I am so pleased to introduce you all to my first guest writer! Tanisha King-Taylor! Tanisha is my soror and such a driven and wonderful woman. I am excited for you to get to read her piece. Without further ado…
Black girl Black girl, you just a Black girl
You pretty to be dark skinned
Black girl Black girl, you just a Black girl
You stuck up, cuz you light skinned – (black community)
Black girl Black girl we’ll never let you win
We constantly remind you of Eve’s sin – (the church)
Black girl Black girl, I see you as older
starts by laying my head on your shoulder – (any man in or outside your house)
Black girl Black girl, what’s going on with your hair
I want to touch it cuz it’s so different, but do I dare
Black girl Black girl, you just a Black girl
For everything you have, had to fight tooth and nail
All while Trying to make sure men in OUR life don’t end up in jail – (but told your skin and womanhood gives you an advantage, strength)
Black girl Black girl, try to kill your magic
They don’t know you it repels them like magnets
Black girl Black girl becomes a woman and it’s just the same
They don’t even respect me if I have fortune and fame
Black woman Black woman, you just a Black woman
That used to be a Black girl – (Serena Williams)
The intersection of my race and gender as a Black woman never separates. My experience is unique to me due to characteristics unduly placed upon me. The stereotypes; whore, angry black woman, welfare queen, are unique to me and collectively unique to us. To battle these stereotypes I often put on a cape and mask, consciously and unconsciously. I prepare for battle to fight against the stigma of the Black woman.
Often Black women are “strong” but mostly to their detriment. I’m noooot your super woman! (In my Karen voice). As I constantly allowed people to take advantage of me, in the same breath I noticed I was overexerting myself. Saying yes to everyone’s request left me depleted and not focusing on myself or my goals. My days began to fill up with my family stuff and other requests I agreed to. It got to a point where I was over- and double- booked because I had forgotten what I said yes to. At one point, I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t stop crying. I cried uncontrollably for hours, literally. I was on the move so much that I hadn’t paused to rest at all which obviously impacted my emotional well-being.
I remember having emergency surgery due to an ectopic pregnancy on a Friday. I got home around dinner time and headed straight to the kitchen to make dinner. I made something simple, like oatmeal for the kids. It’s one of their favorites. But clearly, that could have waited. My husband could have cooked or we could have ordered out. But NO. I decided, fresh out of surgery, to do it anyway.
The next day, I even had the nerve to attend a Black Sorority’s screening of the movie “Annie” at a local theater! I took my oldest daughter, then regretted it because before the movie ended I was in pain. I couldn’t move too fast, actually had to walk very slowly. My friends had to tell me to sit and wait so that they could pull the car up for me.
But wait…there’s more
I remember being injured accidently, I had a cut on my left leg right above the fold of the knee which required multiple stitches. It just so happened that a week later I had a conference to attend. Often, I prep meals for my family prior to attending conferences so they can heat and eat out of convenience, that convenience though was for everyone else except me.
While still limping a day before the conference, I decided to prep the food despite my injury. I actually took it further and grilled outside. Why couldn’t I just make something else? They could have eaten pizza while I was gone. There were definitely other options. Not only did I end up tiring myself out but I got an infection in the cut. Prior to grilling, my husband cautioned me “Maybe you shouldn’t grill. Don’t worry about that”. Some of my colleagues even suggested I not go to the conference given my injury. Both suggestions, I willfully ignored. I had to be in a wheelchair through the airport and for the duration of the conference. I despised it.
It’s not our job to take care of everything, but the message has been and remains pervasive that we are supposed to. The genesis of this mentality dates back to slavery; back in the day when the master decreed that the Black woman was mentally and physically stronger than everyone else, that we are capable of enduring inordinate amounts of stress, unbreakable (in my Alicia Keys voice). That mentality has become the norm in the Black community and is expected of the Black woman, especially in the church. Therefore, embedded within Black families where the children find it okay, the spouse finds it okay and we have internalized it and believe that we are obligated to do everything and be everything to and for everyone. Not only does family depend on you, but society as a while depends on the labor of Black women. We are often the ones left to do the work in multiple spaces – church, home, office – and it has become an expectation; one we have accepted because we don’t say no.
