A Message to Black Women: You Are Allowed to Not Be OK
Black women have been labeled as “strong” and “resilient” since they jumped over slave ships or killed their own children because they knew there was more freedom in death than there was in bondage.
Black women have been bestowed the title of “indestructible” since Ida B. Wells, the champion of the early Civil Rights Movement and pioneer of the NAACP, was left off the first list of founders of the association by W.e.b DuBois because she was “too radical” for exposing the terrors of lynchings across America.
Whether we label them as superheroes, strong, resilient or indestructible, we are also saying they are anything but human. We’re saying they’re immortal –– when that is not the case at all. Black women are 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police than white women. One in three Black trans youth attempt suicide. Black women are three times more likely to be killed by their abusive partners than any other racial group. Yet, they are often left out of the list of names we spill out to proof why Black lives — at the very least –– matter.
I don’t feel warm and fuzzy when I see young children in the streets protesting for equality or fighting for their city to have clean water. Children shouldn’t spend their childhoods dismantling white supremacy and environmental racism. It makes them a target. 19-year-old Oluwatoyin Salau was an activist. She protested and spoke out about her sexual assault. There is no outcry. and there is no change when Black women are the target.
There is no outcry and there is no change.
Black women (along with Hispanic women) have the lowest rates of suicide but often are expected by their male counterparts to fight on the frontlines without safety armor. Beloved TV writer and hip-hop journalist Jas Fly died by suicide at the age of 39 on Wednesday (June 10th). Her death began to spark a conversation between my family and I about not talking about our feelings, not checking up on our strong friends and being forced out of physical human contact. But most importantly, we talked about the information so readily available to us on social media and what it is doing to our minds. We consume media much faster than when we relied solely on newspapers. It’s a blessing and curse.
We are allowed to feel weak and sad and at times defeated by the world. We can be not OK. I am not OK. All social media platforms are clouded with dead Black bodies that were once loved by someone. They all had dreams, desires, complaints, feelings and plans for tomorrow. They were people and now they’re being immortalized as hashtags.
The absolute worst part of experiencing traumatic events is having to do it alone. The plethora of media that we are exposed to everyday cannot be healthy. Whether digital or broadcast –– we’re ingesting stories of racially motivated murders or false imprisonments daily. It’s debilitating and it’s hard to find something to take your mind off the biggest civil unrest of the century.
Over 16 percent (over 7 million people) of Black Americans have reported a mental illness in the past year. There is a stigma among the Black community that mental health issues aren’t real and should be ignored. The first step for me was not letting anyone tell me that my anxiety is something I made up or a nice brisk walk will get rid of it. As a community, we need to reach out and utilize the Black therapists in our areas. Going back to therapy this month meant I had to admit I hit rock bottom but finding solace in the idea I couldn’t go any lower.
The importance of our mental health is put on the backburner while we all try to remain loud and vigilant against injustices of disenfranchised communities. I haven’t found the balance yet, but as a Black woman I can’t afford to not be a part of the conversation. If I don’t remember their names, who will?
If you are feeling overwhelmed, too, here are some great mental health resources for Black women:
- To find a therapist in your area: Text NOSTIGMA to 707070 for free therapy for people of color
- Therapy for Black girls
- an app for people of color in search of a therapist
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