“Strong Black woman”: Empowering and hindering

Growing up, the love, nourishment, strength and wisdom of Black women often surrounded me. It came from my grandmother, mother, aunts, and cousins who didn’t pull any punches. They, as well as other influential Black women, taught me to be proud of who I was and honor the skin I walk in every day.   

My very own tribe of Dahomey Amazons represents the very meaning of a strong Black woman: beautiful, courageous, and resilient. The phrase and identity of a strong Black woman is often applied to many Black women in America. This has been a term that often puzzled and hindered me as a young Black woman trying to find my footing in a world that already had my persona etched in stone.  

The phrase, ‘A Strong Black Woman,’ was something I turned to for many years as a power source. It’s the mantra that protected me and gave me strength whenever I came against something difficult or when others made me feel as though I was less. However, I didn’t realize that the same mantra protecting me was also hurting me.  

Being considered a strong Black woman is empowering, but it often takes on the persona of having to be a superwoman 24/7. As a Black woman, I am seen as the stereotype of having to be an independent individual who is unphased by emotions or pain when dealing with daily racial and gender discrimination.  

As Black women, we are often not allowed to be vulnerable or show our emotions, or have a well-deserved cry without being considered weak. A constant expectation that I can say for myself can be hard to uphold when it is expected of you in every situation you encounter.  

I am expected to be a powerhouse that consistently pushes forward and overcomes my obstacles, no matter how hard it gets or how hard and unfair it is given to me. I am expected not to feel or suppress my emotions to maintain my role as a strong Black woman. It is something that I am learning to overcome.  

Now I understand that being a strong Black woman means being beautiful, courageous, and vulnerable.