Guest blog by: Nikki Coco
'Strong Black Woman' is a badge of honor that we have been wearing for too long. If we are to be completely honest about the reasons as to why many Black women are good at hiding their softness, let’s remember the onslaught of reality television shows that people rely on to provide us with a snapshot of segments of the society at large. Quite plainly, it’s easy to create a picture, when you’ve been privy to only one side of a given story for so long.
Alas, not all Black women were created equal: meaning some are able to withstand more triumph than others -- with some not being very emotionally strong at all underneath the layers. Now, while the media would have us believe that most, if not all Black women are brazen, brash and bawdy, thanks to a smorgasbord of shows like RHOA, Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop – all aligning so well for the purpose of transmitting the message by way of the likes of the Nene Leakes of the world -- the idea that tyrant, despot and Black woman are one and the same, at some point we’ve gotta be conscionable enough to say, “I’m just not buying what you’re selling.” Somewhere amidst being caught up in the hype, illusion and fanfare we forgot that when we are with the ones who can welcome our demonstrations of love and nurturing with an air of appreciation and acceptance – we too enjoy interludes of coddling, sappiness, and gleefully emoting…if ever we were granted an opportunity to be able to do so, without accusations of playing a part suited for someone else.
There comes a time when we must put a stoppage to it all and come to the realization that vulnerability is indeed beautiful. The problem with Black women with respect to vulnerability is that it has never been deemed permissible, nor has it been expected throughout our collective history. How on God’s green Earth are we expected to be vulnerable when we have a slew of people waiting on us to be clothed, fed and nurtured at any given time? In order for Black women to begin to feel more comfortable enough to reveal their vulnerability, we have to allow the space enough for them to be able to so do.
The beauty of vulnerability lies in the idea that we all naturally fold at the point of exhaustion. Even more, it requires ample strength in character to willingly display authenticity and do away with the façade that is entwined with the staid image of the inexhaustible, dynamic, Energizer Bunny that is the dominant perception that has been built around Black women. Nobody is going to believe us when we consistently say that everything is fine and dandy or that we are strong and tough enough to handle things on our own.
I believe it remains important to iterate that it’s well beyond the time for Black women to tear down their layered fortresses and hop along the self-love, self-help bandwagon that all the world has increasingly embarked upon. A while back, I was perusing Facebook when I was serendipitously met with the following quote via a friend’s timeline: “Silence doesn’t always mean ‘yes.’ Sometimes it means I’m tired of explaining to people who don’t care to understand.”
While it is true that some women speak up about their respective experiences, in ways that sometimes place them in vulnerable positions – often they’re confiding in people who actually don’t care. A key message I would offer to women who have been silencing their load is: be mindful of who you confide in and around whom you let your guard down. The uncanny mind reader in most women knows just who to confide in and around whom to keep their lips sealed. As women it has been duly noted that we have been blessed with extra-sensory, intuitive abilities to be able to discern many a situation quite accurately. When in doubt, trust in it. The key is being vulnerable with the right people, at the right time.
Nikki is an educator and writer, whose musings cover a broad range of topics incuding but, not limited to: politics, love, education and cultural criticism. You can follow her on Twitter @artculturemusic.