Jon Benet Ramsey, Nicole Simpson, Elizabeth Smart, Nancy Kerrigan, Natalie Holloway, Erin Andrews, Amanda Knox, Laci Peterson, Jessica Lynch: you know their names. They are White women who have been victims of or perpetrators of various crimes / assaults. We have prayed for them, watched and read countless news stories about them and their unfortunate circumstances. We’ve never met them, yet we know their faces and we know them as victims.
Now tell me the name of a Black female victim—one that the country collectively supported. Just one.
Today, I questioned (as I was bombarded with images of Blac Chyna speaking with the media about her restraining order against Rob Kardashian), when was the last time that I’ve seen a Black woman portrayed publicly as a victim, as someone worthy of protection (particularly from a White man) in the mainstream media (fictional or real life)? I honestly couldn’t think of a single time where I remember feeling a personal or collective American response of empathy, sympathy or support of a Black woman.
Does America’s society allow for a Black woman to be a victim? Do we mourn for her as automatically as we do for a white woman? Do we allow her to be broken—even for a little while? Or do we expect her, always, to be strong and resilient?
Throughout Serena’s tennis career, as she has been called everything from a monkey to a man, the world (including us, her Sistas and Brothas) have expected her to fight back or to take revenge on the court by winning. I don’t remember complaints about intimidation or calls to protect when Anita Hill testified before Congress against Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. Even in movies, such as What’s Love Got to Do With It, during scenes of abuse, I recall the audience screaming that Angela Bassett (the actress who played Tina Turner) needed to kick Ike’s ass.” And similarly in Waiting to Exhale cheering her as she burned her husbands car and clothes. But we didn’t cry for either character. We didn’t view them as vulnerable or in need of protection.
Who cries for the Black woman? Who protects us? Are we even allowed to be victims?
We, under even in the darkest days, are expected to push on, push through and be strong.
Kick his ass girl girl. We don’t play that. Don’t let them see you sweat. What doesn’t break you will make you stronger. You didn’t need him anyway. Even, crying is too great of a luxury for the Black woman. I wonder what happens with those unshed tears? Do they mix with the dust of disenchantment and create a cement wall of resentment? Does our inability to show vulnerability (because we haven’t been allowed to) cause us to become emotionally detached or unable to connect to our sorrow and instead display anger?
The stereotype of the the strong, Black woman is ubiquitous. Undoubtedly, we are strong. I dare say the strongest people walking this earth. We have raised babies who weren’t our own, worked in fields, factories and Fortune 500 companies, and held our families together. But, there is also strength in owning and revealing our pain. Keeping it inside, must cause mental and physical problems. Our relationships suffer — by us not showing weakness and being too hard our men and children suffer. Our communities suffer–because Black women will continue to be ignored if we don’t show our pain and suffering sometimes.
I have been learning slowly how to be vulnerable, to be needy, to show hurt when I feel it (not anger, but the actual hurt). It is extremely uncomfortable — something that I was never allowed to do. I was taught that life is tough–particularly for Black people–and I better be prepared. My best preparation is to embrace my full self. We all need to do that.
Let it go sister. Release some of that pain. Cry. Tell a friend that you are sad. Your feelings, your tears, your pain is no less valid than those of anyone else — of any mainstream “victim’s”. We need to believe that we are worthy–our whole selves matter; we need to believe that we are worthy of protection, love, sympathy, before our men, families and society believes it too. We are worthy. It’s okay. Embrace it and release.