I write this with one eye open, the other still sleep. Yes, this was a travel work week, and the high associated with hitting the Congressional pavement, meeting with elected officials, and strategizing social change was an all too familiar one that my body has sacrificed sleep for more than a few times. But there was another high that I was blessed with this week: the high of sisterhood and friendship. Facing a jam-packed work week, it was a breath of fresh air that the first faces I saw were women I traveled with last November to Benin. One flew in all the way from California. Like cheerleaders, we squealed, we joked, we laughed and slapped each others’ back with cries of “GUUURRRLLL lemme TELL YOU!”
It was the sisterhood of the traveling “Strong Black Women.”
As we sat there and caught up on life, I realized how much of a release these few moments were for us. I started to think how rare it is to have such a release–how even subconsciously, the expectations of others often drive what we say, how we look, and often how long we stay (which at any given event, isn’t very long). The door is not always open to just “be”: we have to be superhuman–extra strong to the ills of life, and able to bounce right back up when the norms of life hit us sideways. But while we refuse to break, we don’t bounce either. Some people’s intentions may be golden and even pure when they call me a “strong black woman” (SBW for short). But often times, I find it thrown in my face, almost like a reminder of why I shouldn’t be upset, or pissed, or care when wronged. This dismissiveness of my humanity has a collateral consequence. And as one labeled a SBW often, I find that many won’t allow me to be the following:
1) Be wrong…or right.
Let’s face it. We get more mad at LeBron James when he misses a shot than when one of his lesser known teammates misses one. And in some ways, LeBron accepts that burden. The downfall is those around him are not open to periods in his life where he might be sick, or sad, and just tired. He has to be on point every night.
But there’s also an opposing syndrome: the “I gotta fight the SBW as soon as she comes in because she’s…well…an SBW.” I don’t know what it is, but with certain people, and in certain crowds, people work way too hard just to try to prove me wrong. They just hate when I’m right. So they walk in with automatic attitude syndrome. What they often find is, I don’t have the same energy to prove I’m right. *kanyeshrug*. Not that I don’t want to, but there comes a moment where you are not speaking to logic, but ego. And this SBW don’t got time for that.
2) Have moments of insecurity.
This is a loaded characteristic often not afforded to SBW. Like others, we get scared, fearful and anxious about the directions of our next steps, or projects, and our intimate relationships. At times, we really don’t KNOW what the future entails. And whether we express it through tears, periods of silence, throwing things, or having a temporary attitude, SBWs often do this in silence to protect ourselves emotionally. I also want to point that just because one is secure in their purpose, does not mean they do not have insecurities. Every great woman, I contend, has periodic–if not frequent–WTF moments in her life. Let her have it—and stop judging her.
3) Remain unphased, indifferent, and without an opinion.
As soon as a major crisis occurs in the criminal justice world, or international affairs, I want to run away from my inbox. “Ify what are you gonna do?” Sometimes, we just don’t have time to care about EVERYTHING! It’s really just that simple.
4) Embrace the breaks of life.
As I mentioned, we are not rubberballs. We don’t have hard hats to protect us from insults, insensitivity, heartache, and heart break. We stop when we experience a loss, and sometimes our injuries are deeper than we pronounce. And when an SBW opens up and lets you know “hey! that hurt!” or “hey! I need a break” or “hey, you wouldn’t treat another like that, so why would you do that to me?” just stop…and listen. Because trust me, it is always a privilege to have someone open up their vulnerabilities to you. Don’t crush them.
I do also have to remember that the Word does state that when we humble ourselves, God will lift us up. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6, just to name a few). Sometimes, even when we are trying to remain in the background, or stay in the “safe zone,” God has a funny way of maneuvering life to put us at the tables we never tried to be at, or in circles we don’t always feel we fit in at. None of my girlfriends would ever say that they got to where they were on their own. It is quite possible that I know the most gracious group of humble women in the world, because the platforms tailored for them is for them. They do what they do without trying to be seen, and for that, I believe, God elevates their presence, platform, and potential.
This ain’t as spiritual of a post as you may like or become accustomed to. This is simply to awaken, if just one person, to the box you put a woman in when you always see her with a cape on. Just let her be her–and love all of her.