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Navigating Softness As A Black Women 

Navigating Softness As A Black Women

Famous abolitionist and black women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth once said, “If women want any rights more than they’ve got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.”

As I sat on my balcony staring at the stars hoping to gather inspiration for this piece, I noticed thousands of twinkling balls of fire that seemed to be cast recklessly in the vast darkness that is the night sky. I thought of the stars I couldn’t see and the stars that left me breathless just by being as bright as they were. I then thought of how unappreciative we are of the beauty of stars and their beauty collectively, for only a few consider ever searching the sky for the stars that don’t shine as brightly. Even fewer choose to look at constellations, and in this case, the bigger picture.

So many women in our society face the plight of not being seen. They have contributed much to our global society and often go unnoticed, unheard, and abused by those who choose not to care enough to see the contributions made by these women. It is almost as if after thousands of years women were still expected to exist only as the single thing that men, from the beginning of time, have made her out to be – soft. My encounters as a black woman over the period of my life have taught me much about the growth we have seen as women. The reality, however, often seems to evade me, for if this is real, why do I still weep at the sorrows of a thousand women?

My quest to become heard has pushed me to ask many questions. How do I remain a woman in a world that doesn’t value me as I am? How do I embrace being a black woman in a society that embraces our culture but despises all else? Well, I’ve thought about it, and I continue to think, so here is the point of view of one black woman on the plight of thousands of others.

How Black Women Have Fared In History

As a young black millennial woman in 2018, I consider myself privileged. Privileged to be able to work in fields that my grandmother could only imagine existed. To be able to raise my voice and become an inspiration to so many others, as so many influential black women past and present have done for me. After all, these are the women who raised me. Who taught me how to be the backbone of my family, who taught me how to speak up where they were unable to, and who showed me that I am unequivocally woman in all things.

Since the beginning of time, women have been told that their sole purpose for existing was to serve man, to be the rib, to be a part of man, and to be an accomplice to his endeavors rather than a creator of her own path. There is no doubt that we’ve progressed as people, but there are many who still hold dear this idea of patriarchy that traps so many women into believing their softness will be revoked once they step into their purpose as fully capable human beings.

My opinion on all this is: our softness did not diminish through years of child-bearing, abuse, years of taking care of a house, or years of having three jobs to ensure our families were fed. So then, how does it now diminish when we try to raise our voices to be heard by the masses? We have many examples of black women in history who have cried out on behalf of a thousand women.

Some who were heard and some who tried anyway. Women such as Dame Eugenia Charles, Coretta Scott King, Ida B. Wells, Maya Angelou, and Marsha P. Johnson are a few of the many women who spoke out and ensured their voices were heard. Their opinions were not always accepted, but they knew they had to get the world to listen to make it a better place for those who were in need.

Providing a powerful exploration of what it means to be strong black women and navigating in a world that tries to diminish your softness

We’ve Been Talking But Who’s Been Listening

The plight of black women in this society is that we’ve been dreaming big but we’ve been allowing ourselves to believe we weren’t tough enough to handle the dreams that seemed larger than life. Maybe it’s the fact that we dream big and talk loud, but our dreams and voices almost always go unnoticed. An article published by Melissa Burkley Ph.D. outlined the fact that within most sociocultural climates, black women were not allowed to be seen or heard. We are invisible, and not in the way that superheroes are invisible but in the way that our contributions are rarely acknowledged; our voices barely heard.

In a 2010 article published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Amanda Sesko and Monica Biernat examined the intriguing idea that black women are socially invisible. The study, which took place in two parts, revealed that black women were indeed more likely to go unnoticed after being seen in comparison to black men and women of other races. In the follow-up study, they examined whether black women were also more likely to go unheard when contributing to a group conversation.

In this study, participants overheard a conversation between eight people, including two black women, two black men, two white women, and two white men. The results showed that participants made the most errors when identifying the comments made by Black female speakers.

First, participants were more likely to mix up comments made by the two Black female speakers, suggesting that they perceived the two Black women as relatively interchangeable. It is like any regular day in society. We are unseen and unheard and as a as we are, we are also forgotten like the many unwritten women in history that paved the way for millennial women today.

Fighting The Plight

I am one of many young black women that face the challenge of being heard in a world that chooses not to listen. I have learned many lessons about the struggles faced by women in society, and though I am tempted to be hardened against the world we live in, I choose to fight on. Not because I owe it to a society that has failed me, or to prove my worth, but because I owe it to my grandmother and my mother and my daughters to let their voices live. The Plight of one woman. You.

Women are capable of everything and so much more. I always make the argument that women are the superior sex, because if we’re being honest with ourselves, what man could endure half the pains we’ve endured on this journey. The pains we’ve endured as a side effect of our existence and the pains we endure to become the voices of the thousands of women who cannot speak for themselves.

The fight of a thousand women is one that will continue so long as we are willing to be heard. Because only the deaf will be unable to listen when a thousand voices rise up and shine through like stars that hide behind the dark black sky.

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