Am I not allowed to be vulnerable?
When I think about the black woman I think of us as strong. The words “Strong Black Woman” have a beautiful ring to it, it falls straight off your tongue. It’s attached to us.
We are the backbones of our families, both blood and chosen. Braiding your hair while your Jamaican beef patties bake in the oven. Or chopping some hot peppers for your soup on a Saturday, when you feel under the weather. We are the caring, nurturing hands washing your pots and raising your children. We are the independent and successful while being the most disrespected people in the home, the streets and the workforce.
We are underappreciated and expected to just continue on without complaint as so many black women before us have done and we are not allowed to be upset by this, or show our frustration. But why are we told to get out of our feelings? To be strong, not to cry. Why can we not be looked after? Who is taking care of us and our mental health? Are we not facing the same battles as everyone else PLUS more? So why are we not allowed to be vulnerable?
We as black women tend to see vulnerability as weakness. We were not taught to be vulnerable but to be strong. Even when we were getting our hair braided, we must stay quiet through the pain. Our mothers, fathers and caregivers did not let us be vulnerable. We have always had to lead and provide, be independent and teach our children the same.
We had to cook and clean from an early age, seasoning chicken from age 9 and vacuuming the whole house and cleaning skirting boards on a Saturday from age 7 and if we cried about it we were given “something to cry for.” Thus we had to grin and bear it.
Me personally, I was taught I must look after my man, my family and my home or another woman will. I must be his peace, not his pain. I must be everything he wants me to be. I must be wrong and resilient for him. Be the listener, the reasoner, the brains behind every success and find a solution to turn every failure into a win. But I wasn’t taught to be my own peace and everything I want to be. Even now, I think to myself am I not allowed to feel “a way” about this? Am I not allowed to be vulnerable?
As soon as a black woman shows any sign of vulnerability she’s taken advantage of. She’s beaten down mentally until breaking point, she’s told to man up, she’s looked down upon. For me as a black woman, I feel my only safe place to be vulnerable is through song. Even then, I hide the vulnerability in these words so well that you get lost in the vibe and forget that you are really listening to a cry for help.
I know we have all seen a black woman be broken down to the ground, take a deep breath and pull herself back together for the people that are depending on her to be the strong black woman. We may have experienced this ourselves.
So to my sisters, I say be vulnerable! Break the rules and stereotypes, even if you only show how vulnerable you are to your other sisters please stop telling each other to man up and be strong. Allow the vulnerability to flow freely. Be the shoulder for each other. Because when we have released all the energy we will go back to being the strong black women we always have been.