Em-URGE-ing Voices

Your urgent thoughts, urging action

Save Yourselves And Leave Black Women Alone

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September 8, 2020

“Strong,” independent,” “resilient.” There was a time in my life where I saw these characteristics as noble and empowering. An affirmation that was important for young girls to hear multiple times throughout their life. However, I quickly realized that these characterizations had their own separate meaning when referring to Black women and girls. Lately, especially on Twitter, I’ve been coming across multiple posts reinforcing the same tired message that Black women will save the United States; that we will right the oppressive past of this country and create an equitable future for all.

In light of this, I want to reiterate what has been said by Black women before me and will be said by Black women after me—we are not your mules. We will not “save” this country, we will not “save” the world. The only thing we will be saving is our time. Okay?

Since childhood, Black women have been forced to take on the role of superwoman, wearing capes around our necks to save everyone from their own mistakes. We are taught that our existence is to sacrifice ourselves and ensure others’ livelihood, regardless of the damage that it inflicts onto us. And god forbid we share a moment of frustration because that ruins the self-serving image others have created of us, an image that is nothing more than that of a mammy.

Now, I’ve seen people argue that to be labeled the things people label Black women should be seen as honorable, considering it’s good to assist and take care of others. However, the weight of being the superhero is detrimental to the health of black women. A 2010 study showed that the strong black woman trope was directly associated with decreased emotional support and increased psychological distress. Many of the participants felt obligated to suppress their emotions in an attempt not to be a burden. Another study released earlier this year shows the disproportionate rate Black women are likely to die due to adverse birth outcomes compared to our white counterparts.

And we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.

This is all a result of the constant dismissal of Black women’s issues and instead painting us as magical beings able to withstand anything thrown our way. Although, the superwoman role is multifaceted and can come with its benefits such as preserving self, family, and community. The expectation to “save” everyone while also being a victim of racial and gender discrimination is a burden too heavy to bear. Everyone can recognize just how much Black women come through for the greater good of all, yet still, we remain an afterthought in this stride for justice. Frequently, we find ourselves fighting for others while never having that same energy reciprocated back. The world will “YAASSS QUEEN” us to death before they bother to acknowledge our existence outside of servitude. It’s as if the only time we are worth being seen is when we’re in aid of others.

Black women are deserving of love, tenderness, protection, safety, and justice. We are worthy of patience, understanding, and peace, just like any other individual, and it’s time that people to realize that. For years, we have been on the frontline, pushing boundaries and making everyone, including ourselves, uncomfortable. And to be honest, an immense sense of my pride in being a Black woman comes from doing just that. Our ability to shift cultures and influence change, not because we want to but because there is no other choice; is revolutionary in itself. However, I can’t help but admire that in us.

But I know this is not healthy nor sustainable.

Black women can no longer be the stepping stones in the stairway towards liberation. We cannot be a source of strength when we, too, are in need of saving. No more stories like that of Oluwatoyin Salau, Breonna Taylor, or Nina Pop. No more stories of Black women/girls protesting against unjust treatment only to later become a victim to it. No more using our trauma as a moment of reckoning. It is time to start working with us, listening to our concerns, and taking action from there because we can no longer afford for others to observe our pain in silence. 

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