I would bet money that black women are told they are strong about a hundred times a day. It is a compliment, an acknowledgement for overcoming some random “more difficult than it needs to be” situation. Here’s the thing: THIS IS NOT A COMPLIMENT. The only time it is if you are raving about the amazing muscles I built from a strength training regimen. (In such cases, by all means, gush away.) Here are a few reasons being strong is a trap:
- Our emotions are discounted – Being strong is a trope. It gives the idea that black mothers are stoic, emotionless beings. There’s the impression we enjoy everyone drowning us in their feelings. We can’t to do the same. Labeling me as “strong” means venting is seen as rage, and crying as hysterics over nothing. I can’t experience the full range of emotions a human possesses.
- We can’t request help – Most of the women labeled “strong” don’t ask for help when they need it. Strong goes hand in hand with independent, so there’s an expectation to figure it out on our own. When we seek help, there’s a sense of judgement, as if we are incapable in all aspects, not the one thing beyond our capacity. We may very well be capable, but it’s smarter to seek the help of someone who already knows. Others are applauded for seeking help. Why aren’t we?
- It adds extra pressure – I’ve been told more than a few times that I’m a “strong, independent black woman” and it is not only annoying, it’s stressful. Imagine deciding to seek help on a matter and having this tossed in your face as a response. Then told to figure it out and mocked for seeking help at the same time. This response forces you to rethink asking anyone else and adds the strain of finding another solution. Forcing a woman you labeled to shoulder everything alone is stressful and unnecessary.
That is all I have for today. I had this mini rant sitting in my head for over a week. If you wish to compliment a black woman, especially a mother, don’t call her strong unless she’s holding up a car, a building or a set of weights at the gym. Compliment her intellect. Tell her what an amazing employee or boss or mother you think she is. Admire her resiliency or ingenuity. There are a million better things to say to a black woman besides strong.
Love and light dears. Grab your copy of The Goal Roadmap here. And remember to GROW on purpose.