“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it”- Zora Neale Hurston
[Disclaimer: I’m writing this for anyone who have felt like the world or the people around them was too much, but I’m writing it from the perspective of a black woman. I hope you can find your truth in here somewhere even if you don’t look like me]
I’m currently having a brilliant day and on this day I decided to venture around my neighborhood and dig into this phenomenal book of poetry titled Job’s Daughter: The Adventures of Trill Yeezy by a 20-something black woman from New York. Her words have been moving me since I started reading the book a couple weeks ago but there was one particular set of lines that spoke to me so deeply that I damn near fell out:
“Pick up my own bed and walk
In the name of my own transgressions, beautiful
By any other name
Make sure you call me God to my face, I never desired the
name Khadijah, never wanted to be the favorite wife
Never desired to offer a man my life”
basically after reading that:
If you’re not aware of the Khadijah reference, long story short she was the Prophet Muhammad’s wife and is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of Islam”. I am in NO WAY any type of expert on Islam, actually I am not even remotely familiar with the major tenets of the faith but I do know that Khadijah is very widely revered and loved and a lot of it has to do with her being the favorite and first wife of the Messenger of Allah aka the Prophet Muhammad. She also by the end of her life, left all her wealth so that Islam may grow and prosper. There is truly nothing more noble and honorable than that.
Basically what Yaya, the author of this book of poetry, is saying is that she doesn’t want to be put upon a pedestal for what she is to an even more important man. She does not want the burden of queendom or the Matriarch or being the best of all the other women. She takes no joy in such titles or such praise. From one black woman to another, this line just resonated with me so much because so many times I’ve been an ideal. I’ve been a fantasy. I’ve been the backbone of another man’s, particularly a black man’s,dreams. And I’m gonna admit it right now that it’s exhausting and it sucks and I don’t want to do it ever again.
I’m not referencing the commonly used image of a controlling partner trying to change everything about so that he can feel powerful in controlling and changing you [even though I’ve dealt with that]. No I’m referring to the more subtle ways in which I’ve bent and flexed and fit myself to fit people’s requirements of what they need me to be. I’ve had male friends refer to me as someone who “teaches them so much about themselves” or who “didn’t deserve me because I was always so caring and a great listener and was there for them no matter what”. I’ve been the best friend someone could ever need me to be, I’ve been there to listen to their sorrows, let them cry on my shoulder, and complain about their day, and share their hopes and dreams, all in the name of being there and never letting a black man feel like he was alone in the world. And these different descriptions of me as a friend can very safely be considered compliments and testaments to my character but I also realize that at some points the friendships became more about the compliments and what I was to them and less about me as a human being. Me as a person, me as someone deserving of the same love and attention and care that I was so intentional about giving to them. Me as more than a teachable moment.
And from early on, I’ve been taught to be everything he needs you to be. Whether that HE be the church or another man or the commonly referenced gender of the Creator. Whatever you do, be there for HIM. Fill his gaps. Make him feel like a man, never encroach upon his manhood or make him feel less like a man. Which is problematic for a number of reasons, but the ultimate reason is that it completely silences my humanity. It’s very hard to focus on nurturing and caring for one’s self when you are making sure you’re properly holding the world around you together so that no person around you feels less than they should be. So that no person around you should ever feel inadequate or uncomfortable or like they are a burden to you…even if they are.
I’ve seen pictures and statements made by black men and women that more or less says that we should treat our women [black women] with respect and dignity and like queens because they will birth the future kings of our society. On the surface that may seem like a good notion…to some people, maybe? But at the root of that is the importance and dignity of black women resting upon her contingency and usefulness to black men. Are we less worthy of dignity and respect if we choose not to birth any one let alone the “kings” of our society? If we choose to never marry and devote our lives to spreading light and love through the love of ourselves and the world around us, do we not get the honored and revered by our fellow brothers and sisters? I know that is not the point of statements like these but it is these types of statements that perpetuate the notion that black women, or women in general, are only as useful as what we can do and produce for the men around us and I’m sorry I’m worth more than that.
i deserve more than that.
I’ve spent a good 15-20 years of my life being strong for whatever reason. Because I am a black woman, and we are strong, we are so strong that we are damn near indestructible. We’re every woman and it’s all in us, right? Your hurt, your pain? Give it to us and we will make sure that it not only goes away but that you never have to see the pain ever again because we will take it into ourselves and make sure you never feel incomplete ever again. I learned pretty early in the game to not let them see you sweat. You suffer in silence. You shed your tears when no one is looking and if you are broken you never let the people who broke you see the damage because at the end of the day you gotta be strong. You can never let go of being strong. Even through tears, and hurricanes, and being ignored, and being silenced, and being told you’re good but I want better and by better I mean someone who is not you, you can’t let go of being strong. You can never break because God will never give you more than you can bear and we made it through slavery so you can make it through this minimal, unimportant hurt that you feel right now. Because Black women are basically Superwoman incarnate.
I gave up being Superwoman about a year ago and I’m pretty sure I burned my cape, buried it in my back yard, and salted the ground I buried it under so nothing could grow there. There’s nothing wrong with strength and because I am human I do have an endless amount of it but I also have a lot of other emotions inside of me that I have a right to feel and understand and bear to the world because it is not my job to keep the sky from falling.
Janelle Monae sings in the song “Sally Ride” that “I’m packing my spacesuit and I’m taking my shit and moving to the moon” and closes the song with “I know you love me but I’m still going”. Sometimes you have to leave certain people and causes and relationships behind because they ask too much of you and even when you tell them how exhaustive they can be they continue to pull at you and drain you and suck all your life force. you don’t love them any less because you leave, sometimes you just have to prioritize your well being.
You don’t owe it to anyone to absorb their hate and their pain for the sake of being a good woman/friend/wife/associate/coworker. There’s so much hate thrown at us as and we take so much of it on, because we don’t want to be a killjoy or seem like the one who doesn’t get the joke or seem selfish or seem like you’re asking for too much. If you don’t want to listen to that sexist, racist joke…don’t. It’s not funny to you, it’s harmful to you, and anyone with good sense will tell you to not gladly accept poison so don’t. You don’t want to hide your tears caused by your partner’s dismissal of your efforts to make them happy..don’t. Your feelings matter.
Anyways, this was a rant but I felt the need to publish it because there’s too many of us slowly suffering in silence and letting the world and the expectations of the people around us send us into early graves.
If no one told you they love you to day…
Peace and blessings and all the things that bring you joy,
“Their strong hands couldn’t give me any help. That’s because their strength was gone.”-Job 30:2