Culture

60 examples of what it means to be a Black woman in the United States

Unlike some self or media proclaimed spokesmen, I do not claim to write for all African Americans or even all Black women. I don’t have the ego for it. What I do believe is that every African American story is equally important. This is mine.

Legacy

My paternal 2x great grandma, my grandma, and my great grandma. My paternal family has been in the United States for over 250 years.

My father’s family has been in the United States for over 250 years and my mother’s family has been here for at least 70 years, but I feel like a stranger in my own country. I feel like I am not wanted here and I am constantly reminded of that fact through microaggressions and systemic racism. The thing is my family and many other Black Americans served this country. They’ve created and shaped American culture. They’ve bought in to the “American dream.” They’ve done all of this even when this country legally discriminated against them while hypocritically proclaiming liberty and justice for all. That kind of loyalty should be rewarded, but instead it is demonized and our contributions are largely ignored.

My Nana

My Nana

What really gets me is that African Americans were good enough to build this country for free or underpaid (as we are today because of racism), and we’re good enough to fight for and die for it, but we are not seen as good enough to be afforded the same rights as its White citizens. If you don’t believe me, and there is always one who doesn’t believe racism against Black people exists, take a look at the countless racial disparities and studies proving this fact. If you cannot accept these facts, either you are in denial or to be blunt, you like things the way they are. For me, being a Black American or African American means we live in a first world country and are treated like second class citizens in third world police states called Black neighborhoods. Because of these never ending reminders of my otherness, I feel like I have no place to call home.

My mommy

My mommy

Honestly, I could go on, but the point of this post is to expound on what it means to be a Black woman in the United States. It is a perspective that is rarely heard because many fail to acknowledge the intersectionality of racism and sexism that Black women endure. Some believe Black women’s experiences can only be told through the lens of a Black man’s perspective. Why? Because Black womanhood to them simply does not exist. The funny thing is, nothing I am saying is brand new. African American women have been saying the same things long before Mother Sojourner Truth famously asked “Ar’nt I a woman?” This is just my experience. So what does mean to be a Black woman in the United States?

Me military2

Me!

Being Black woman in the United States means:

