The Underrated Black Woman
Forgive me for the tardiness, but I recently watched The Color Purple for the first time, and, well… I cried. I cried specifically during the scene when Sofia returned home after being in jail for years and being forced to serve the white mayor’s wife. It concluded what I feel to be the culmination of most, if not every, Black woman’s life since Blacks were brought to North America.
I watched Sofia somehow manage to be a strong-willed woman in a world that only sought to beat her down. For the first time in my life, I understood what it meant to hear, “I had to fight all my life.” The Black woman has always been thought of as lesser. It was true then, and it is true now. Constantly, they have to prove themselves above the stereotypes and prejudices.
Sofia was no different. She wanted to be a wife and mother who raised up strong, Black children. How did life respond? It surrounded her with people who tried to beat the dream out of her. It started within her own family, then it extended to her husband and father-in-law’s maiden. She had to physically fight while trying to stay mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong, all without complaining.
I watched a vibrant, young woman’s confident smile whittled down into mumbles, tears, and a permanently battered eye. Her youngest child didn’t even know who she was when she returned home from prison. All she could do was look at her family and admit, “I don’t know y’all no mo.” As I watched her suffer, I kept asking myself, “Why did no one help her? Why did no one build her up or encourage her? Why did everyone try to humble her? How was everyone okay with what they did to her!?” I have to ask, do we really care about our Black women?
I noticed the dates of the story and realized that by the end of The Color Purple, my grandmother had been born. That is when reality hit. It may have been a movie, but I believe it was a very close interpretation of what Black women had to go through. That sweet, gentle woman I call grandmother had to grow up four generations “after” slavery, in the segregation era. She grew up being called a colored and a nigger, being restricted from places because of her skin and restricted for being a woman. I am proud, because she has survived many eras in her almost 84 years. She loves the Lord, and has a family that loves her. But I also feel sad, because I can’t fathom how much evil she had to overcome to get to today.
People have been trying to humble Black women for the longest time. If it’s not a Caucasian trying to assert their dominance as a race, it’s a man trying to assert his dominance as the “head of the household” in places that aren’t his home. Even in Sofia’s own home, she was belittled and pressured to submit to an authority that clearly didn’t want, nor know how, to lead. Even Black men have abused Black women, craving pride as we forget who fought alongside us against racism and slavery. Casting off the fact that these are the very women who gave birth to many sons and many daughters in spite of society having its feet on their necks.
We’ve manipulated Black women into withholding their wisdom, dominance, and passionate love with our negative descriptors and biases. We nitpick every detail about them to stifle them from reaching their greatest potential. We’ve even used the Bible against them. After recognizing just how long these Black women have endured our blatant disrespect, I’m ready to believe, Black women are greater than any other race or sex.
Seeing how much control the world tries to place on Black women makes me admire my mother even more. She had to fight issues within her family, issues within her marriage, issues within society, and issues with other Black women, to make it where she is today. She is the first glimpse of Black woman strength I have ever witnessed. There were several opportunities to relinquish her fight to someone or something else, but she never abandoned her goals. She will say it was all God, and I respect that. If you are ever in need of an example of how God kept His children, look at Black women. Seeing how God elevated her above evil time and time again gives me hope.
Black women are powerful. Black women are strong. Black women are ambitious. Black women are passionate. Black women are nurturing. Black women are compassionate. Black women are protective. Black women are encouragers. Black women are intelligent. Black women are faithful. Black women are some of the greatest leaders and helpers this country has ever seen.
Black women are so much more than their bodies. They are not full of attitude. They are not unruly. They are not fetishes or gimmicks. They are not bossy or pushy. They are not demanding. They are not misguided. They are not tools or foolish. If you’d step back and let a Black woman breathe, without trying to manipulate her, you’d see she can be the greatest thing walking into the room behind God. Her fineness is a complement, not a focus. The greatest thing about a Black woman is her selflessness.
You know how selfless you have to be to put up with men in general? Now try putting up with men when men think you are the whores of women. Someone told me that when my cousin traveled overseas, she was propositioned simply because she was a Black woman. That is what media has done to the image of Black women. They are always wild, loose, and flirtatious. They are always willing and ready. They are always twerking and being promiscuous. That’s what that men overseas learn from the videos and stories put out into the world. How does a Black woman put others’ concerns before her own when they view her like that? She remains selfless.
Black women have had to shy back for so long, when they walk in their authority, people think they’re bossy and arrogant. You have to understand the woman, what she overcame, and how you’re trying to become the next obstacle before you judge her that way. Be a little more understanding of Black women. They’ve had to fight all their life for the ounce of respect they have. They were the very last group liberated after slavery and the civil rights movement. They were the last group offered a seat at the table. Don’t snicker, mock, or drag them. Black women earned their seat. Nurture that respect, don’t try to humble her. Don’t turn her into something she’s not.
We could all be better to Black women, especially our police, doctors, judges, lawyers, subordinates, and Black men. I’m not saying Black women are perfect, but they are far better than how we’ve treated them. We need to be more selfless for them. We need to be less demanding of them. We need to stop forcing them to bear the burden of the family and the finances. We need to make sure they have room to grow into the greatness they are. We need to care about Black women.
I’ve watched my mother become such a strong woman despite her upbringing, and forgive me for not realizing how hard that was. I did not know the magnitude of that burden until I saw the destruction of Sofia in The Color Purple. A Black woman bears the heart of her family, her race, her husband, her church, her society, and her fellow Black women all before she arrives to her own heart. The resilience to have carried this burden for 400 years (at minimum) is breathtaking, and sad. Why haven’t we reached down to uplift the very women on whose shoulders we stand?
If you have a Black woman in your life today, call them, visit them, and let them know they are loved. It has been assumed rather than exercised for so long. So many Black women have gone missing and are being killed or trafficked. So many Black women are being hunted. If you have a Black woman in your vicinity, let them know they are loved, and protect them. Black women are dying in hospitals that are supposed to care for them. If you have a Black woman that comes to mind when you read this, go to them and give them a hug and let them know they are appreciated. Then, when she tells you something is wrong, listen to her. I can’t overstate the slack we’ve had with our Black women. Love them. Love Black women!
It's beyond time that we treat Black women better, especially Black men. They shield us from police and fight for us in every aspect of our lives. They sacrifice so much just so we can have some pride about being the leaders. And don’t come at me with that “all Black women are not great like that” or “Black women always mad, dismissive, and difficult” mess. If mass shooters can be labeled as “troubled”, how much more troubled are the Black women, who stay fighting uphill battles, sometimes on behalf of other people? Black women have always cared for me. Even in their struggles, they set aside their issues to try to help me solve mine.
If you are a Black woman reading this, thank you. I still don’t know the full weight of that battle you carry with you every day. I respect you for fighting with honor. I thank you for shielding me from the pain in your heart. I welcome you to let me know you are not okay. Even though you’re making it, you are not okay. I welcome your voice. How can I help you?
I hope I can relieve some of the stress that comes when you read about what’s happening to girls and women like you. I pray peace, prosperity, love, care, understanding, wisdom, comfort, protection, and blessings over you. I pray all attacks against you fail from this word forward. I pray those who would try to expose you expose themselves and return to the dirt they crawled out of. I pray continued excellence, strength, virtue, and hope over you. Keep fighting, my ladies. I stand with you. I am rooting for you all the way. I love you, my Black sisters.