Strong. Independent. Flawless. Queen. Fierce.
The list goes on. It’s a list of seemingly endless amounts of positive affirmations we tell Black women about themselves, about ourselves. It’s something we have to do, of course. Black women are often given the least chances, heard the least and told they are the least. So it should come as no surprise that we have to go the extra mile in telling ourselves that we are more than enough.
But don’t you ever get tired?
I get tired of feeling like I have to be a representative, a “good” Black woman; always ensuring that my head is held high as I face the world. And even when that world is unkind to me and my sisters – the girls and women who look like me – I hold onto what I can, and try to maintain an unwavering strength. The sort of strength that my mother maintained, and her mother before her. The sort of strength that poems and stories and songs are written about; the strength that the world compliments but does not see itself as implicated in unnecessarily creating.
But what if I don’t want to be strong? What if, just for a moment, I want to be weak? As a Black woman, am I allowed to be weak?
From day one, it seems that Black girls are taught that our strength is our greatest weapon. We are taught to expect unfairness, “to be twice as good for half as much,” and that nothing will come easy. Everything will be harder for us, simply because of what we are – Black and female. Our mothers, fathers, teachers and elders were not wrong to teach us that – they were wise. They prepared us.
But one has to ask, “Will I teach my daughter to be strong in the same way too?” More importantly, will I allow my daughter to be weak? Will I allow myself to be weak?
Sometimes when the sun has gone down, when no one is watching and all the work of the day has been done, tears fall from my eyes. They are tears that even I refuse to see and welcome and acknowledge. But these tears are not just my own. They are the tears of generations past – of women who gave birth to me – who were never allowed to cry. And they flow mercilessly, with no direction. I am crying my mother’s tears and my grandmother’s. The tears of women who could not cry because they were not allowed to be weak.
When will Black women cry?
Black women: We are strong and independent and flawless and queens and fierce. But we are also tired. We are allowed to be tired. And angry and frustrated and weak and human. We do ourselves and each other a disservice by not allowing ourselves to feel all that we are meant to feel. Our weaknesses, like our strengths, deserve to be acknowledged too. And we can start by letting ourselves see our own tears.
Maybe we have to cry, if for no other reason than the fact that our mothers felt they could not. Maybe that’s a different kind of strength that we ought to teach our daughters. Maybe that’s the kind of strength that we have to teach ourselves.