Throughout my transition from a young Black girl, to a Black female teenager, to a 43 year old Black Woman, I have been witness, directly and indirectly, to the challenges that being a Black female in this country inherently brings. There are currently, and have been some powerful, national images of Black women as successful, accomplished and having “made it”, but the reality is, Black Women still struggle when it comes to core areas of life, like economics, gaining political power and leadership roles, shedding negative stereotypes and educating their children.
I’ve found that at times being a Black Woman can be quite exhausting, and I mean that literally and figuratively. When you really sit back and consider the fact that we have been forced to rise above centuries of oppression, and still today, we have to continue to deal with society’s racist and sexist misconceptions, with its brutal hostilities and unthinkable mistreatment, it’s no wonder why so many of us turn to drugs… and I’m actually surprised that more of us aren’t riddled with mental health issues!
Being a Black Woman in America means you must quickly learn the ability of finding humor in heartache. You gotta be able to take a deep breath and smile even in the midst of desperation and disappointment. Between the countless reality shows and the relentless media, the image of a Black Woman has become synonymous with some of the most negative, unappealing, unattractive and disrespectful aspects and traits that a Woman can possess, such as: “Gold Diggers, Modern Jezebels, Baby Mamas, Uneducated Sisters, Ratchet Women, Angry Black Women, Mean Black Girls, Unhealthy Black Women, and Black Barbies.”
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that there are a percentage of Black Women who have allowed the racist and sexist conditioning to set in, and unfortunately, they have and continue to perpetuate these negative stereotypes and traits that have been unceremoniously bestowed upon us. The problem is, those Women have no idea just how damaging these stereotypes are when it comes to the influence on the development of our young Black girls, and the fact that it can follow them throughout their lifetime.
In my opinion, the stereotype of being “over-sexualized” has truly been one of the most detrimental. Although Women of other ethnicities have also experienced sexual victimization, the legacy of slavery associates the sexual exploitation of Black Women with degrading and dehumanizing practices. And thus we have the image of Black Women being not much more than sex objects.
There are some of us who have “drunk the koolaid”, and have chosen to give in to the further destruction of society’s image of Black Women, by taking part in these reality shows that portray the worst traits: Being mad, angry, easily irritable, violent, loud, trashy and ghetto. These shows dangle the possibility of making money in front of these Women, and for some, they have seemingly decided that it’s worth the cost of selling their souls and misleading not only society but the next generation(s) of young Black Women!
The Truth of the matter is, Black Women have given so much, and still have so much more to offer this country. Black Women have been both caregivers and breadwinners; champions on our nation’s sports teams, breaking Olympic records, guiding the nation to victory. Black Women have played a prominent role in the culture of not only America, but internationally, by making wonderful contributions in literature, journalism, music, dance, theater, and science.
And yet, society continues to underestimate and invalidate the truth of our experience of what it feels like to be Black and female in America. The sad reality is that no matter how intelligent, competent, enterprising, and talented we may be, as a Black Woman in this country, we can’t count on being understood and embraced by mainstream White America. And truth be told, we’re not always understood or embraced by our own Black Men, not to mention folks in other cultural groups.
The Truth of being a Black Woman for me means having intelligence, a sense of humor, self-respect, integrity, courage, strength, unflinching loyalty, boundless love and affection. It means having a deep and inherent Love and Respect for my community, and ready to lead the next Revolution of Black Women taking back our Power…