  1. Knowing that the celebrated narrators of the African American experience will only be Black men even though the majority of the African American population are Black women.
  2. And since Black men are the only ones heard, they reap the financial and societal rewards.
  3. It is knowing that Black woman heroes will not receive the same support or attention as Black men do from both the Black and nonBlack American communities.
  4. It is knowing that intersectionality is rarely taught and if it is, it is only on the college level.
  5. It is being told you are not allowed to express the full range of human emotions, even when injustice is committed against you because you do not want to be labeled as an “angry Black woman.”
  6. It is being told that your cultural name is weird, strange or ghetto by your own and other people who have bought into White supremacy.
  7. It is knowing that people will not hire you because of your cultural name, where you live, your gender and the color of your skin.
  8. It is knowing that you face a Black woman tax where you make $.66 to a White man’s dollar, while everyone is focused on the White woman’s $.77.
  9. It is knowing that self-reliance and independence are great characteristics to have unless you are a Black woman.
  10. It is knowing that many try to limit Black women to racist caricatures instead of seeing us as complex human beings. Black women are categorized as either a Sapphire, a Jezebel, a mammy, a welfare queen, an angry Black woman or a tragic Mulatto.
  11. It is knowing that when people see one negative image of Black womanhood all of a sudden she represents all Black women and if a Black woman does not fit into a stereotype, she is the exception and not the rule.
  12. It is knowing that being labeled as “strong” justifies discrimination, mistreatment and the inability of others to recognize the pain and humanity of Black women.
  13. It is being constantly told that being strong, struggling and pain is expected and normal while being a whole human who wants a full and healthy life is not.
  14. It is knowing that nonBlacks can call themselves a “strong Black woman” without experiencing the racism, sexism, discrimination, bigotry and the pain Black women endure.
  15. It is knowing that people believe you have a greater capacity for pain simply because of the color of your skin and it is slowly destroying our spiritual, emotional, financial, mental and physical health.
  16. It is knowing that the standard of beauty in the Black community is Eurocentric.
  17. It is knowing that nonBlack women will be praised for having our features and appropriating Black women’s culture that Black women are mocked for.
  18. It is knowing that our worth in the Black community will be determined by the looseness of the curl of our hair and the least amount of melanin in our skin.
  19. It is knowing that dark skin is only acceptable for Black men, but a license to mock and discriminate against dark skinned Black women.
  20. It is slowly watching your image and sheros being erased and replaced by light skinned, multiracial and White women in the media and in entertainment.
  21. It is knowing that this isn’t a problem for Black men so this concern will be dismissed.
  22. If you have a weave or have relaxed hair you are told you hate your Blackness. If you are natural and your hair is too kinky you are mocked for it by Blacks and nonBlacks.
  23. It is knowing that African Americans are more willing to protect the interests of nonBlacks and nonBlack women at the expense of Black women and girls.
  24. It is knowing that people in our community have made millions destroying  your image, but you are still expected to support the Black community.
  25. It is knowing you would never do the same to Black men.
  26. It is knowing that people have deemed you unmarriable even though Black men have the highest unmarried rate.
  27. It is knowing that everyone, but Black women, have financially benefitted from this lie.
  28. It is knowing that your Black male counterparts have been free to marry who they choose and have had higher interracial marriage rates for decades without their Blackness being questioned.
  29. But if Black women do the same, they are called race traitors or bedwenches.
  30. It is knowing that Blacks against Black women dating out will remind Black women that they are loving their slave masters, but Black men aren’t told that the nonBlack women they are dating were also slave masters.
  31. It is knowing that Black men aren’t reminded that White women had Emmett Till killed, were one of reasons why Black women and men were hung from trees and why Black businesses were burned down just because Black men were accused by White women of looking at White women.
  32. It is having to decide whether I am Black or a woman first and knowing that neither choice benefits me.
  33. It is knowing that when we are discussing Black issues we are really discussing Black men’s issues.
  34. It is knowing that your issues are not considered women’s issues.
  35. It is knowing that when politicians talk about women, they are exclusively talking about White women and that White women are the default even though they are a global minority.
  36. It is knowing that when politicians talk about Black issues, they are exclusively talking about Black men and that Black men are the default even though they represent the minority in the African American population.
  37. It is knowing that there are people, simply based on the color of my skin who believe I am not a woman.
  38. It is knowing that if I were beaten, raped, missing, sexually or physically abused or even murdered no one would care because there is no profitability in the deaths of Black women and girls.
  39. But if I was a Black man, my community including Black women, every Black civil rights, political and social organization, and activists would quickly mobilize against my injustice.
  40. It is knowing that not only racists, but even members of my community will believe I somehow contributed to my fate because of racist stereotypes.
  41. It is knowing that anyone including the police, nonBlacks and Black men can beat you, rape you or kill you and no one will protect or march for you.
  42. It is knowing that you are required to save and march for everyone else, while knowing no one will do the same for you.
  43. It is being silenced in the interest of fake unity with racial, gender, religious, economic and other interests groups when you have something to say.
  44. It is being constantly told for over 200 years to wait, now is not the time and discussing Black women issues is divide and conquer.
  45. It is knowing that if you do talk about Black women’s issues, you must hate Black men.
  46. It is knowing that our parents, children, partners, family members and friends can be shot by the police and the police will say your 93 year old grandmother or seven year old daughter was killed because the officer was in fear of their life.
  47. It is knowing that even though Black women have the highest labor participation rates in the United States, people will always see you as a welfare mother and leach on society.
  48. It is knowing that even though that you pay taxes, your schools are overcrowded, run like a medium security prisons, are grossly underfunded, the books are outdated and the schools dilapidated while the schools across town in nonBlack neighborhoods are not.
  49. It is knowing that even with all of those disadvantages our children are still expected to perform on the level as kids in new facilities, with new books, smaller classrooms and supported teachers. If our children do not perform well in school then all Black women are the blame.
  50. It is knowing that the world has determined you, a single Black mother, not systemic racism, income inequality, homophobia, sexism and social immobility the source for all the ills in the Black American community.
  51. It is knowing that we have to be three times as good, work three times harder and face three times as many obstacles to get one third of what others have.
  52. It is knowing that White mediocrity is always rewarded and Black failure is always expected.
  53. It is knowing that the “all men are created equal” line was never meant for you.
  54. It is realizing that every Black civil rights movement was about the liberation of Black men and every feminist movement was about White women and both were accomplished because of the major contributions of Black women.
  55. It is knowing that you barely benefit from either.
  56. It is feeling like a stranger in your home country and an enemy in your own community while I am expected to be loyal to both.
  57. It means being  hated, mocked, told I am unwanted, imitated, ignored and yet needed all at the damn same time.
  58. It is knowing that I  have no choice but to succeed or else the world will devour our dreams.
  59. It is surviving and thriving despite all of the sh** the world tosses at us.
  60. It is hard being a Black woman in America but even through everything I still remain hopeful. I truly believe this country can live its values of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and justice for all.

My experience isn’t indicative of all Black women. It is my own. Please feel free to add, subtract or even disagree. Thanks for reading. It is a revolutionary act to be a Black woman who loves herself in a world that says she should not. Be a revolutionary today.

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16 comments

  1. anonymous 18 July, 2015 at 17:22 Reply

    I tell you what it want be a black male that becomes a blk messiah that will never happen not wifing up white women it want.blk women in the civil rights movement not blk men to me marched to have equal rights to date white women blkwomen might wear weaves but not easy to get tricked on everything a white man selling as how easy it is to trick blk men.I love them but want waste my time on someone who want are refuse to see what’s happening.

