If you were to ask me the question, “Who are you,” I would most likely say a black woman. This is because, growing up with my identity, It took me a long time love who I was. This was mainly because I was in a predominately white environment, where despite my obvious intellect and intelligence, I was still fighting negative stereotypes of laziness & stupidity. Even outside of school, I always felt like everything I did was scrutinized. From the way I dressed, to the way I spoke, to the style of my hair, there was rarely any room for me to do anything without being criticized. Even when I got to college, my leadership and passion for change has been questions by 85% of the people I encounter, all because I don’t have ‘the look.” While this was my experience growing up, this is also the experience of many other black girls from a very young age. From the sexualization of black girls, and being told to “put more clothes on,” at the ages of eight or nine; to the labeling them as “grown” or “fresh” for being themselves. Not only do black girls have to grow up hearing that they are not good enough from the world, but subtle messages of hatred against black women are rampant within our media outlets, and even in old fashioned forms of parenting. Instead of learning how to behave, we spent most of our childhoods learning what “not to do.” Don’t straighten your hair, but don’t wear weave either; Don’t be too loud, But also you’re too quiet; Don’t be angry, but also happiness is temporary. For black girls, growing up is a challenge of learning everything, but what you deserve.
Uniquely, Black women must worry about their safety within America, more than many other groups. Not only are we more likely to be murdered to brutalized by police, and less likely for it to be publicized in the media; but for years large amounts of young black girls have been missing without investigation increasingly over the last few years. Black women are more likely to experience sexual violence at a younger ago, but also less likely to report it to anyone in fear of being judged or blamed. Because of this, black women are at a particularly vulnerable spot of having to hold in years of trauma until adulthood which leads to their turn to the medical community.
The relationship between black women and the medical system in this country has been well documented to be one of the most fatal in the country. Compared to white women, black women have 3 times the chances of dying during child birth, and the rate of ‘unnesesary’ complications is higher. This is mainly because as black women, historically and generationally, we have been expected to have it all together. As a refection of the “strong black woman” it is expected that despite the racism, sexism, and hate that black women experiences, they have to be the rock in their communities. For centuries when tragedies have happened like the murder of Emmet Till, or rise of the Civil Rights Movement, black women have also had to ‘hold it together’ rather than express their exhaustion with society. These ideals are pushed to black girls growing up, so much so, that even in the times where we are physically incapable of continuing due to stress, or mental illness, we feel a obligation to ‘push through’ and we do. Because of this, when black women exhibit pain it looks different than many white women sometimes. For example, If I am in physical pain, my first urge to scream or to cry, but to remain calm in order not to scare anyone around me. While this may be normal for many black women, to a whit, culturally incompetent doctor, this pain level is seen as less than a woman who is screaming or crying. Because of this, most of black women’s pain and suffering goes ignored, and we are forced to live in constant fear of the choice between being ill and being ignored. This effects many things from the rate of black women that develop ailments like heart disease and diabetes, to the rate of black women who pass away or become ill because of the amount of stress that has built up. If black women have to deal with the harsh reality of being downplayed by the world, then develop mental and physical illnesses, then have to encounter a medical system that rarely cares about their experiences, it becomes and endless cycle of oppression.
Black women, specifically, deserve the most reparations in America. Not only have we been racially oppressed through slavery or legal enforcements, but we have also been oppressed within our society for being women. Yet, the thing about black women, is that while we experience a lot of the sexism that white, or other POC women experience, we never reap any of the ‘benefits’ and privileges that come with the label ‘woman.’ We didn’t get voting rights because of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, white women did. We don’t get the ‘pretty’ privilege that comes with being lighter skinned, and most of the sexualization of black women leads to overly aggressive and fetishizing advances that leave us traumatized. We also have all of the experiences of being Black in America, like police brutality, and little access to legal support, yet we are not highlighted in most Black Civil Rights movements, in fact, the experiences of black women are still silenced to this day within the movement. While we are forced to deal with all the oppression that come with both being black, and a woman, do not inherit any of the privileges that come with those separately. While there are things that white women, or black men can do to conceal their full identity and code switch to fit in and receive opportunities, black women are judged 10x more than their counterparts the moment they enter the room, making code switching, or assimilating nearly impossible.