Black Girls Do Cry.
Black girl, black girl. You came out the womb strong — because you came out the womb with the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Intersectional oppression means that as a Black girl, you are expected to be resilient as hell, and yet, you’re one of the most vulnerable groups in America because of it. Black mental health, especially for women, has been swept under the rug for too long.
This is not to say that Black girls aren’t doing well. Last year we learned that of all Americans, Black woman are the most likely to be currently enrolled in college or have a degree. While the life expectancies of Black men and White people dropped last year, Black women remained steady. 2016, I’d venture to say, was the Year of the Black Woman. Viola. Lupita. Bey. Solange. Michelle. Ibtahaj. Angela. Kamala. Ilhan. Simone. The list goes on. Black women are finally getting representation for their constant slayage.
I feel like not enough people are saying this, so I’m saying it:
It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to sob.
We don’t hear this very often as Black girls. See Lemonade. Beyonce was fierce, fiery, unforgiving — goddess-like in her wrath. We’re constantly portrayed in our strength. In the current political climate, women of color are again being seen at the front lines of the issues. Black Lives Matter. Flint.
Quite frankly, I’m exhausted. And I think you are too. That’s why art like Solange’s A Seat at the Table was so important for me.
Black women can be wistful. Contemplative. Quiet. Depressed.
And yet, we’re always organizing, fighting. Out on the streets, in school, in our offices. It never stops. Some were disappointed in the Women’s March because of its lack of inclusivity. They knew the March wasn’t about us. I didn’t want to believe that. I marched because I didn’t want to be left out of the conversation.
But what I saw at the March was a lack of focus. It was an act of catharsis, more than anything. And afterward, Black women were some of the first voices to say, “Marching is not enough. What’s next? What will you do now, White Democrats?” We felt compelled to ask these questions because we know that whatever effects white women (reproductive rights, healthcare access, the wage gap) affects us two-fold. It always has.
I’m almost ready to continue with direct action. But first, I need rest. I need a personal refresh.
Black girl, it’s okay to rest. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be enraged.
In her 1981 speech, “The Uses of Anger,” our girl Audre Lorde states,
My response to racism is anger. I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life. Once I did it in silence, afraid of the weight. My fear of anger taught me nothing. Your fear of that anger will teach you nothing, also.
It’s okay to be a blazing inferno, or a hurricane.
Anger, grief, exhaustion — are useful. All our lives, we’ve been shown stereotypes of Black women as sassy and unflappable, always having a clever clapback. All our lives, we’ve been shown that strong, unbreakable Black mama. (Love you, mama!)
But those two archetypes don’t encompass all that we are. Like Jesse Williams said, “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.” It’s taken me a while to realize that I don’t have to be strong for everyone else 24/7. I don’t have to have all the answers.
Black girl, take some time for yourself each day.
Crying, writing this, and sipping hot chocolate while listening to Nina were my ways of healing today.
I love you, Black girl. Everyday you find new ways of giving me life. You’re unimaginably funny, beautiful, and smart. You’re constantly slaying, which is exhausting.
If you need rest, take it. If you need to cry, do it. If you need help, seek it.
Black girl, you’ve been strong for so, so long.
If you’re reading this, allies, consider some of the following direct actions:
Offer a quiet space. Talking about why we’re upset can add to the upset. Invite us over for a quiet dinner.
Offer to drive us to our meetings and appointments. Sometimes, even driving or public transit can be stressful.
Consider using your White privilege on the front lines. Attend a protest centered around a Black issue. The Women’s March was peaceful because police aren’t gonna provoke White women the way they’ve provoked Black folks. Support Black issues by being a physical barrier for them at peaceful protests.
If you’re an employer, and one of your employees seems down, give her the O.K. to leave a little early that day.
Significant others and family members: Gently offer, if she has been in a rut for some time, to help her seek out inclusive professional help. Depression and anxiety are real, and we need to be doing more to protect our Black girls’ mental health. Mental health has been ignored for too long in our community.
Ask how you can help. Just ask us. Just ask, allies.