By Nikita Haynie
Last week, Megan Thee Stallion took to her Instagram live to address the recent assault against her. Her hair perfectly styled, a sexy outfit, sparkling jewelry, and flawless makeup, but as she continued to speak, taking pauses to stop the tears from falling down her face, I couldn’t help but think of the countless times I, and other Black women I know, have had to mask our pain. I saw myself in Megan because I, too, have learned how to hide my sorrow for the sake of “keeping it together”. The expectation that even when we are suffering, we still have to put on a brave face to “be a strong Black woman,” and quite frankly, it sucks!
The past few weeks have been challenging and when an old friend randomly called to check-in and asked, “Are you ok?”, I realized I was not. I began to cry uncontrollably with my friend then inquiring: “What’s all the crying for? You’re always positive and strong.” Their response to my tears was infuriating and also caused me to reflect on the concept of the “Strong Black Woman.” It’s true; I am an optimistic and positive human, but lately, I’ve been struggling, and even when I’m smiling internally I am at war with the weight of being a “Strong Black Woman” in America.
The Strong Black Woman narrative has placed a damaging and unrealistic misconception on Black women that we don’t need care or help because “We got it,” “We’re so strong,” and it’s the furthest thing from the truth. Black women are socialized to survive because the world neglects us. While I do believe Black women possess a strength like no other, this doesn’t mean our challenges, discomfort, and pain should be disregarded or ignored. Most Black women are strong and assert our strength not because we want to, but because we have to. We often aren’t given the space to be cared for unless we’re among other Black women or Black queer and trans folks. The weight of being a Black woman is empowering, but it’s also exhausting. I recently read Morgan Jenkins’s book, This Will Be My Undoing, and this quotation resonated, “Belonging to the world of Black women demands strength, on-your-feet-wit, and aggression, because space for and by ourselves is small. You either assert yourself or learn to do so through humiliation, exposing who you really are: just another black girl fighting to exist.”
Black women are fighting every single day to be heard, seen, and treated as equals from the same people who value our labor but never acknowledge it. The moment we need support we are left to navigate on our own. I often wonder: Will Black women ever be able to live and exist freely? Will our pain and plight ever be centered and matter in a way that creates radical change? I want the world to normalize and understand Black women deserve care too. We deserve to be vulnerable without having it be weaponized against us, we deserve to feel safe in the spaces we enter, and we deserve to exist in fullness.
Mikki Kendall in her book Hood Feminism wrote something I believe Black women should internalize, ” I am a strong person; I am a flawed person. What I am not is superhuman. Nor am I a Strong Black Woman. No one can live up to the standards set by racist stereotypes like this that position Black women are so strong they don’t need help, protection, care, or concern. Such stereotypes leave little to no room for real Black women with real problems.”
To the Black women reading, I am here to affirm you.
Black women, we are real.
Black women deserve to be frustrated.
Black women deserve to cry and not feel ashamed.
Black women deserve to rest.
Black women deserve to be flawed and imperfect.
Black women deserve to be super without the impression of being superhuman.
Black women deserve to know it’s ok to not be ok.
Black women deserve to be vulnerable. Black women deserve to be safe. Black women deserve to be human.
Black women deserve care and concern, too.
Nikita Haynie is the Assistant Editor for the Pedestal Project, LLC. Nikita is a writer, author, and educator. She is a creative that writes content intersecting faith, black womanhood, and culture. Proud optimist. Follow her on Instagram: @thenikitahaynie. Check her out at NikitaHaynie.com