Sunday Musings: Heavy Is the Head that Wears the Crown

Be strong they say, support your man, raise your man, think like a man. Well damn, I gotta do all of that? Who’s out here working for me? Carrying my burden, building me up when I get down?”

I don't know how many of you are still watching Scandal but I am personally committed to watching this show until the end even though I go through ebbs of flows of interest. As far as I'm concerned, this season finale monologue, performed by Khandi Alexander, deserves an award. I was basically screaming GET OUT OF MY HEAD! GET OUTTA MY HEAD! GET OUTTA MY HEAD! I felt like I went to church. I felt like I could point to any number of Black woman who shared the feelings expressed in this piece. Specifically, the part where we over function and bend over backward to take care of our loved ones and not just men, but everyone, meanwhile, who is taking care of our needs? If I'm brutally honest with you, I have felt different pieces of this monologue and at one time, the entire monologue, all at the same time. I don't intend to make gross generalizations, so I hope it's understood that I am speaking from my personal experience and observations. The notion of being a STRONG BLACK WOMAN is so deeply woven into the fabric of who I am, that it was only very recently, let's say the last few years, that I even began to question the 'woman' part of that identity. I received the message early on that "being taken care of" was a "white woman thing" and so I think it was a habit of mine to do everything I can, and then, push myself to go beyond that.

I never had the answer until recently. A few experiences in my most recent past, had me questioning the same idea in Sojourner Truth's speech to a group of feminists in 1851 "Ain't I a Woman?" where she challenges the notion of men feeling like women should be treated a certain way, but she, being a Black woman, never received this expected treatment.

“Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”

It seems like there is an unspoken feeling about femininity, protection, and respect that is only reserved for white women.  As a Black woman, I have felt and sometimes do still feel, very much excluded from this notion of protection and reverence that men give to White women. Take the example of financial stability that many women make a priority in a potential mate. When Black women have demanded this in the past, they are easily and quickly labeled "gold-diggers". If a White woman has this same expectation, well, that's just being a woman. 

On a daily basis, Black women are devalued and dehumanized.We are continuously bombarded with loathsome self-imagery and messaging that dictates you should put everyone else before yourself. Imagine the mental toll that this takes. As a Black woman, there is an expectation that you "got this". You are a survivor. You are strong. You can move mountains and make miracles happen and that is all well and good but at the end of the day, who is taking care of you when the cape comes off? When do I get the opportunity to be soft and pink inside because I am still a woman and not for mass societal fodder and base caricature? When do I get to be treated with the same respect, reverence and regard that is so freely given to my white female counterparts? Why can't I be propped up as the lily of the valley too? Where is the glass case enshrouding me because I am viewed as too delicate and feminine to fall victim to mental exhaustion and emotional burnout?

 


Photography by Kwasi Osei