Stop Calling Me “Strong”

by Nadeja Ross
Nadeja Ross

I sit in my room sometimes in complete silence, complete darkness and just cry. I cry to release all the things I do not or cannot say.

I am a “strong” Black woman. While the people I surround myself with are wonderful and supportive, it doesn’t change that internalized feeling of shame I feel. That feeling that someone is thinking less of me for being a woman with emotions.

I have to be strong. I have to be strong for everyone else.

It reminds me so much of a song I love (which coincidentally ALWAYS makes me cry). Have you ever listened to Beyoncé’s “Save The Hero”? If you haven’t, do it; that song is Black women all over the world. We are constantly “holding it down” so much so that we are burying ourselves. We are drowning, and yet we still pull people to the raft. But we are left alone. We are dying.

Think about the Black women in your life. How often do they rest? Do they even rest? Do they sit still? On weekends when there is nothing to do, do they always find something to do? Have you ever seen them cry freely? If you have, what did you think?

Black women go to work in emotional, mental and even physical pain and we keep smiling. We cry in bathrooms because our tears, our pain is already invisible to most. When we come home we’re exhausted but we have to still pretend because we are “strong.” We do anything other than take care of ourselves. We are not the priority.

I, a Black woman, do not cry in public. I’ve held back tears at least 85 percent of my adult life. I do not cry in front of people unless it is socially acceptable, funerals for example. Why? Because I am conditioned to feel that crying is weakness. I had to learn to give myself permission to cry. I had to learn to give myself permission to do something I see people due on cue, because my Black woman tears are unfamiliar.

A Black woman will “I’m fine” you to death. Why? Because are you really going to listen?

We are so familiar with not being heard that we stop talking.

At this point you take our silence for strength because we always keep going. We are taught to handle everything. We are taught that tears are a sign of weakness, of fragility. However, the truth is there is so much power in the release. There is so much healing in letting those learned oppressive emotions go. The strength comes when we stop hiding ourselves.

Let’s leave the “You should have said something” performances in the past. How many times do others silence us? How often are our voices eclipsed by someone else’s privilege? Has a Black woman’s needs been overlooked by your own? We as Black women are holding the literal weight of the world. We carry it everyday, and this shit is heavy.

Stop calling me “strong” as a way of describing me. I am so much more. WE are so much more. Check in on the Black women in your life. Understand that we are scared. We are vulnerable.


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