My mother deserves to be retired and living on a luxurious resort island where she’s pampered from morning to evening–especially after all my siblings and I put her through. Yet, at the ripe age of sixty-two, she continues to work multiple jobs and refuses to accept any financial help from friends and family. I love her, but I wish she’d realize that she doesn’t have to be everything all the time. Born in the generation where the “strong black woman” trope was at its prime, it has never occurred to her to be anything other than the nurturer, backbone and breadwinner of the family.
While my mother does allow herself to feel and to cry, I wish she’d also allow herself to relax and have fun and be carefree. Unfortunately, my mother is not the only black woman who tries to take on everything and be everything to everyone. Black women are experiencing an epidemic. It’s called “strong black woman-itis” and it’s time to start talking about it. Here are some reasons why the “strong black woman” trope is harmful and why I don’t want to be one:
Being Strong Is A Damaging Stereotype
Black women are not invincible. We are not incapable of breaking down and feeling pain and suffering. And if you think about it, it’s quite sad that many of us measure our self-worth based on how much suffering we can endure. It’s almost like black women enjoy being martyrs, and that’s not okay. We deserve better. We deserve to live happy, carefree lives. Not only does this stereotype encourage us to take on more than we can and should be expected to handle; it’s having adverse effects on our health too.