I personally feel like one of the most damaging racial stereotypes is the one of the ‘strong independent black woman’, not because we’re not strong or have our own autonomy. It’s because this trope forces us to be strong by default and not allowing a moment of weakness, it doesn’t give us the autonomy of being human. Thanks to this trope, black women are expected to exude superhuman strength 24/7 and that is just damaging to our mental and physical health.
Being a strong independent black woman who doesn’t rely on anyone also restricts our abilities to actually ask for help, and when we do people are shocked. By throwing this unnatural burden, you’re just expecting us to drown without complaints when some of us might need a lifeboat, some of us don’t know how to swim, and more importantly some of us just need help.
I remember there was a time where I would say I’m a strong independent black woman proudly, and it’s not surprise that this was a detriment to my mental health. Black women aren’t expected to seek help from doctors for their mental health, we are just expected to power through and hope for the best. Growing up as a Somali, I’ve seen the consequences of this and it isn’t good, mental health issues are a massive issue for us, but no one gets the help they need. The idea of talking to family or even a doctor about this stuff is frowned upon. We’re told to just pray and move on.
So stop expecting black women, and women of colour to be ‘strong’ and ‘independent’ as the default. We can be empowering and inspiring but also have a network of support and ask for help whenever we need it. We don’t have to navigate our life as a solo struggler who ignores their basic needs to fulfil a damaging stereotype that will eventually lead to long term mental health issues.