There is so much stigma when it comes on to the expectation of who the black woman should be. For those who are black and a woman, if someone should ask you to describe who you are as a black woman, what would you say? I am sure that some of the words that you would use are: strong, powerful, beautiful, sexy, subservient, angry and resilient.
Angela Neal- Barrett (PhD) sums up the renowned characteristics of a black woman as being ‘The Strong Black Woman,” “The Angry Black Woman” and “The Jezebel/Video Vixen.” The first two adjectives are pretty straightforward. The latter may not be so plain sailing but for those who do not know it describes the black woman as a sexual being.
But are we only those things? Are we only capable of being those things? Why should it be rewarding to only be those things? Most importantly, why should we be ashamed to be vulnerable, depressed and speak about the burdensome circumstances that we have endured?
In fact, there are many studies that have conclude that black women are underrepresented in regards to addressing their mental health issues.
Today, I will no longer neglect the fact that many black women are suffering mentally.
As a black woman, have you ever wondered how it is so easy to sit with all of your friends and speak about your toxic relationship, about the man you are keeping who belongs to someone else or even the girl you are planning to attack?
It is, however, not so easy to sit and express to ALL of your same friends the things that keep you up at nights. To share with them how powerless, depressed and anxious you feel.
And someone somewhere may be saying, why do you have to bare it all to your friends. What about your family? The heart-wrenching truth is that while as a black person we say and act on the premise of family before others or family being everything, we are the first to hide our self-loathing and struggles from our family.
We do this because we are scared of their judgment. We do this because we fear how it may affect their perception of us. We do this because we are afraid that instead of advice we are given ultimatums.
Worse, if you are from a Caribbean background like myself, some of the first responses after self-expression to friends and family are usually nothing is wrong with you or why are you so dramatic or, the one I hate the most, there is someone somewhere who is going through worse situations than you.
Support like these will definitely push a turtle back in its shell.
In todays world, we have to be more mindful of the silent cry from our ‘strong,’ ‘angry’ and ‘sexual’ black women. Do not sweep the cry for help under our rugs because we think nothing should be too stressful for our friends, our mothers or our daughters. Society’s expectations of us have indeed cast a shadow on how in touch we are with our ‘negative’ emotions. But this definitely does not mean that we cannot try to start making a difference.
The most alarming thing in writing this article, is the discovery of the lack of evidence to support the topic of mental health in regards to Caribbean black women. I am sure somebody has done some research. But clearly it is so limited to the point that a search on google will take countless hours before you find a single article.
Of course, our solution does not lie in research. It lies with us. We have to start accepting that as a black woman we are not only confined to being strong, angry and sexual. We have to know that there is nothing wrong with addressing our personal struggles. We have to remove the negative stigma that is associated with seeking professional help that can save us from self-loathing and self-harm. We have to do this in order to remove the weight from our shoulders.
We should try and start today. Do it for ourselves. Do it for our children and our children’s children. I know it may sound cliche but we need to do this so that one day we may be able to break the racial and generational cycle.