Do Black Women Give Too Much?

Black women have been taught to be selfless and strong since childhood. We are reared to love our mothers, obey our fathers, care for our siblings, and be subservient to our men. Whether we want to or not, we are instilled with all the traits of dedicated caretakers, making us, as Zora Neale Hurston once said, "the mules of the world." Such selflessness has taken a toll on black women, forcing us to compromise our sanity and overall wellness to appease others.

In order to sustain our livelihoods, black women must learn to look for reciprocation in their relationships. Its so hard for many of us to ask for something in return, because it leaves us feeling guilty and selfish. But we are not an eternal natural resource that replenishes on its own. We need our lovers, family members and friends to return the love, care and affection that we give them.

I once heard someone say that black women today are more selfish than they were before. This person claimed that our mothers and grandmothers centered their lives on family and community, never asking for compensation, rightfully so. What this person failed to consider is that the women of the past did not have the opportunities and choices that we have been blessed with. In addition, many of our matriarchal ancestors suffered silently through decades of abuse from the very hands of the people they dedicated their lives to. It makes one wonder how many of these strong women were on the verge of a nervous breakdown, chronically depressed or even suicidal.

The fates of the ones who gave us life does not have to be our own. We are fortunate to live in a time where we can gain sound educations and embark on careers that allow us to be independent. We no longer have to succumb to being the mules who plow the soil, only to not be able to reap the fruits we helped sow. It is hard to deprogram ourselves from what we have been taught to do, but we owe it to ourselves to not let the love we give in abundance be one sided. After all, we truly cannot be of service to others until we are of service to ourselves.

Valerie Jean-Charles is a 23 year old community servant and writer in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BA in Political Science from Fordham University. Follow at @Empressval to join her never-ending conversations about everything and then some.

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