Black Women

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.

Protecting Black Daughters

Maia Niguel Hoskin, Ph. D., writing for Zora on how she thinks and acts about protecting her Black daughter. That she has to do this at all is appalling beyond belief.

When most women find out that they’re pregnant, worrying about their daughter going to a racist daycare, going missing, or being brutalized or harmed by law enforcement is likely the last thing on their minds. But it needs to be. Outside of the Aurora incident, it’s useful to consider a few others. There’s the 11-year-old middle school girl who was body-slammed for taking one too many cartons of milk from the school cafeteria during lunch. And the 15-year-old high schooler who was grabbed by the neck and then thrown to the ground by school police and the 14-year-old Black teenager who was punched repeatedly and pinned to the ground by police. Even worse, the heart-wrenching story of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old girl who was shot and killed while sleeping on the couch when police raided the wrong apartment.

Niguel Hostin, Maia. (2020, August 6). A Checklist for Keeping Your Black Daughter Safe. Zora

This should make you furious. No woman – no parent – should ever have to think about these things. That they do shouts volumes about just how broken our country is in so many ways.

Malcolm X Stood Up for Black Women

Feminista Jones, writing for Zora (which is fast becoming one of our favorite reads) on Malcolm X and his advocacy for Black women.

On May 22, 1962, Malcolm X delivered a speech in Los Angeles, California, in which he spoke to and about Black women. There, he gave one of his most-quoted statements about his observation of what it means to be a Black woman in America. During this speech, he spoke to the negative ways in which Black women are treated, and he called on us, Black women, to think deeply about the harmful internalization of society’s loathing of who we are, particularly when it comes to our natural appearance. “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?” Malcolm asked his audience. This remains not only a collection of potent quotables but also a testament to his commitment to the upliftment and empowerment of Black women.

Jones, Feminista. (2020, August 6). Malcolm X Stood Up for Black Women When Few Others Would. Zora.
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