Written By: Maryam A. Muhammad for Nappy Head Club
Since when is it a Black woman’s job to provide emotional labor and support only to receive nothing in return?
In the eyes of the Black community, Black women are everything — they are caretakers, activists, teachers, supporters, miracle workers, and almost anything else that you can think of. In other words, Black women do it all and never fail to hold it down. Yet, they are still met with the utmost contempt and hostility, even by those who they care for most. For some strange reason, Black women are used for character development, often bending over backwards to carry the plights of their partners and communities. Though not all of them hold a degree in the mental health field, they often find themselves acting as therapists for the people in their lives, whether it be friends, partners, spouses, or siblings.
They do this out of love and admiration for the people that they care about, and while this is quite noble at times, it can be unintentionally harmful. Not only does it add extra pressure to the weight that almost every Black woman has on their shoulders (see colorism, misogyny, violence), but it also negates the fact that those in need should seek professional attention. They are being deprived of actually working on themselves and seeking the steps necessary for improvement.
An example of this is rapper and now presidential candidate, Kanye West. For several years now, he has been in the spotlight due to his struggles with his mental health as a result of the death of his mother, Donda West. Though Kanye has married into the Kardashian family, which has been known to repeatedly disrespect and steal from Black women, many people say that it’s up to Black women to heal and restore him because he needs that same love to make up for what he lost when his mother passed.
While this might seem like a beautiful gesture, it once again puts Black women up to the task of solving a problem that is not theirs to solve in the first place.
To make matters worse, the issues of Black women are constantly being put on the back burner because they’re too busy trying to solve everyone else’s problems. Why do Kanye’s issues garner so much sympathy, but not Megan Thee Stallion’s?
Nobody comes to their aid but it is absolutely necessary that they attend to everyone else’s, even if they don’t deserve it. Often, many individuals disrespect and mistreat Black women, only to beg for their aid in times of suffering. People often ignore Black women when they are doing well, but then look to them for help on a rainy day because they are “strong.” In other words, despite the mistreatment they face, they know that they have to be the leaders of movements and groups for everyone’s liberation. Whether it be being at the forefront for Black Lives Matter, or trying to make sure the right person sits in the oval office (see 2016 election results), Black women are expected to pull together to save the world. Not only is the word “strong” dismissive of the problems that they face, but it’s problematic because it prevents them from being seen as vulnerable. This is the very reason why people pray for Kanye, but laugh at Megan.
This ideology creates an unnatural and unhealthy codependency on Black women, and it leaves little to no room for them to deal with or air out their own frustrations.
While a Black woman’s love is one of the most powerful things on the face of the planet, it should not be mistaken for psychiatric help or consultation. Though Black women are the most loving and healing individuals on the planet, and have been for centuries, people tend to forget that they are humans too. Just like everyone else, Black women have their own complexities and are also trying to navigate everyday life.
Repeatedly, they take part in providing emotional support, often filling in for therapists and mental health specialists. Despite them doing this, they are not afforded the same luxury that they give to others, and not even a fraction of their efforts are reciprocated on the same level. On top of having to heal everyone else, they also have to find the energy within them to heal themselves too, which is extremely draining.
Though mental health and therapy is taboo in the Black community, it doesn’t have to be — we can do a lot of good for our current generation as well as future ones if we decide to do what previous ones failed to do by normalizing seeking assistance and reaching out for help when needed. Instead of having someone else carry your baggage, you should talk to someone who is licensed and can give you advice on how to carry it yourself.
It’s about time that people take accountability for their own personal development as well as their healing and wellbeing. To put that on Black women is to negate responsibility and perpetuate the false narrative that they only exist to serve and not to live. If you truly care for the Black women in your life, take the initiative to heal yourself, and seek professional help when needed, rather than leaning on them to combat your emotional trauma.
About the Author:
Maryam Azeeza Muhammad is a poet, womanist, and journalism student from Bridgeport, CT currently attending Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.