HEAVY METAL & INTROSPECTIVE: Black Womxn Deserve Better
Anti-blackness is a global disease that has devastating effects on Black mxn and Black womxn’s emotional, physical and mental health. Conversations about mental health are often not applicable to Black people and most of all Black womxn. This is probably because those having the conversations are often white and middle class, so they may choose not to see colour. Moreover, talking about one’s mental health is not something that is encouraged within the Black community because that usually leads to the need for expensive treatments. These recommendations usually come from a white medical professional who may, or may not, understand the nuances of our existence – and, tbh, who wants to pay £50 per hour to relive their trauma with someone who won’t understand why that co-worker mixing you up with the only other Black person in your entire building made you want to burn that place to the ground.
Categorization as strong, brave and unbreakable, arguably, has been an Achilles heel for many Black womxn, especially when it comes to conversations about their mental health. Portrayals of Black womxn in the media are often caricatures that white womxn can morph into when their favourite Beyonce song comes on, or gay mxn can use as the foundation of their oh-so predictable “personalities.” However, those portrayals are rarely of womxn that are deserving of empathy, understanding and dignity. To quote the late, great Malcolm X, “the most disrespected person in [the world] is the Black womxn, the most unprotected person in [the world] is the Black womxn, the most neglected person in [the world]”.
Azealia Banks is a great example of a Black womxn who has openly spoken about living with Bi-polar disorder, depression and severe anxiety. Through social media, her millions of followers have seen her breakdown or lash out during a depressive state or manic state. She’s shared messages where her mother, who mocks her mental health struggles, as well as exchanges with other Black men in the industry who ignore her pleas for support but have cashed in on her talents and creative output. I find it really interesting that people and publications making bold claims to care about the mental wellbeing of others (or dedicate the whole of May to writing about the mental health and “self-care”) be the ones devoting their platform to tear down and vilify a Black womxn who is vocal about struggling with her mental health.
”To quote the late, great Malcolm X, “the most disrespected person in [the world] is the Black womxn, the most unprotected person in [the world] is the Black womxn, the most neglected person in [the world]”.
In the media and in society, Black womxn are not given a margin of error as everyone else is. They’re held up to a higher standard and expected to be exceptional in order to get a quarter of the respect and dignity that a human being deserves. If they’re anything less, they’re made an example of. Take Dianne Abbot, the first Black female MP in the UK. She gets her numbers muddled up, as many of us have in a big meeting or interview. Now, according to the media, she’s unworthy of her office, which has people questioning her intelligence and competence. The real question people should be asking themselves is, ‘why are you always ready for a Black womxn to fail, to kick her when she’s down and put her in her place?’
It’s not surprising that people don’t care about Black womxn’s wellbeing and mental health. For centuries Black womxn have been used as guinea pigs by the medical community. In 2020, Black womxn are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white womxn. This is most likely because of their concerns when they feel something is wrong, or they complain of pain, are given less credence by doctors. Why do you not believe a Black womxn when she tells you she is in pain?
Black womxn are routinely used, abused and then discarded by the Black mxn that are supposed to love them. Black womxn are the first ones to show up to a protest marching for Black lives but Black trans womxn are being murdered at an alarming rate and there was more outrage from the Black community when Wiley was banned from social media. What have Black womxn done historically to deserve this? Who’s land have they stolen, which genocide did they start? Which indigenous group did they wipe out? I don’t think it’s a case of wrongdoing on their part.
I think its because they are seen as the easiest group to subjugate: they are Black and they are female. The world hates Black people and the world has been built to oppress womxn, so it’s probably uncomfortable and even unnatural for some people to treat Black womxn with dignity and respect. “Listen to a Black womxn? Value her opinions and feelings? Care about her health and wellbeing?” That’s just not realistic for some of you and you need to ask yourself why.
For us to move forward and heal, we need to treat Black womxn with respect and dignity. Believe a Black womxn when she tells you she’s in pain and don’t chastise her when she stands up for herself and others. Now more than ever Black womxn need our support, they need our protection and most of all they need our empathy. Black womxn deserve better. She’s not pretty for a Black girl, she shouldn’t be the industry’s best kept secret, she is a Black womxn and she deserves the world.