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Posted under: Opinion Television

Admirable Or Ridiculous? The Truth Behind The "Strong Black Woman" Trope

Mama Pope spoke to this conundrum in a way that only a fast-talking, monologue slaying, Shondaland disciple can.

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"The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman."

 -Malcolm X

We're all familiar with the "strong black woman" trope inherited by black girls, taught at a young age that they must be at once, nurturing, smart, savvy and resourceful. We've worn it as a badge of honor, this instinctive knowing of what it means to occupy the precarious space that meets abandonment with loyalty, and often masks vulnerability with strength. We have selflessly carried this legacy from one generation to the next.

This ability to take the high road even while absorbing the low blows is a mark of kinship that we recognize in one another. It is with this recognition that we cheer on the Auntie Maxines, the Angela Ryes and the Michelle Obamas of the world. We recognize ourselves in them. We know what it means to be women, and black women in defense of our communities, our families, our hair and our bodies.  We understand the quiet pain that comes from the rejection and societal penalties that often accompanies the very fortitude required of us. We've learned to wear our callouses as armor.

Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy

But what's the price of this resilience? Is the "strong black woman" label a burden or a badge of honor? On last Thursday's season finale of “Scandal," Mama Pope spoke to this conundrum in a way that only a fast-talking, monologue slaying,  ShondaLand disciple can.

“Damn shame. I tell you... being a black woman. Be strong, they say. Support your man, raise your man, think like a man. Well damn, I gotta do all that? Who’s out here working for me, carrying my burden, building me up when I get down? Nobody. Black women out here trying to save everybody and what do we get? Swagger jacked by white girls wearing cornrows and bamboo earrings. Ain’t that a bitch? But we still try. Try to help all y’all. Even when we get nothing. Is that admirable or ridiculous? I don’t know.”

The scene, starring actress Khandi Alexander, has since gone Facebook viral with over 2.4 million views. Still, the question remains unanswered: When it comes to the strength and often unreciprocated nurturing that black women give, "is that admirable or ridiculous?" Watch the clip below and share your thoughts.


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Staff Writer