Black women are amazing and beautiful and deserving of so much more and better than the world is currently willing to give us. But unfortunately, sometimes I wonder if we truly know this truth, or whether we just love to trend hashtags like #blackgirlmagic for the fun of it. Here are four important ways that black women shoot ourselves in the foot before we can even get in the game and play.
1. Picking Up The Pieces For Everyone Else's Mess
Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Pretend it's 2016. 94% of black women who have turned up for the election have cast in their ballots for Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, more than half of white women (a staggering 53%) cast their ballots in favor of Donald Trump?
Now let's take a trip to 2017. It's the day of the Women's March and both black and white women have shown up in droves to protest the outwardly misogynstic president of the United States, all in the name of feminism. Feminism is an issue that black women have aligned ourselves to, despite the fact that feminism has historically only catered to the needs of straight, white, middle-class women. Rarely does feminism center on the issues and needs of black women? One may even ask where was feminism in 2016, on election day? Where was feminism when 53% of white women were casting their votes in favor of Donald Trump becoming president of the United States? And where is feminism when black women are shot in the streets, murdered by police offers?
The 2017 Women's March is just one example of black women turning out for causes that don't benefit us, sacrificing our health and well-being to become the face of movements that don't even benefit us.
2. Neglecting Our Mental Health and Wellbeing
You don't have to battle through low self-esteem and insecurity on your own. You don't have to navigate each day wishing you'd never existed, or wishing you could cease to exist. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses are real. They not only exist, but they can be absolute torture. Let's kill off the "strong black woman" stereotype and begin to reach out for the help that our community so clearly and desperately needs.
Allow yourself to care for yourself, to prioritize yourself and to choose your friends, happiness and joy over your responsibilities, or over a job that would replace you in a heartbeat. If you need help learning to love yourself, remember that memorizing and repeating positive affirmations to yourself throughout the day, is a great way to overcome any patterns of overcritical thinking and self-hate. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article titled 'Five Things Every Black Woman Should Say To Herself Every Day" which contains an important list of struggles that black women face, as well as ways to turn around those negative thoughts into positive, self-affirming statements.
3. Having Children With Men Who Refuse To Provide
Choose your baby daddy's wisely. I repeat, choose the father of your baby extremely wisely. Remember, you're not simply looking for a man that has all the qualities of a good partner (although that's important too), but also a man who is willing and able to provide for a family and stick around to raise his kids.
Dating, marrying or having children with a man who simply shows signs of "potential" is a recipe for disaster and usually you can smell it coming from a mile away.
Avoid unnecessary heartbreak by the doing the inner work necessary to recognize your value. Also, set firm standards so that you'll never settle for less than you deserve.
4. Trying To Conform To And Meet Eurocentric Beauty Standards
The wig and weave industry is a billion dollar industry. Black women spend more than $2.5 billion dollars annually on hair care, hair extensions and more. Because we're held to unfair beauty standards and devalued for our traditionally Bantu features, we go crazy trying to live up to ideals that only harm us more. Relaxers have gone out of style, yes, but they've merely been replaced with straight and European-textured wigs and weaves.
Now, instead of damaging our hair with harsh, cancer-causing chemicals, we hide it under wig caps and weaves that look nothing like our natural hair. I'm sorry, but you just can't convince me that the black hair industry is not mostly thriving and capitalizing off our self-hatred. It's not at all about "protection styling". If it were, we'd be spending the same amount of money trying to wear wigs and weaves with hair textures that mimicked our natural hair textures. But we're not.
The truth is, there are things that black women can do to improve our current economical and societal status. We just have to be willing to drop our stereotypes about what beauty is, once and for all. We have to learn to value ourselves and choose romantic partners that are willing to build for us and for the black community, instead of having children with men with "ambition". We need to recognize that we are not invincible and seek help, counselling and guidance from mental health care professionals, as well as black female mentors.
And lastly, we need to stop taking on the burden of everyone else's mistakes. White women proved their loyalty to Trump in 2016, yet black women showed up in masses the next year to march for "women's rights" (a.k.a a thinly-veiled term for white women's rights).
Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law.