Reflecting on the Strength of Black Women

Written by Tod.

The reason I am sharing the video  " A Black Woman's Smile" (See below for You Tube version) is because it offers a powerful perspective and aspect of how Black women have been treated and what they have been made to suffer, while at the same time conveying their strength. I don't believe in dwelling on the negative, but I also don't believe in hiding, what I consider, important elements of truth. In this case, truths that can illuminate understanding and that may not be perceived or known by many.  Because the video has some sensitive points, I want to qualify a couple things.

  In conveying the strength of Black women, one of the premises put forth, is that because of their suffering, it is hard to make a Black woman smile. This premise could be interpreted, by some, as reinforcing the "angry Black woman" stereotype. That depiction has so many negative ramifications both subtle and overt.  It is not my intention nor do I believe it is the intention of the video, to perpetuate that image in any way.  Secondly, near the end of the video, there is a statement that could be interpreted as meaning that Black woman have to have a man (Black) to be happy or perhaps "whole." Again there are many negative ramifications of that stereotype. Clearly many Black women have been happy with or without a Black man.  Another perspective I would offer, that is not in the video, is that it amazing that Black women still radiate warmth and strength and smile in spite of what they have been through.  I suggest that so many still radiate, because of their depth of spirituality and because they draw on that spirituality to transform their suffering into strength!  (As the purpose of the Race Story ReWrite project is to facilitate creating and “writing” a more just and unified future for race relations, most certainly we all need to participate in making sure the challenges shared in this video are not a part of that new story!)

When I watched this powerful video, on the Face Book page of my friend Jackie Wiggins Yasin, it immediately called to mind the tribute I paid to Black women in my book Seeing Heaven in the Face of Black Men.  It is timely to reflect on the hard earned qualities and capacities of Black women. So I thought I would share my tribute along with the video.   


“One thing is certain and that is that the US of America has never ever given Black women their just deserts. They have never gotten recognized for their soulful intelligence, perseverance, creativity, tenderness, toughness and genuine beauty. And despite not being fully appreciated, they’re still ever- present!  If you look closely, you’ll see they have been the backbone of the US of America in so many ways. They’ve raised our kids (White and Black) and raised our spirits. They’ve had to be nurturers, disciplinarians, homemakers, bread winners, defenders of the family and community and sometimes all at the same time. They’ve schooled us and schooled themselves and now are showing up in all facets of the US of America’s educational, economic, social, public and private life, while still maintaining home life. They’ave been beaten down, gotten down and back up and they’ave showed us true grit in spite of all.  You want an example of courage, capacity, depth and strength that we can all look up to, you need look no further than Black women!

I know,some folk may be thinking, “But what about all those Black women on welfare?” Well, 'they grew up gettin up too', and in spite of all, they’re still here. Sure, some of them no doubt are real cons, just like some White women who are on welfare. I’m not blind. But many, many, many are doing the best they can with what they have.  Many are literally geniuses in makin a way out ‘a no way.'  So then I ask my White brothers and sisters or any others who may question whether my tribute to black women is valid: Do the White women on welfare who may be con artists, represent all White women on welfare or White women in general and somehow diminish the value of White women overall?

I say it’s time to own up and look up to Black women in the US of America. If it feels like some come with what might feel like an edge, consider the thought that they might have to be tough. Partly might be because they don’t always feel someone’s got their back. They can tell their story better than I can, but I hope you’ll listen when they do. !  (Adapted from my book Seeing Heaven in the Face of Black”


Take a look at this:  A Black Woman’s Smile