    • V 24 July, 2015 at 23:37 Reply

      I don’t believe she’s saying biracial women aren’t black, but rather they are shown as the only acceptable form of black women.

      I heard a lot about this talk when Zoe Saldana play Nina Simone (hope I spelt the names correctly). Nina Simone was a very dark skinned woman with West African feaures and she was played by Zoe Saldana who is light skinned Afro-Latina. She then wore make-up to look a bit darker, but no where near Nina Simone’s complexion.

      This issue was also raised when Angelina Jolie played Mariane Pearl who is half black (and looks it I might add). Basically, black women are not even worthy enough to play real life black women, unless their blackness is somewhat muted by the prescence of another race.

      This has happened numerous times in the past that some black women (not mixed) have been played by white women and people are outraged if a black person complains.

  2. Kali 19 July, 2015 at 17:36 Reply

    It’s painful to know that there is women who believe that this is their reality. Being a Black woman is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wished other Black women were able to live an over joyed life too. We spend too much time only seeing and understanding ourselves through the view that other people have of us. Black women really need to start believing no one’s opinion of us except ours. We also need to stop acting as if White people’s negative opinions of Blackness are always entitled to consideration.

  3. Cristi 24 July, 2015 at 22:04 Reply

    I am white. And a veteran. Is it okay if I butt in? Just for the record–I think most black women are extraordinarily beautiful–most especially when their hair is natural–either short or long. Many I have known have been powerful as well as smart. Beyond the women I met in the Army, I haven’t known many. (I’m from a part of the country where they’re kind of like rare butterflies). Lately I have been educating myself about their (your) world. I was so saddened by this list. Thank you for writing it.

    • V 24 July, 2015 at 23:49 Reply

      Thank you Christi. It is refreshing to get support from others, since as you can see from this list, we don’t have much support, even from some black women.

      Sadly, this is a reality for many black women, no matter how accomplished we are. I have 2 Master’s degrees, no children and have lived throguh some extremely tough times, but to many people I’m a welfare recipient and baby mama. When people find out I don’t meet the stereotype, they’re surprised, yet most of the black women I know are like me (some are married with kids, and those that aren’t married are great mothers who work and take care fo their children).

  4. JoeClyde 28 July, 2015 at 17:01 Reply

    Still find a way to blame Black men. When are your precious White men going to step up and take responsibility for YOU Black women. That love them so much.

    You aren’t getting paid because White men aren’t paying you. Hold them accountable FOR ONCE.

    • Cristi 28 July, 2015 at 18:32 Reply

      It’s always so disappointing to see comments like yours, JoeClyde. There are points being made on this blog and I was looking forward to see what further input the author got. Instead, I see a comment from you that clearly indicates that you neither read nor thought about the blog. You just rushed down to the bottom of the page to spit out your own self-defensiveness. You actually just proved the author’s point, didn’t you?

      Sad.

      • christi 28 July, 2015 at 19:27 Reply

        You are so right read first.no one is blaming blk men for anything its just the way blk women are treated period its bad enough blk people get treated like second class citizens in america but blk women get it the worst.understand some blk women’s struggle before you jump the guns.I guess blk women don’t suppose to have feelings we suppose to take crap from people right i think not.people who don’t want to understand my feelings as a blk woman I let them go its not worth it to argue with someone who will turn a blind eye if a white man was attacking me its to much negativity in the blk community towards blk women.for the blk men who are there for us I appreciate them to the ones who are not can keep moving I’m not looking for anyone to uplift me cause I keep myself uplifted.

  5. linda 14 August, 2015 at 20:04 Reply

    for me, being a black woman means having come to the realization that white america and black men don’t deserve me. only when it is absolutely necessary, and when I have no other alternative, will I give either one of them the time of day.

  6. Cornelia Culler 16 November, 2015 at 12:46 Reply

    I loved reading your list so much so that I’m going to copy it and hang it in my room to help me understand the foolishness that goes on around me. Black women have it hard, but still we try to care for everyone else to our own detriment. We have to continue to care for our children and nourish our own hopes and dreams, else they’ll be crushed by both black and white men. Its no secret that we’re despised by both our country and community. Our very citizenship is not recognized let alone our humanity.

  7. Lois 13 February, 2016 at 19:09 Reply

    Hi,
    This has been a very interesting post. As a mixed race girl from the UK, I have been finding it hard to understand the dynamics in the U.S. I am half Indian, and half mixed of black/white. I identify with everything you have said. It is truly sad, back home race was a less prominent issue (it still exists but not in such a obvious way). Here, you can see it everywhere. It’s taking a lot of time to adjust, and I’m learning to develop a think skin. Thank you for taking the time to express these personal issues.

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