When a Black Woman’s Strength Can Hurt Her

Author: Sana Madhavan, Barrington High School ‘20

Females in a world long advantageous to men have so much to lose. There are microaggressions or indirect, implicit, and passive-aggressive insults that plunge a woman’s self-esteem. Women got their right to vote a century ago, whereas men have assumed this privilege since the time they arrived in the Americas. But this is just an example of explicit rights. Hidden remarks like “for a girl” imply that one only did well compared to an ideal female. This model portrays a girl as weak and delicate, unable to project her strength well. So yes, these societal obstacles to women may be crippling, but, not all women are the same.

The recent protests and riots that have swept the nation since George Floyd’s murder have proved that white privilege and gender barriers exist. Yes, all women share common struggles, but white women do not have to fear for their lives on a daily basis. They don’t have to know what it’s like to lose a loved one to a preventable death. They don’t have to bear additional racial insults that may be even more crippling. Black women are still being stripped of fundamental rights and this can not be ignored during a worldwide pandemic.

Black women suffer more pain than white women can fathom, and yet they are believed to be strong enough to handle the pain. Black women are 240% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than their white counterparts. They are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer, even though they are less likely to have breast cancer at all. From physical to mental, emotional, and social health, everything is a target of the potential danger for Black women in our communities.

“The image of Black women as physically strong without enough vulnerability to warrant consideration is one of the greatest cultural exports from the racist, sexist U.S. hierarchy,” Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote in Time Magazine’s 2019 issue. If this statement alone is not enough to help steer people’s attention towards the dejected, crestfallen women of the Black community, then what is? We cannot go on thinking like this. We need to do everything we can to empower Black women. Buy from Black artists, support single Black mothers, buy jewelry from Black-owned businesses, just contribute in some way. We must all support Black women in our lives, not just momentarily but as long as we live.

Photo by Kai Hashimoto