A few thoughts about black women, our struggles and a few possible solutions that could help more women and girls thrive...
Are most black women getting what we really need out of life? If not, how do we make that happen? What needs to change? Does the change have to happen within or in others, or both?
These are some serious thoughts I've been having lately as I think of how I can move this blog in an even more productive direction to help black women and girls achieve greatness.
When I Was 22...
After hearing about blogger Karyn Washington's passing at the tender age of 22, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what she must have been going through. I also think about what I was doing at that age.
At 22 I was just out of college and transitioned right into a job that I soon grew to dislike. Back then it wasn't as difficult to get a "good" 40 hour job as it is now for recent college grads.
Back then the contention in the black community wasn't as intense as it is today because the internet was just kicking off. Back then we were offered messages of love between men and women in music and television (think Love and Basketball and Love Jones) instead of all the bitches, hoes and ratchets in the rap and TV of today.
I imagine the 22-year-old world that Karyn lived in was probably a lot different than mine.
In my younger years I had issues with low self-esteem because of being teased for being a black girl and being really skinny. When I got to high school I formed a bond with another beautiful dark-skinned girl who helped me see my worth and develop confidence. I was extremely confident and popular in college. Later on, things took a turn and I'm not quite sure where, but my self-esteem took a dip again. I now have come to a place where I know my own self-worth but I still wonder at times... where is the justice for good black women who struggle and suffer in silence as the world continues to turn?
We Can Relate
I think that Karyn's story really hit home because a lot of us black women can relate to her story. Being "othered" or ignored by society because of our skin tones (something God created). Expected to be everything to everyone else but not taking care of #1 (ourselves). Being a kind and loving human being but not having it returned in real ways. Seeing everyone else living seemingly "normal" lives with lots of love and people around them but trying to figure out why that can't happen for us. Wondering if it's all worth it and what is the point of life if you can't be happy, free and loved for who God made you.
Most of all I think many black women struggle with being thought of as strong and invincible "beings" who can do it all on our own without support and love.
I believe we only do that because we don't think we really have much of a choice otherwise.
But do we?
Is There Another Way that People "Give Up on Life?"
Some time ago I wrote a post about what I think makes black women amazing in response to yet another instance of black woman slander on social media, and in it I quoted the stat that black women are the least likely to take their own lives. I still feel the same about the amazing resilience of black women in the face of adversity, but now I have to stop and question that particular point to ask myself: is it really a good thing that many black women live as these "strong" superhuman beings who go through life enduring, just barely surviving? As one speaker put it, it's like tip toeing your way slowly through life to make it safely to the end.
While watching the 20 Feet from Stardom documentary about forgotten black background singers, I noticed one thing about all of the stars. They were slim and trim when they were young and all of them gained a lot of weight as the years passed. They all seemed very sad -- their faces only lit up when they remembered their youthful splendor. I look at many of my relatives and see the same trend.
The question is, are some black women giving up on life in other ways that aren't as obvious? Overeating, allowing stress and worry to run our lives, drinking and other vices that can affect a person's health over time? Is it really better to kill yourself slowly than to do so quickly?
Obviously the answer is that NEITHER option is a viable solution. I believe we're all put here for a purpose and I think it is a very tragic thing when someone chooses to leave without fulfilling that purpose. I think it's also tragic when we continue "living" but stop moving forward toward a greater purpose.
Something more is needed to build up self-esteem and self-love in black girls and young women so that they will not choose either of these paths.
Solutions? I have a few suggestions and I'm open to reading constructive additions:
1) Older black women who have managed to remain mentally and physically healthy should tell their stories more. They could talk to groups of black girls in their communities about how they overcame mental and societal struggles to achieve success.
2) De-program girls who are taught to be boy crazy from a young age. Many young black women suffer early on due to rushing into bad relationships with men who do not know, recognize or value their worth as women. This is something that's mostly taught in the home.
3) Create new, more positive narratives in the media that our black girls consume, including television, film and music. Right now they are told stories of black women as desperate side chicks and second class citizens who are only valued for their bodies. The only way this can be achieved is by supporting more black woman film makers and artists who can honestly and responsibly tell these stories.
4) Create an online chat support system designed especially for black girls and women who find themselves feeling alone and abandoned. They can log in anonymously to encourage each other and receive encouragement from someone who really understands. No negativity from outside forces allowed.
5) (My solution) More articles, posts and writings that feed the Black Girl Soul and reveal methods of thriving in life no matter what. Look for more of that from ClassyBlackLady.com .
I also think that we should work together more as a unified group. We should continue to publicly (yet respectfully) call out people who try to invalidate the struggles of black girls and women -- no matter who they are. Just because you may not be going through something difficult at the moment doesn't mean everyone else is okay or should be just like you. Everyone has different experiences in life.
We have to show unbreakable support for one another if any or all of these solutions are to really take root. And to answer the earlier question I posed, I believe that true and long-lasting change can only start within.
What do you think?