By Izayah Morgan
Many years of my life were surrounded by Black women. I always pushed myself as I got older to understand the unique challenges they faced.
However, research can only get you so far. Sometimes, to truly understand it, it’s best to listen. I talked to the women in my family, friends, and coworkers who helped me to understand the unique challenges that Black women face.
As a Black man, I face microaggressions every day from people because of my race, but rarely for being a man. I cannot even fathom living in a society that has barriers in place for not just me being Black, but also a woman.
Listening is something we think we all do well, but it requires us to take a step back. This requires us to take our own emotions out and just listen.
So that's what I did. I listened to all the Black women I could - friends, family, coworkers, associates, and people I saw just walking by.
The first question I asked is what are some of the stereotypes, positive or negative, that Black women experience?
Answers were varied. But a lot of what I heard was the over masculinization of the Black woman, not only thinking they'll respond in every situation with aggression but also that they are incapable of feminine qualities.
Other stereotypes include being single mothers, undesirable, and abusers of government systems, such as welfare or food stamps.
These views lead to an implicit bias of their place in society, changing views on how we think they should be.
This isn't the truth.
Black women, much like anyone else, are people, are fickle - they fit certain stereotypes and not others.
Don't view them as anything else, not a stereotype, not a caricature, or anything but a person.
But as a person.
A person that's been through trauma, love, lust, highs, and lows.
My friend, who will remain anonymous, mentioned labels and how they can stick with us for a long time.
“I just want society to view me as a person that has their own consciousness, who can make decisions, and make mistakes without a label attached to those mistakes.”
Another topic that was touched in multiple interviews was active listening. Whether they're in relationships, currently looking for someone, or just existing in society, they aren't actively listened to.
Our first reaction is always to respond, add in our own experience, and try to be good natured.
However, when someone opens up to us about the trauma and hardships they face in life, our first response shouldn't be to compare ourselves.
It means coming to terms with how they feel, and empathizing with it. Through these talks, I asked myself the question, “What place do I as a man have to tell these women how dangerous their life is or compare it against my own?”
I have to wrestle with it and come to terms with being in this society and understanding this is just a fraction of what Black women have to go through every day.
All the same though, I don't want to end on a negative note. Because there's so much negativity when it comes to the stereotypes and biases against Black women.
food, culture, wisdom, and just love I felt from Black women speaks volumes to what they achieve.
Black women can be powerful, challenge the status quo, or just be normal people.
Octavia E. Butler, Maya Angelou, Zora Hurston, and Nnedi Okorafor, all made history but in the end were people.
My mom, sister, friends, they're all just people.
People who have gone on to live their lives, making mistakes along the way but in the end are always a pleasure, but much more importantly deserve to be listened to.
I have no place to question the struggles they face or what they can and can't do.
Sitting back listening to their experiences helped me come to a realization.
I don't listen.
Men don’t listen.
We as a society don't listen.
In all my interviews most would ask me why I'm doing this. My response was because I wanted to. I want to hear from Black women. More importantly I want them to be listened to.
If this article is seen by one person and helps them listen better to Black women, then it was a success.
If it is seen by no one but the Black women I talked to and they know I listened, then it was a success.
Black women are a success.
Never - and I mean never - forget that.