Superwoman’s Kryptonite

12 Aug

Perhaps, I’ve seen one Law & Order episode too many. But while waiting on the downtown corner for the red light to change, the black luxury car pulling up at the intersection sent chills up my spine. I glanced its way as the driver beckoned a young, black girl to the window, asking for directions. As she offered him her version of the best route to the freeway, he interrupted and said something that made her giggle and say thank you.

“Because I don’t know you,” she responded coyly when he offered her a ride.

I caught a clear view of the young, white man behind the wheel of the car and nearly gasped. About a month or two ago, this same guy had pulled up alongside me in his sleek luxury car as I strode to the neighborhood grocery store. Back then, he spouted the same exact script, played the well-to-do guy lost in the hood, offered compliments and asked to take me wherever I was headed.

“Don’t do it: He tried to get me in there too,” I chimed in as casually as I could before crossing the busy street.

She laughed and continued chatting, obviously amused.

Part of me hoped that I was tripping. Maybe this guy just has a thing for black girls. Maybe it was simply a coincidence, I reasoned as I glanced back to see whether or not the girl had heeded my warning.

She couldn’t have been older than my baby sister.

Growing up, I remember a comedian joking that black children would never get kidnapped because they would cause so much trouble that no kidnapper would even try.

“You not my mama,” the comedian bellowed, mocking the child’s reaction before it screamed and swung its tiny fists at the assailant, scaring him away.

The same logic applies to black women. We, as a group, are perceived to be too sassy, street smart and defiant to give the average villain a worrying thought. We are invincible. We are—dah-da-da-dahhhhh: Superwomen.

In many ways we are reared in the same strand as men. Black girls don’t cry or show signs of weakness. Black girls aren’t frail or dainty. Such mantras feed the myth of the strong black woman, the icon so many of us strive to become.

It’s a double-edged sword, a mentality that is both our greatest strength and our kryptonite. The person that is reared and nurtured to be the strongest and most independent is often the most vulnerable of all. Because no one guards her against life’s cruelties. Instead, she is plopped into the harsh world of reality in a sink -or-swim type exercise crafted to prepare her for life ahead.

Surely, the girl wouldn’t be that stupid, I thought, underestimating her youth and perhaps, curiosity about the stranger and his attention.

I placed the blame squarely on the young girl’s shoulders if she climbed into the car, not on the guy who gets off by driving around the city, picking up black girls.

How twisted is that?

When I learned of a young, black female busdriver who was raped by three men working the late shift, the first thing I did was wonder why she didn’t fight them off. Or better yet, why she didn’t sense they were up to no good.

Like she had the superhuman strength to fight off three men or the psychic power to know what they were planning.

For some reason, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around black women as victims. I’m not the only one.

The intersection of race and gender in a person deemed a double minority makes studying the notion of black womanhood so intriguing because so many of the very stereotypes and myths voiced by mainstream society we, ourselves, wholeheartedly embrace.

Below are a few excerpts from texts, poems, posts that I found interesting as I try to better understand the origins and consequences of a distorted sense of black womanhood: 

Aint I A Woman by Sojourner Truth 

The Myth of the Strong Black Woman by Wambui Mwangi


2 Responses to “Superwoman’s Kryptonite”

  1. Tavie August 12, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Im.diggn.the post. Its true that we have this superwoman ego because we have to be strong. We cant be weak because are looked over and taken for granted. For a black woman to be tgat way, oh no she cant. The generation now looks more at the bling, cars & clothes more than anything. Hopefully she didnt get in.the car. I feel sorry for the bus driver. He was just trying to make her money.


    • lcooksmarketer1 August 12, 2011 at 11:56 am #

      Girl, I hope she didn’t too. My mom told me I should’ve gotten the driver’s license number. I wish I had. And they said that driver is traumatized. You know, just picking some guys she thought were passengers and to have her world turned upside down. But she did get their descriptions so hopefully those jerks will be found. The strong black woman standard is definitely necessary to some extent. But it also has its drawbacks. Thanks for your feedback.


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