When most think of Black women, immediately adjectives like strength, resilience and fearless come to mind.
Although we can be all of these things and more, this ‘strong Black women’ narrative is tiring and can be very problematic in terms of not allowing us to express our feelings and be vulnerable.
‘Strong’ is why:
Black women are 5 times more likely to die in pregnancy than white women, in the UK
Black women are paid 21% less than white women in the USA
Black women are 4.3 times more likely to die from coronavirus than their white counterparts
Black women are 7x more likely to be detained than white women, in the UK
Black women are 2.5x more likely to be murdered by men than their white counterparts in the USA
Black women are 25% more likely than white women to receive a custodial sentence following a conviction in the UK
‘Strong’ is why we are expected to be the faces of movements but not given the space to have the same human fragility as others.
These chilling facts above highlight the ways in which systemic racism is detrimental to Black women’s lives daily.
The lack of empathy towards Black women is further highlighted in Kimberle Crenshaw’s ‘The Urgency of Intersectionality’, in which she showed, on countless occasions, just how low the awareness of the level of police violence towards Black women is.
A lot of us recognise the names of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, but not Tanisha Anderson and Megan Hockaday. All 4 were murdered by police; the only distinguishing factor is their gender. Why is it when our Black brothers are being murdered we stand in solidarity with them, but they are muted when it comes to protecting their own Black sisters?
And colorism does not aid the situation; according to Harvard sociologist Ellis Monk’s 2014 study.
Black people on average have a 36% chance of going to jail in their lifetimes. Having dark skin can increase this by 30%. The study showed the lighter the shade of skin, the lower the increase.
Black women, especially dark skin Black women, are the most disrespected and unprotected group, and are often labelled as aggressive when speaking our mind. We continue to be of value when they look to us for fashion trends but turn a blind eye to the burdens we face because of this unrelenting idea that we can handle it ourselves. But this is not always the case so we must protect Black women at all costs.
We cannot be superheroes and our worth is not determined by our strength.
It's time to normalise Black women being delicate.