusion part of your brand values, let's inspect the experience of Black women in your organization. Our DEI consultants tackle tough conversions such as these by connecting these complex social issues concerns to your own cultural awareness and cultural intelligence. Reach out so you too can discover the reality of the Black woman experience and how you as an ally can get involved.