This post was originally a Twitter thread. After this week’s events, I decided it needed to be a blog post, too.
Let’s start with this video by TikToker ebonie_qt/Cindy Noir:
Watch the whole thing before you continue (it’s a minute long and closed captioned).
Watched? Okay let’s go.
Like Cindy Noir, I am also NOT a strong Black woman.
The Strong Black Woman trope has deep roots in our culture. I’m not going into that right now. Instead, I’m gonna talk about how its existence has affected the way people treat me in SFF communities.
Ever since the early aughts I’ve been vocal about racial justice, and if you’ve followed me for a year or two or more you’ve been aware of this. I also speak loudly about other injustices that affect marginalized groups such as sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. This has certainly made me unpopular in some circles, which I expected.
However… There’s another side to this in which people who ostensibly agree with me and say they are allies often act as if I do not need support, or taking care of, or consideration, or the need to recharge. I’m a Strong Black Woman™ and I can take care of myself.
People don’t say so to my face, of course. Their actions speak loud enough. And the people who act this way are almost always white, cisgender, and straight. White women are particularly prone to this1. The folks who don’t treat me this way are (mostly) other BIPOC & especially BIPOC women. They know what it means to be treated like the Strong [Insert Marginalized Identity] Woman and expected to care for and carry the burdens of everyone else while getting little care.
It. is. Exhausting.
This is why marginalized people who dare to speak even a little bit about injustice & oppression end up burnt out. Hell, even marginalized people who don’t speak out frequently get burnt out by this attitude. Because it isn’t confined to activism.
White people think Black and Brown people don’t feel pain as acutely as they do. Black and Brown children are seen as being adults/grown/scary as young as 7, which leads to children getting murdered by cops just as fast as a grown person in a Black body. If a Black person speaks out even in the mildest way, they are over the top angry or abusive and OH NOES the white women are so afraid of them!
And those of us who take the time to educate you? Suddenly we have the burden of doing it 24/7 at the drop of a hat (or a tweet) and we’re rarely offered or given compensation for our time and expertise because don’t we want to make things better for our people? Well then stop complaining! Also carry this *piles on 1000 other things*
I cannot tell you the number of times in the SFF community where I’ve pointed out how a white or other person of privilege has done harm to a marginalized group with words or actions and had people come at me for being SO MEAN and HOW COULD YOU don’t you know [insert excuse for person’s behavior] and can’t you see how your accusation of racism has hurt THEM???
Meanwhile: what about the hurt I feel for being dehumanized and degraded and lied about and spat upon2? Does that not matter as much? Is the attack on me/my people somehow less important than the pain the whites feel for being called out?
For some the answer is yes.
Those of you who’ve known or followed me for the 20+ years I’ve been in this community remember that I used to be far more vocal and active in online discussions around issues of injustice and bigotry. The scenarios outlined above are a big reason I pulled back from that3. I have officially retired from being a Strong Black Woman.
Sadly, I can’t retire from being the Angry Black Woman cuz some of y’all keep giving me reasons.
But Strong? Strong enough to watch Black murders looped on TV and social media every damn week? To carry your burdens on top of my own? To keep getting hit with arrows and continue progressing forward while yanking your tantrum-having butt along? Nah.
Like Cindy, next time y’all come looking for the Strong Black Woman, Imma be like:
I don’t know her.