Do Black Women Allow Themselves to be Victims?

January 6, 2012  |  

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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  • Princess P

    I think for so long and so often black women had to be strong for their families.  Crying is the release of emotions – good or bad.  If we don’t cry this can lead to depression and other health issues.  I love to cry.  I always feel better – and sleep better.  Crying releases hormones and toxins – its a good release for the soul.  In addition,  after a good cry,  your thinking abilities are clearer.  Its good for the soul.

  • Caribbean in the house

    no afro-american b!tch is above azz whipping in this world if they are disobedient to their men.

  • Amija

    I cry.  I do.  A lot of times black women do have this tough image.  I say bull.  I’m tough when I have to be but sometimes I do want to break down and cry.  I hate the image of the black woman can do it all.  We are women, not men.  My last boyfriend teased me for crying.  He was too hood for me.  I need a man who allows me to cry.  

    • Princess P

      Good comment.

  • FromUR2UB

    I agree: white women have mastered the victim thing. When they’re confronted about something, they often say they were, “yelled at”, even if no voices were raised.  If someone doesn’t smile at them and act as though they like them, then the person was “being mean ” to them.  But they can get away with that.

    Black women are criticized for being too strong and independent, and then criticized for complaining about having to be so strong and independant.  We don’t have the luxury of being weak or appearing defenseless, not that that’s desirable.  I think any woman who is strong and independent, became so through necessity.  When you try to lean on someone who steps away and lets you fall, then you learn that leaning on someone isn’t practical.  We often have to be as self-reliant as men are expected to be.  There’s nothing wrong with crying sometimes, and it can be healthy, as long as person isn’t a crybaby.  But making oneself vulnerable to others doesn’t always bring about a desired result, as the author discovered.  When you do open up to someone, the last thing you want is to be patronized, even when it’s not intentional.  I suppose when a cry is needed, sometimes it’s best to do it privately.   

    • FromUR2UB

      Oh, and I wasn’t thinking of funerals or anything on that last statement.

      • Caribbean in the house

        you should because pimps up ho’s down

    • Caribbean in the house

      afro-american negro’s b!tch deserves it & they should get beaten much often

  • In general, I see society blaming black women, calling us welfare queens and using language that suggests we deserve any crime that happens to us (such as various gang rapes by white men that have made headlines over the years). Historically, because of the pride we have in being strong black women, we don’t allow each other to experience what we see as weakness in our emotion. We should allow ourselves to express the range of our emotions and if crying the victim is one of those emotions, so be it. I don’t think, however, that we should allow another to wallow there, especially if the person truly is just whining. Friends have to be patient and have a listening ear to discern if the person is playing helpless or she has a more serious issue going on (like deep depression).

    • Caribbean in the house

      yep negro’s females of america blame yourselves because you are a welfare queens using ebonics language to speak & yes you people truly deserves the crimes that comes your way because you’re ghetto trash. you do desrves the rapes by the cu clux clan members & i don’t feel sorry for nappyheaded ho’s. you loud mouth ho’s need to get put in check & listen to your man because a woman’s place is in the home & kitchen & if you’re disobedient, you will get checked.

      • Princess P.

        Looks like someone needs a hug….starving for attention???  Awwwww….your allowed…go ahead and cry.

        • Caribbean in the house

          not for you afro-american negro’s lol lol lol

  • Steven

    “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.”

    Sounds a little racist there BC.

    • devildog808

      Not at all, that is an accurate statement. I don’t think she was blaming white women just stating a fact. A white women will be declared a victim no matter what the situation in 99% of all cases.

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    • Caribbean in the house

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  • reese

    Not all but some do.  I think no matter how our circumstances are we need to concentrate on having a good life and stop worrying so much about what others are thinking or if they understand our issues.  Just live our lives to the fullest because we only get one. 

    • Caribbean in the house

      yes & don’t worry about guy’s with money & cars too

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    not all the time but sometimes we do. at some point you have stand up for yourself and say enough is enough. you have to say i’m not gonna put with this mess any longer, and some women actually seek out that mess. some women can’t help their situations, but for the ones who can, we need to learn to do better. . .

    • Caribbean in the house

      you afro-american chicks are untrained ho’s thats why you got man handled

      • Ms_Sunshine9898

        never been “man handled” trashy “caribbean in the house”. . ..

        • Caribbean in the house

          but i f*** up a trashy afro-american negro chick before.

          • Ms_Sunshine9898

            *yawn* oh really? that’s nice. . .

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            • PlusandBeautiful

              LOLOL! Loving the response Ms Sunshine!!!

  • Guest3

    I believe as black women, yes, we need to be strong enough to show some weakness and cry if need be. As much as some of us hate to do it, it does give a release to so much pressure and anxiety. Its almost as if you are only a black woman to the extent to which you can not show any softness and weakness. This has made some of us very very hard on the exterior. I remember the first time my husband saw me cry. He was actually happy. He was like “THANK GOD” She cries! LOL. The he said it’s good to see a woman cry sometimes, that means she has compassion.

    This was totally affirmed when I was growing up, I remember whenever some of the little black children would see others cry whether they were girl or boy they would say uhhh! You a Punk, You are so Weak! We force each other to have such thick skin growing up. I taught school for 10 years and I have NEVER seen children make fun of other children the way I see black kids do it. For example a hispanic kid may tease another hispanic kid for being fat or stupid etc. But I would hear the black kids say things like you’re hair is so nappy, you’re so black and ugly, your big nose lips, and of course we all know where this stems from no need for that lecture.

    I digress, a black woman can be strong but soft spoken, powerful but elegant, influential but eloquent.