Why The Idea Of The “Strong Black Woman” Is Dangerous
by Rekeisha George
There has always been the notion that Black women are strong, resilient, nothing fazes them and they just generally get shit done. All of life’s problems are like water off a duck’s back for her, but lately, I have been doing some thinking and though it’s not reserved solely to Black women, it is an image specifically, associated with us. What damage are we doing to ourselves when we shoulder the weight of everyone else’s problems? Who do we turn to in our time of need? Who supports the strong Black woman? Let’s explore why we believe this notion is dangerous.
Fierce. Strength. Power. Resilience. Fortitude. Hard Working. All words attached to the existence of the Black woman, but how do we/you navigate those words/adjectives when you are the one needing the support, when the weight of that pressure needs a little let up? Who does the strong Black woman lean on? Before we get into the nitty gritty, here are the Canadian facts. (Yes, it’s one of those posts)
-By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
-Schizophrenia affects 1% of the Canadian population.
-Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
-Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
-Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
-The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.
There are some pretty terrible statistics, such as African-American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide, but they are less likely to be successful in their attempts. Meaning they are then left to live with the impact of their attempted actions and. It enough support to ensure they’re using healthy coping mechanisms. How do we continue to support our community and allow them the strength to move past what has gotten them down and help to uplift them in such a way, that the past remains in the past?
One thing’s for sure, no one and I mean NO ONE, Black or otherwise should be someone’s fix. If you are damaged, troubled or have baggage (who doesn’t) you should seek out help from a professional in order to find healthy tools in order to ensure your own health and well-being. I fully accept the notion of being there to support someone, but it should not be your job to do the work for them. Taking up and carrying this load is having a detrimental effect on our personal well-being. We carry everyone’s load, but there is no one to carry ours. Take it from me, speaking from actual experience of being in my most recent relationship, I never stopped to think about myself. I was always giving of myself and never asked for or reached out for help, until I was sitting in my living room alone- having a panic attack, crying uncontrollably for no particular reason. We spend hour after hour giving of ourselves and because we carry it well (something I have actually been told), no one stops to offer us a rest, so the cycle has to end here. At least for myself- I have chosen for it to end with me. I will push through and show vulnerability, because it’s a beautiful thing. I will be open and accepting of help and most importantly, I will set healthy boundaries for myself and I will be unapologetic about it.
Have you felt the pressure to be all encompassing and to carry the weight of so much on your back? How do you cope with it and have you set up any boundaries to push back on what other’s expect of you? Share with us and let us know! Share with us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or email.