Growing up, I constantly head the phrase “put an H in your back and Handle it”. In many ways, this ethos was a generational mantra, passed down from Black woman to Black woman as the methods and the means to success and accomplishing your goals. However, there was no discussion about how this same mantra may be endemic to sociocultural issues which have historically forced Black women to silently bear the burdens of their own experiences and all of those around them.
But now, younger generations have recognized the error in embracing stereotypes which are presented as positive but only seek to reinforce toxic traits. By embracing “Black Mediocrity”, or doing the least in order to receive the most, social media content creators have presented multiple narratives which expose the intersectional politics which undergird these stereotypes and beliefs around over-doing and achieving for rewards and capital gain.
Yet, even in this zeitgeist that pushes against doing the most, I don’t think that narratives of strength and excellence are as Black and White as they are made out to be. Therefore, this essay is my own argument for why millennials don’t have to be the last generation of “Strong Black Women”.
Historicizing the “Strong Black Woman” Stereotype
“‘Strong Black Woman’ (SBW) is a mantra so much a part of U.S. Culture that it is seldom realized how great a toll it has taken on the emotional well-being of the African-American woman” — Quote from Regina Romero’s “Icon of the Strong Black Woman”
Iconic figures in Black Women’s History, from Harriet Tubman to Michelle Obama, are consistently viewed as notable for their strength and resilience in the face of opposition or life’s challenges. Within the fields of Psychology and Media Studies, this Strong Black Woman (SBW) archetype is also described through recurring narratives and stereotypes which have a lasting effect on how Black women view themselves. Specifically, Regina Romero’s chapter “Icon of the Strong Black Woman: The Paradox of Strength” describes how this archetype is made up of two primary themes. The first of…