Lamenting over the Casket of the Real Black Woman


Feat image by unknown via Flickr

I’m here today to pay my respects to the black woman, because she was murdered. I’m not positive who the real culprit is, though I might have an idea:

The Mammy said that she was long retired, and Jezebel said it wasn’t worth her time to kill, Mrs. Sapphire was too busy wailing on her man to care, while The Welfare Queen was too busy trying to photocopy food stamps at the nearest Kinko’s.

(What hurtful caricatures.)

So who killed the real black woman?

At first I thought that it was The Angry Black Woman—so famed for raising her voice… But no. It was her cousin. I’m sure you’ve seen her around, passionately rolling her neck. Last time I saw her, she was striding down the road to viral sensation. Oh yes, I’m sure you’ve seen her around—waving her finger in a declarative way, and piercing men with the bulging eyes and twisted mouth that Nina Simone and Billie Holiday so soulfully sang about. Yes, she is a strange fruit indeed, blatantly announcing to the world that she doesn’t need you, or you, or anyone. Her full name is The Strong Independent Black Woman Who Don’t Need No Man, or The Strong Black Woman for short, and her birth was another one of the many social homicides against black women everywhere.

Can you see the blood on her hands?

 It was she who slaughtered The Real Black Woman in her sleep. The Strong Black Woman came onto the scene in a blaze of glory, a show that was propagated by the Media who hallowed her out with his silver spoon of fame, and told her that her twisted, mangled character was beautiful. Then the Media, a black-suited stud, left her to spiral on her own time. And she was a fool to think that he really loved her. I knew that The Strong Black woman was becoming a problem when I sat down for a good cry one afternoon. As I wept, my white friend took me by the hands, looked me in the eye, and said to me:

 “Lauren, you’re a strong, independent black woman who don’t need no man.”

I stared, bewildered by her off-color comfort because I wasn’t even crying over a man. I thought about what she said that night, and I didn’t know if I should have felt flattery or offense from her use of Ebonics or her assumption of my problem. Then I turned the television on to see women like me—brown-skinned, broad-nosed, beautiful women like me. But instead I saw women who crossed their arms and cursed their lovers. Raged to friends about how awful the world was, exploded into sporadic gesture, and ultimately became public announcements for what the black woman had become and what she was supposed to be.

We were destined to be shells—mistreated, misinterpreted, and apparently most importantly, man-less shells.

“But at least you don’t need no man—because you’re strong, and invincible, and unapproachable, and you can be your own man because you don’t need nobody. You’re not human.” 

That’s what The Strong Black Woman said to the black girls who perused through the internet with tear-stained cheeks and male-induced insecurities. Then I asked myself… Did The Strong Independent Black Woman even understand what a strong woman was? Didn’t she know that a strong woman was supposed to be a symbol of the synergy between strength and sensitivity? Or does she imagine the epitome of feminine strength as an iron fortress who shuts the world out—a strange and bitter fruit?

Look at The Real Black Woman, who now sleeps lifelessly in her casket. Her cold flesh is heavy with peace. Her hands that worked so diligently and meaningfully are folded across the stomach that proudly announced the arrival of so many beautiful black children. The Real Black Woman was able to realize her strengths and weaknesses and stack the odds in her favor as best as she could. She suffered through her tragedies when love was lost or when her heart was broken. But she healed, and she rose with open arms that were willing to embrace someone new. She was a firm believer in good sportsmanship and the revival of happiness. The Real Black Woman was not a fortress of iron; she was a human, capable of the same emotions you and I hold so dearly. She had humanity, she had dimension—she was more than a real black woman, she was a real woman who happened to wear a black skin. An individual.

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  • Truth

    What happened to the real black woman? The black woman has been exploited by people who don’t want her to rise. She has been raped by this country while everyone looked on without a care in the world. She has been told that she shouldn’t have a voice and to obediently play the role as a servant to everyone. She has been degraded by this country. She had been forced to take on the role of both father and mother when her man isn’t around. She has been forced to become the Shepard watching over her sheep. She endured lies, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and hatred in the media, society, and in her own community. She was and still is unprotected in this country so she has to protect herself. She has carried a heavy burden and must survive in this battle for her dignity and respect while everyone else ignores her and refuses to help.

    • Lauren

      Hi truth,

      I think that we as black women have overcome some of these problems. (Some of the issues you mentioned are certainly for from being fixed though.) But I think that one of the black woman’s biggest issues right now is how the media draws her and how she falls into its trap.

      The media has so much influence on everyone and when we see something on television we may say, “Oh I don’t believe that” but somehow we are being subliminally altered in some way.

      I’m tired of seeing the media establish the do’s and don’t of being a black woman and I’m tired of watching us and the rest of the world be fooled into believing and living bogus stereotypes like the mammy and the jezebel and so on.

      Thank you for commenting!
      Lauren H.

  • Chinue Battiste-Dawkins

    Such a moving and beautiful piece! I’m in tears because this is our plight…but also because of this work of art! You are proving how talented, intelligent, creative and beautiful we really are. If we can take a collective look within we can pull our community back together again! Keep up the excellent work!

    • Lauren

      Thank you so much!

  • Lindsay

    Superbly put!! I fell out of this race (haha, pun unforeseen!) a long time ago when people tried to dictate to me how I should be acting as a black woman and I found I just couldn’t not make the cut. If you don’t think I’m black enough, then I guess there’s more to me than skin and I don’t feel bad about that.

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