Throughout the different stages of my life since I was a young child, I have come across this painting. The older I get, the more the painting resonates with me. This painting signifies a Black woman, who is tired but still gets up for work on Monday anyways. Throughout history, Black women have been harmfully characterized as strong and able to endure anything that life throws at them due to racist tropes stemming from slavery. This depiction of the strong Black woman creates societal expectations for Black women to perform at a certain standard and withstand abuse and harm at greater rates. At the same time, we are often being chastised for taking a break, being tired, and being “weak.” The woman in the painting continues working no matter how tired she is, showing that even if we are broken down and exhausted, we still keep going. The scene takes place in the bedroom, the home, a comfort spot for Black women where we are able to truly be ourselves. When she leaves her home, she puts on a mask that people fail to see through, still working hard while internally feeling tired. This harmful idea needs to be stopped. It represents a harmful culture. Black women are not supernatural workhorses. We are human, with real feelings and emotions just like everyone else. Society needs to stop expecting us to do everything and take on everyone’s burdens. We cannot handle everything alone, there are times when we need help.
“White women and black men have it both ways. They can act as oppressor or be oppressed. Black men may be victimized by racism, but sexism allows them to act as exploiters and oppressors of women. White women may be victimized by sexism, but racism enables them to act as exploiters and oppressors of black people. Both groups have led liberation movements that favor their interests and support the continued oppression of other groups. Black male sexism has undermined struggles to eradicate racism just as white female racism undermines feminist struggle. As long as these two groups or any group defines liberation as gaining social equality with ruling class white men, they have a vested interest in the continued exploitation and oppression of others.” — bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
Black women are -forgotten in the face of tragedy. Black women face struggles of racism and sexism. Advocating for equality has to be the intersection of these two ideals. In the Women’s suffrage movement, Black women were excluded from the narrative by leaders such as Susan B. Anthony who failed to see the intersections of race and gender. Black women were largely absent from Seneca Falls. Sojourner Truth’s poem “Ain’t I a Women” provides some necessary context. When we advocate for feminism, when we advocate that Black Lives Matter, we must advocate for the intersectionality of these movements because if we do not we cannot move forward. The Black Lives Matter movement was started by Black women; however they are not seen as the face of the movement. Widespread activism and protests have led to murder charges for the police officer that killed George Floyd, however where are the arrests of the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor? Where is the investigation for Sandra Bland? Where was the help for Oluwatoyin Salau when she was in need? These three women and countless others are dead and their murderers still at large. I cannot accept this. We must fight for Black women as well so they can receive the justice they deserve. This is why stereotypes of strong Black women are dangerous. We must advocate for justice because we cannot let people get away with killing us. We must be valued, protected and fought for to ensure that someday, our society can have equity for all.
On the High Road we advocate for social justice and we advocate for change. We are not comfortable with the status quo. We work hard to make lasting changes. As Leaders in and of our communities we must ensure that we keep fighting for everyone's rights. We can do the work and we can create the change so that we can live in a just and equal society.