Black Women Hold Themselves Together Because They Know If They Break, Other Things Will Too.
Growing up in a predominantly white community, Black History Month was the one time of year in public school when we would focus on Black people outside of enslavement.
In my house, on the other hand, that focus was held and sharpened all year round. Because my grandma—a retired teacher—wouldn’t have it any other way.
From reading me books that featured Black children, to accompanying my family and I to our historically Black church, to helping me create posters of Black historical figures for extra credit, she was very adamant that I learned about Black history.
She did all this even after she had retired from teaching, while also helping my mom with me and my brother. And helping my uncles’ families. And volunteering on multiple church committees. And doing laundry. And cleaning the graves of all of her deceased family members at a cemetery two hours away from where we lived. And maintaining the appearance of her house. And keeping up with her appearance. And sharing stories about her upbringing on a farm and growing up during segregation. And making sure that herself and my grandpa, and whoever else was around, had at least one home-cooked meal every day. And many other things that I’m sure my eight-year-old brain failed to notice.
There is not a single Black woman in my life that doesn’t do it all, with a smile, most of the time.
The thing is, we shouldn’t have to.
Black women deserve to not have to pick up all of the slack. To not have to always look like we’re holding it together, even amongst fellow Black women. To not have to face day-to-day responsibilities, obstacles, injustices, and hatred with a smile or at least neutral look on their face. Oftentimes, Black women hold themselves together because they know that if they break, other things will, too.
Look at Black women in the media. Think about Megan Thee Stallion, an assault victim who was viciously harassed online for daring to seek justice against her abuser. Think about the mother of Tyre Nichols (and the mothers of most young Black people killed by police), who barely had time to process that her son was dead before becoming an advocate and being swept into the frenzy. Think about the thousands of Black women and girls who go missing without any media attention. All these Black women were directly impacted by violence—and yet were still disrespected, neglected, and mistreated.
Now think about the Black women in your life. How many things they’ve dealt with, and the times they’ve spoken up knowing what might happen if they do. The times they’ve held back. The times they’ve put themselves on the front lines or on the back burners for someone who may not have given them a second thought.
And think about what they get in return: a Mother’s Day brunch, a birthday card, or an occasional night to themselves if everything just so happens to perfectly line up.
Black women deserve more.
Black women deserve kindness. Black women deserve softness. Black women deserve nurturing. Black women deserve healing. Black women deserve everything and then some.
Black women deserve to know that their families, workplaces, communities, and policies are looking out for them. That we won’t be sold out at the first opportunity. That we’ll be fought for. That we’ll be loved.
If it wasn’t for Black women, we would have nothing. Yet society is always so quick to push us to the side. To reduce our worth to what we can do for others (men, mainly). To critique every aspect of how we live our lives, shape our families, and manage our appearances despite having so much pressure and so little time. Black women like me—Black women like my grandma—have so much against us.
My grandma is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, and I am proud to be part of a legacy of brilliant, beautiful, strong, proud, resourceful, and loving women like her.
But my grandma also deserves to rest. She deserves to be loved no matter how well a shirt is ironed and no matter how good her pound cake is this time. She deserves to be loved and appreciated wholeheartedly.
I am doing my best to break this norm in the environments that I exist in. While I lead with strength, I also lead with vulnerability. While I push myself, I also set boundaries and don’t try to take on everything when I know I should not have to.
I try to tell the Black women in my life that I not only love them because of what they do for me or other people, but because of who they are at their cores. Because of who they are when they’re deep into something that they’re passionate about. Because of who they are when their favorite song comes on the radio. Because of who they are when they’re filled with joy, laughing with their heads thrown back.