Strong Black Women

Ramenda Cyrus, writing for In These Times on the trope of the Strong Black Woman and the damage it can cause to the women it places on a pedestal – and in harm’s way.

In May 2020, a young Black woman kneels in front of riot police with nothing but a face mask. In August 2016, Ieshia Evans calmly approaches riot-armed police and is promptly taken into custody. Over 50 years ago, Gloria Richardson pushes a rifle away from her in apparent exasperation and outrage.

This type of photo—where the Black woman is unabashed and unafraid in her protest—emerges often. 

Photos like these allow people to see us as the unshakeable face of the movement, which only plays into the oft-criticized trope of the Strong Black Woman, where Black women are portrayed as upfront, always in control, and never vulnerable.

The Strong Black Woman is more than just a media trope, though. It is a pervasive myth that will continuously harm Black women as long as the movement and society at large demands Black women’s attention and energy without giving anything back.

Cyrus, Ramenda. (2020, August 7). I Shouldn’t Have to Be a “Strong Black Woman” for My Life to Matter. In These Times.

Ruth Etiesit Samuel writes a similarly blistering op-ed in Teen Vogue.

Our Black babies should not have to risk their health in the middle of a pandemic to defend Black life while many of their white peers are playing house inside. Little Black girls should be allowed to be kids, yet time and time again, we see images like that of seven-year-old Wynta-Amor Rogers plastered across social media. Black girls, specifically darker-skinned Black girls, are inadvertently thrust into this activist position by those applauding them for their strength and “passion.” We are robbed of the chance to transition into womanhood, stripped of softness or delicacy and expected to perform like superhumans while being treated as subhuman.

Samuel, Ruth Etiesit. (2020, June 19). The ‘Strong Black Woman’ Stereotype Is Dangerous. Teen Vogue.

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