To this day, when someone has treated me unfairly at work, I’ve felt terrible about how I handled the situation. I believe this is a habit I’ve developed. Because I am a Black woman, I was warned that if I reacted to other people’s mistreatment, I wouldn’t be taken seriously.
Black women are taught to second guess their feelings about something because we don’t want to come off as too “aggressive.” It is important that we remember that our feelings are valid and we have a right to be emotional, passionate and have a voice.
Growing up it was hard enough to deal with the criticism from others, to feel misunderstood, to not feel like I was being heard enough by my peers. Now at 21, I had to ask myself: Why do I have to be one that is always silent? Why do I always have to be strong?
The ‘strong Black woman trope’ has been pushed in our society for more than 20 years as a way to make us seem superhuman and unbreakable. If someone is giving me a hard time, I should be able to handle it, apparently, since I’m able to support others I can support myself.
I think that’s unfair.
I am not the next Annaleise Keating. I’m not the next Miranda Bailey. There are some days when I feel like crying, so I’m going to cry and that’s okay. I want to feel vulnerable sometimes because I like to share my feelings, not mask them from others.
As Black women, we need to remind ourselves that we can’t always be strong. We are not indestructible. It is harmful enough that we are already dealing with the entire world judging us. That alone should not dictate how we react. We have each other and that is enough to let us know that we are never going to be alone.
My advice to younger Black girls is to cry, feel vulnerable, be free and not let the opinions of others dictate how you feel. You are permitted to express your feelings. You should always be your true self, not just when it is convenient for others.