Archuleta A. Chisolm
Black Women Are Not Magical Mules
There was a time in my life when I saw being “strong” as empowering. I believed the narrative that being a strong Black woman was something honorable; a level of legitimacy to aspire to. When people told me that I was “so strong,” I took it as a compliment and that I must be doing something right. However, I’ve learned that being strong has its own separate meaning when it comes to Black women and girls.
If you spend any amount of time on social media these days, you’ll come across multiple posts reinforcing the same exhausting message that Black women will save the United States; that we will right the oppressive past of this country and create an equitable future for us all. It’s exhausting to even think about.
Here’s a newsflash: Black women are not mules. We will absolutely not “save” this country, or “save” the world. You know why? Because it’s not our job to do so, and more importantly, we’re tired. On so many levels, we’re tired. The only thing we will be saving (and reclaiming) is our time.
We’ve watched our mothers, grandmothers, and aunties take on the role of superwoman - wearing capes around their necks to save everyone from themselves. We were taught that our existence is to sacrifice ourselves to ensure others’ livelihood, regardless of the damage that it causes.
I know that people will argue that to be labeled these things should be seen as righteous. However, the weight of being the superhero is detrimental to the health of Black women. This is all a result of the constant dismissal of Black women’s issues and instead painting us as magical creatures able to withstand anything thrown our way. The expectation to “save” everyone while also being a victim of gender and racial discrimination is a heavy burden to carry.
The 19th Amendment, approved over a century ago in 1920, granted American women - or I should say white women - the right to vote. And yet Black women would wait another five decades to exercise that same right. Now, isn’t it ironic that once we weren’t even allowed to have a voice but now ours are the ones most needed and make the most difference.
In the 1960's, Black women were the new keepers of voting rights in the United States. They were at the front of a new movement—one that linked women’s rights and civil rights in one collective push for dignity and power.
What I know for sure is that Black women are deserving of love, protection, safety, and justice. We are worthy of patience, understanding, and peace. For years, we have been on the frontlines, pushing boundaries and making everyone, including ourselves, uncomfortable. And to be honest, our ability to shift the culture, organize movements, and influence change is not because we want to but because there is no other alternative. That my friends is called a revolutionary act. I can’t help but admire that in us, but it’s not healthy.
Black women can no longer be the stepping stones towards liberation. We cannot be a source of strength when we, too, are in need of shoulders to hold us up. No more stories of Black women/girls protesting against unjust treatment only to later become a victim to it. No more using our trauma as a moment of reckoning.
We deserve better. And we all need to do the work.