Anxious While Black
Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States. Studies show that for Black women, anxiety is more chronic than their White counterparts. This only tells a small part of the story. What it does not tell us is how anxiety is perceived and experienced daily by Black women.
To fully understand anxiety and Black women, we must understand how Black women are viewed in this country. There is the strong Black woman, the angry Black woman, and the vixen. These images affect how other people see Black women and how they see themselves.
From Harriet Tubman to every Black grandmother, strong is the word we often use to describe them. Out of necessity, they have had to be strong. There are positive aspects about being a strong Black woman, but there are negatives as well. She “keeps on moving” even when she knows she should stop, placing her mental and physical health at risk.
An angry Black woman is an unfair label. The anger is an outward expression of too much pressure, heartache, and not being taken seriously. With Black women being the most educated group in this country, they are usually the only breadwinner in their households.
Since slavery, Black women have been sexualized and seen for what they can do, as opposed to who they are. They have been caricatured and bodies put on display, like animals.
Black women often find themselves the only one or the first one. In these situations, they have been taught that they have to be twice as good just to compete, and that they are being watched more closely.
In the workplace and educational settings, Black women are often accused of acting or talking White. We forget that there are more than three ways to be a Black woman in this country. The acting or talking White accusation, has nothing to do with wanting to be White but everything to do with what it means to be Black.
I’ve thought about my own battle with anxiety over the years and where it breeds from. I’ve been told numerous times throughout my life that I am strong and can handle it - whatever it is. Truth be told, I couldn’t always handle it but the fear of letting people down was too overwhelming to say anything. Having been called angry by a Black man is probably the worst insult I’ve ever heard. It is usually when I am just trying to express my needs or ask for help in some way.
Black women aren’t allowed to be upset. We’re often told how to react when faced with societal barriers to our progress, deferring our own needs to care for everyone else’s. The message that is given is that no one cares about the needs and frustrations of Black women, and we aren’t even allowed to care either.
Black women do not need anyone to tell us how to express ourselves. We are tired, burdened, over-worked, stretched, under-appreciated, taken advantage of physically, financially, and professionally. We have the right to be tired of the bullshit and we have the right to express it.