3 Reasons Why Strong, Black Women are Perceived to be Scary

by Estelle Baroung Hughes

"Black Lives Matter - We Won't Be Silenced - London's Oxford Circus - 8 July 2016." by alisdare1 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
“Black Lives Matter – We Won’t Be Silenced – London’s Oxford Circus – 8 July 2016.” by alisdare1 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

‘It is very hard to survive as a woman of colour in this world, and I remember saying once that if I stopped to feel, really feel, the pain of the racism I encountered, I would start screaming and I would never stop.’

Ijeoma Oluo – So you want to talk about race (2018)

1. Because of the World we live in

‘It is very hard to survive as a woman of colour in this world, and I remember saying once that if I stopped to feel, really feel, the pain of the racism I encountered, I would start screaming and I would never stop.’

The world is growling around you. You read of demonstrations with tens of thousands of people chanting: ‘Black Lives Matter! No justice no peace!’. You hear of statues being smashed to pieces because of the colonial insults they bear. There are rumours of African activists occupying museums to demand that former colonial powers give back the traditional artefacts that have been taken away by force. You see recent and old images of police brutality, of children whose hands or feet were cut off in the Congo to punish their parents for not harvesting enough rubber. Images of human zoos, pictures of lynching scenes and more… You feel the disgust in your stomach like a heavy punch. These are upsetting times for your senses. You might not always be sure what to believe, what to reject. You might have chosen to look the other way because you must preserve your mental space, your inner sanctuary.

I am with you there. I try to do self-care too.  But there is more to it.

As a black woman, I have become an activist by default because I could no longer look the other way. My heritage, my identity is entangled with these ugly pictures I mentioned above. They are glaring at me like a violation of my logic, my values and my dreams. And yet I have to stare at them, live with them directly or indirectly. I can do this like a victim or decide to be the fighter. I chose the fighter option. 

2. Because we are fighters

We fighters do not crumble, we don’t back off, we do not flee. Black women are warriors who stare at adversity in the eyes and say: confront me if you dare. We “Toni Morrison” it whenever we can. We” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie” our feminism as much as possible. We even “Wangari Mathai” our environment or “Miriam Makeba” our culture when we have this talent. if we don’t stand up like our spiritual mothers and sisters, we fade away in a world of victimisation and despair. Personally, I will not have it.  

‘People are afraid of you,’ a close friend once told me. ‘You do not realise how intimidating you can be.’ I do. Sometimes, in my refusal to bow down to racism, I want to say, like Mohammed ALI : ‘I am bad! I have wrestled an alligator, murdered a rock, hospitalised a brick, I am so bad I make medicine sick.’ As I get inspiration from activists who came before me, my eyes become brighter, my courage surges … and I hope to inspire someone too.

3. Because we challenge you

Why am I telling you this today?

If you are not a black woman like me, I am writing this, to encourage you to look at me without fear. My strength and rebellion are fed by the world we live in. We are shocked by the same structural imbalances, by the same brutalities. Only as a non-black person, you might have the choice to look the other way but I don’t. As I do trust your intentions are good, I want you to trust that my engagement for justice bears no harm to you. So, come close to me.  We can press pause, listen and speak to each other for a while. I hope you will  join me in trying to make this wretched beautiful world a better place. We can become such a powerful team. Together. 

If you are a woman of colour like me, I am writing this to say: I see your strength. It is your most powerful shield, your unpenetrable armour. The fear to speak up and the hurdles in front of you are real  but they are also illusions. Together we CAN and together we WILL make our voices heard for a more peaceful, beautiful and meaningful world, for, this is the ultimate goal of this struggle we are in.

Published by APPEAR

APPEAR was formed in May 2019 after parents whose children had been negatively affected by racism at school, realised that the response from the administration needed improvement on the taboo topic of racism. APPEAR's aim is to rise awareness about this and work together with the school to make our schools a safe space for all.

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