Black Womxn Are More Than Their Strength by Brianna Milon

illustration of black women wearing masks against a white background

Black Womxn Are More Than Their Strength

Calling a Black womxn strong is not a compliment. That might sound strange because ‘strong’ is such a positive adjective. Most would be grateful to hear others use that term to describe them. But for Black Womxn the term makes us feel exhausted. It’s a term that is often used to diminish our struggles and fears. 

According to Dr. Erica Martin Richards, “There’s a feeling in a lot of black communities that women have to be strong and stoic.”

Now don’t get me wrong; Black womxn are strong. We undergo unimaginable trauma and still come out on the other side handling business. However, our ability to bounce back more resilient than before is often taken advantage of. “Women are so busy taking care of everyone else — their partners, their elderly parents and their children — they don’t take care of themselves,” says Dr. Richards.

When you say ‘strong’ to describe a Black womxn, it usually is through a well known saying: “Strong Black womxn don’t need no help, no man/partner.” When in actuality we need a support system and love just as much as the next person. We’re taught from an early age that we shouldn’t need anyone or want to need anyone. We’re told to carry the weight of our own issues and others because of our “strength”. 

“Women are so busy taking care of everyone else — their partners, their elderly parents and their children — they don’t take care of themselves”

Carrying so much on our souls comes with many drawbacks. We don’t make our mental health a priority. “Women are at least twice as likely to experience an episode of major depression as men,” Richards reports. And, compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African-American women are only half as likely to seek help.” There is a stigma within the Black community, that therapy and taking care of mental illness is taboo. A study done in 2008 found that [Black womxn] “believed that an individual develops depression due to having a “weak mind, poor health, a troubled spirit, and lack of self-love.”

We’re taught from a young age that depression or anxiety is something to be ashamed of. It’s a generational curse that we must fight to break every day. 

The womxn who participated in that 2008 study also believed “they were not susceptible to depression. So that talk of strength was so ingrained that they didn’t think they could develop a mental illness. Of course, we also face the issue of access. Location, transportation and poverty are just a few barriers that keep Black women from seeking the proper treatment. Mistrust of the medical system is another thing that plagues our community. Pregnancy mortality rates among Black women are constantly higher than white women. And our babies aren’t safe either. “Black infants just make up 15% of all births in the United States but are counting for 29% of all deaths.”

So Black womxn go from being ashamed of mental illness, to not having access to the treatment, to worrying about their lives once they get there. But only thing you can do is call them strong? Tell a Black woman you care, that you will be a shoulder to cry on and that their struggles and pain matters.

And to my Black women who have a hard time letting their walls down, it’s okay to be vulnerable. Prioritizing your space and mental health is nothing to be ashamed of.

Please take care of yourself.  

About Brianna Milon

Brianna is local media professional who loves writing, watching Netflix, and playing with her dog, Weenie and her cat, Fancy. She studied Journalism and Broadcasting at SUNY Brockport and was heavily involved in the campus radio station. Brianna also co-hosts a radio show, “Fat, Black, and Femme”, on 100.9 WXIR. You can find out more on Facebook and Blogspot.

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