It’s now become what’s comfortable, and that’s what it is until we choose to say otherwise. Everyone is benefitting greatly from us so we have to save ourselves, become super for us. Once you do, those that have come to expect your labor will have no choice but to accept the change. We become afraid of losing people if we say no because we often receive some level of value and worth from this service and acts of giving. It makes us feel good in a world that tears Black women down repeatedly. But at the same time it’s unhealthy for us mentally and physically.
As Black women due to this conditioning of being strong and independent, we’ve developed a savior like complex. Being a superwoman translated for me to all areas of my life, friendships, relationships etc., I noticed that it was a collective experience. I have witnessed the choices of Black women, one in particular comes to mind that I was contracted to life coach for a period of time. She was involved with a man who openly disclosed that he had a sexually transmitted disease, was an alcoholic, and he was still married even though they had been separated for years. He also couldn’t drive because he had a DUI. She was very supportive to him but it was not reciprocal. He wasn’t involved in the relationship in the way that she was there for him. He was simply using her and enjoying the fruits of her labor.
So, we had to talk about that, and I asked her “I can hear what you think of him, how high you hold him, how do you feel about you? She held him in such high regard yet he treated her so poorly. She had not chosen to set boundaries for herself in relationships and I believe she thought that because of her goodness, awesomeness, fabulousness, and all this #BlackGirlMagic we have, we just get to sprinkle it on people and they become new. But absolutely not. It doesn’t work like that.
People only do to you what you allow, and folks can only see growth and change in themselves if they do the work and make it happen. We can help and be supportive but the action is going to be their own. You being amazing and present in their life, isn’t going to do much. They will just take advantage of how awesome you are. The savior complex it seems, is very much a part of the superwoman syndrome.
So how do we stop pushing ourselves to the limit, how do we interrupt that fake super human version of ourselves?
Getting rid of the superwoman won’t be easy. That’s because we’re scared. We don’t know who we are without being the superwoman. The cape has become our point of pride because it stems from the messages that we’re getting from everyone about self-value and self-worth. Women are often praised for doing for others, conditioning us to only serve outside of ourselves. And if we stop trying to be the superwoman, we are still worried about how other women will look at us. What will they think about us? That is about perfection. Being a Black superwoman is tied not only into having a savior complex but also being perfect. But we have to be okay and comfortable in who we are and the decisions we make. We can’t be worried about other folk. They are not worried about us until they are no longer benefiting from us. It’s not our job to live for others, it’s our job to live for us! We have not chosen to embrace that enough. We have to hold back from giving so much of ourselves, in all areas of our lives.
You’re almost making a conscious decision. Not a decision to sabotage yourself, but you’re choosing not to rise too much because not everyone is rising in the same way. You are conscious of that and you don’t want to be seen. You’re not ready for that light to be on you in that way because you want everyone else to have that light too. You’re sacrificing yourself and your potential for the sake of others, and that’s not okay. Black women are the heart of society; having contributed greatly to the betterment of all. Yet, we are often unheard, invisible, dismissed and undervalued. In response to this treatment, we silenced ourselves, masked our pain then put on a cape to prove our value and worth. This has impacted our psychological and physical health. Black women are dying- dying form diseases, social ills and cause; heart disease, obesity, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and physical violence.
How does a Black woman stay health in a society that denigrates her at every level, we are suffering in so many ways but you don’t have to. Choose you, start saying no and be a super woman for yourself, because if not you, then who?
– Tanisha King-Taylor is a two-time alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earning a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Social Work. She is currently a PhD Candidate in the College of Education at Illinois, researching Black women experiences of Racial and Gender Microaggressions and the relationship to the myth of the Black Superwoman or Strong Black woman. She also serves as an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Social Work and has taught General Curriculum and Inter-group dialogue courses. She is an Author, Speaker, Consultant and Advocate. She also works with public and private agencies to facilitate diversity and inclusion training’s. Her inaugural book “Out of Battle into Freedom” was accepted into the 2017 NAACP Author Pavilion. She has been featured on WEFT 90.1 FM more than once, has appeared as a panelist on a Black Lives Matter news special which aired on WCIA 3 and is also the Democratic Nominee for Champaign County Board (she had 62% of the vote!). Most importantly, Tanisha is a wife and mother of three who desires to teach full time at a college or university while continuing to publish books and speak.