I Don't Want to be a Strong Black Woman

Strong Black Woman
Originally posted at The Cultivated Chic Life

I do not want to be a strong black woman. Odd sentence, I know. It is not that I do not admire strength. I do. In fact, my life experiences have helped me to develop strength of character. In a lot ways, I am strong. Yet I am careful about the credence I give the phrase “strong black woman,” because of its potential meaning.

I was standing at the top of the stairs of a New York subway waiting for a friend. In my hand, I held a duffle bag. Two men walking toward the subway stopped and asked if I needed help carrying the bag down the subway steps. I declined. One of them responded mockingly “she don’t need our help, she’s a strong black woman.”

Erroneously he believed that I refused the offer because of my so called black woman strength. He was wrong. It would make no sense for me to accept since I was not headed for the subway. Otherwise I would have gladly obliged. Everyone knows dragging a bag half your size down subway steps is no fun. I see no point in doing that to prove that I am strong or that I am a strong black woman.

It’s the unspoken implications like those that cause me to thread carefully before embracing the phrase. For some “strong black woman” means that we bear burdens that we weren’t meant to bear alone. It means that we must raise children alone, sustain relationships that devalue us, and take care of everyone to the detriment of ourselves. We must do all of this without complaints, because we are strong. It means that we do not ask for help; even when help is everything we need at the moment. It means we are far too independent to rely on anyone. It’s almost as if we are too super to be human, even when the super part is too much for anyone to bear.

I got in an argument with my friend. I could not believe his audacity and told him so. I had inquired about a woman he was seeing, he “ended it” he said, “but she would get over it, because she was a strong black woman.” I wanted to know what he meant by the latter part of his response. Her being a strong black woman did not give him the license to be careless with her heart. It did not mean that she wasn’t hurt, and even if she did get over it, there’s always the possibility of emotional scars. Being a strong black woman doesn’t absolve her from any of those things.

I am careful not to diminish the strength of black women. As a group, we face a unique set of struggles and obstacles that many of us consistently overcome. Yet I will not embrace a phrase that, although seemingly positive, is taking on a meaning that does not serve us. Being strong does not give anyone the permission to take our feelings, vulnerabilities and love for granted. Being strong does not mean that we don’t deserve or want to be respected, valued and cherished. Until the phrase “strong black woman” truly becomes an asset, I do not want to embrace it, because sometimes it seems like it’s a liability that brings burdens that are too heavy to carry alone.


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Born and raised in Jamaica, Nika is an island girl at heart. She enjoys art, music, fashion and discussing a variety of topics. Nika is passionate about helping people be their best selves and she is committed to social justice issues. Nika enjoys going out and connecting with people.

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