lack don’t crack” they say, but what lies beneath this popular phrase? Is it just the reverse aging process of the melanin skin or does it also include the idea of the Black woman being strong enough to take on every form of pressure without cracking? We’ve been on about Black excellence in recent times, and this has raised the many expectations of Black women. While we consciously chant at the ideas of Black girl magic and the strong Black woman, understanding these concepts and their two-sided facets helps bring us up to speed.
We, as Black women, tend to think that if we do work harder than others, we can finally be at par with the standard. As a result, we take on the badge of strong Black queen, assuming this will finally make us enough. From running multiple jobs to tending to everyone’s needs but ours, and taking on every task until we’re choking with responsibilities and praises, the struggle is real. The accolades make us feel hopeful that one day, we will be seen for the blood and sweat we put in — only to be slapped with ingratitude, no promotion, prolonged stress, and health issues.
News flash: We’ve done enough. At this point, we are enough. We’ve been enough the whole time. If you look beyond the over-flogged strong woman narrative, it’s not difficult to see that many Black queens have broken stereotypes and become trailblazers, setting the path for others in the game. This write-up isn’t about shaming or whining about our worth, but it’s about revealing the interesting and complicated aspects of Black women’s lives, encouraging us to see beyond stereotypes and grasp the many sides of being a strong Black woman.
Who is a strong Black woman?
The strong Black woman is someone whom many Black women and girls look up to and desire to become. We admire the likes of Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, Sarah Jakes-Roberts, and Angela Bassett, among others, because they embody great bravery, determination, and the ability to achieve incredible things. They’re famous for making their dreams come true and facing tough challenges head-on. Being a strong Black woman of this generation represents the independent high-class woman who’s bold, tough, doesn’t back down, and isn’t afraid to pursue her dreams.
The hidden cost
But this idea of the strong Black woman can make it seem like Black women are superheroes who can conquer anything. While it’s a popular phrase in the Black community, it also unintentionally makes it hard for all Black women to measure up. To begin with, today, a strong Black woman equates independence, suggesting they should be completely self-reliant, which can sometimes strain relationships between men and women in the Black community. This leads to the idea of more single mothers among Black women.
While it’s not in my place to pull out any moral compass stating if this is a good or bad development, I can only point us toward women who think they don’t need help and can do it all by themselves. Interestingly, many of the women we hold in high esteem often have stable relationships, strong support systems, or are married. Conversely, the myth makes it seem like Black women should require a delusional standard from men or become single and superhuman.
Another concerning consequence of the strong Black woman narrative is the shockingly high mortality rate among African-American women. The perception of undying strength often leads to a neglect of healthcare and mental health issues. We keep pushing and ignoring the signs that perhaps it’s time to slow down and get a grip on ourselves. Black women are expected to be strong and resilient, enduring pain without complaint. This misguided celebration of strength has heartbreaking consequences, leading to tragic losses like Cheslie Kryst and many others.
Should we bring back being regular?
While being a strong Black woman is commendable in many ways, it’s becoming a burden for some women in today’s world. It’s important to support Black women to pursue their passions, embrace their individuality, and be free from societal constraints. Regular Black women shouldn’t be made to feel bad for wanting a simple life, and traditional women should not be criticized for wanting to create a home. That’s toxic femininity at its finest — a situation where you’re trolled for wanting to be a traditional lady. Most importantly, Black women should never be pressured to be strong when they are struggling mentally or physically, even if it means giving up some career ambitions.
Breaking stereotypes of the strong Black woman
I’m always on for the hype. Frankly, if you’re working so hard, gassing up should be part of the package. It’s true that some of us have no choice but to be strong. Extended family needs. Unemployed partner. So many reasons why we have to “man up” and keep things together. Hence, the strong Black woman is a powerful concept but it should not limit or confine Black women. Instead, it should serve as a reminder of the incredible talents, achievements, and resilience that all Black women possess — whether they’re superstars or first-grade school teachers. We must resist the urge to pigeonhole women into these roles and recognize their capacity for diverse experiences and aspirations.
The lives of Black women are full of different experiences and are quite complicated. They go beyond the basic ideas of Black girl magic and the strong Black woman. Instead of limiting ourselves to stereotypes, let’s cheer for Black women by understanding the depth of our stories and being true to ourselves. By doing this, we can fully understand the amazing stories of these beautiful women, and help a new generation of Black women create their own life stories.
Featured image: Atlas Studio/iStock
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