The word victim has a unique connotation to it. In some ways it places total blame on an outside source for one’s circumstances while in others it implies weakness—something no black woman wants to be associated with. When we look at the headlines about black women that catch our attention, they’re often sensational and allow little room for understanding—like Amber Cole
. Or we’re not present at all because we seemingly don’t matter—these are the countless black women you don’t hear went missing until their bodies pop up and the case turns from missing person to homicide.
But do we allow any room for black women as victims ourselves? In many comments overheard in public or read online, there’s usually an attitude of “what is she crying about,” or “girl, get over it,” “move on,” “let it go,” “It’s not that serious,” attached to stories about black women who are facing circumstances that may seem trivial to us but are overbearing to them, and deserve some ounce of sympathy.
It’s never good to portray yourself as a victim for the sake of pity but it’s also not healthy to not allow yourself to have weak moments. As much as we say we hate the “strong black woman” stereotype, we sometimes enforce it ourselves by not allowing any explanation for our circumstances other than “why did you let that happen to yourself.” Wallowing in sorrow with a “the world is against me” type attitude doesn’t do you any favors either, but it’s important to find a space somewhere in the middle where you don’t beat yourself or every other women up for moments of weakness without shifting to the other end of the spectrum and feeling like you’re on the verge of self-destruction.
I can remember talking to a woman about some issues I was having once while holding back tears, and as she talked to me about how I shouldn’t be ashamed to cry and asked why I was forcing myself not to, and telling me X, Y, and Z wasn’t my fault, all I could think was, I wish she would stop talking to me like some stay-at-home white mother crying in the middle of her living room surrounded by toys because she can’t clean up the house and cook dinner all before her husband comes home from work
. In other words, I didn’t want to be seen as helpless and weak because that’s what crying and admission of feeling defeated meant to me.
White women pretty much have that whole victim thing figured out quite well no matter what position they’re in in society and what circumstances they’re facing. While I don’t think black women want to be seen in that way by any means, I do think we have to cut ourselves a little slack because that’s they only way the rest of society will begin to. It’s also part of helping the rest of the world see that, yes our stories are that serious, and no, we can’t just move on. The world needs to recognize that we don’t bring every hardship in our lives on ourselves, and that we deserve compassion too, and I think that attitude shift has to start with us.
Do you think society allows black women to be victims? Do you think black women allow other black women to feel like victims? Should they?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic
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