Building relationships has always been difficult for me. As someone who has experienced several forms of rejection, I often feel inadequate within most social interactions. I’m also sensitive to the ways my mental health impacts my ability to thrive in friendships. These insecurities often create a false need to please others while prioritizing their needs above my own. They inhibit my ability to set appropriate, healthy boundaries with people.
Yet, as a black woman, I am constantly aware of the emotional risks associated with not setting boundaries, especially in predominately white or non-black spaces. For Black women, American society is conditioned by Mammy-like societal norms in which we are subjected to various styles of relationship building that are heavily influenced by white supremacist traditions. We are expected to be the unpaid caretaker whose survival and quality of life is a secondary, passing thought -or worse- fully dependent on our oppressor’s satisfaction with us. There is also the belief that black women are eternally responsible for carrying burden. Our worth and visibility is often unjustly measured for our ability to carry and assume the emotional weight of other people’s trauma while struggling to manage our own. Non-Black folks often falsely define the era of “Black Girl Magic” by our ability to bear unhealthy loads of pain. Meanwhile, our own depression is often trivialized and assumed as a cultural norm of being a black woman. In non-black spaces, it is not uncommon for “Black Girl Magic” to be mischaracterized as a supernatural ability that black women possess to endure sustained bouts of depression, suicidal ideation, identity crises, addiction and other consequences of generational pain responses in silence.
We are magic, therefore, invincible. We are magic, therefore, incapable of hurting. Lost ourselves, we are the advice givers. Broken ourselves, we are the shoulder to cry on. Frequent victims of free labor, we are expected to work unreasonably long hours to sustain bare minimum standards of living. We are expected to carry burden without complaint. Again, we are magic. We are the givers of never-ending, outward flowing energy. Our reward? Compliments of how “strong”..how “brave”…how “admirable” we are.
NO. This style of surviving..of existing…of getting by day to day…under the weight of making ourselves invisible to prioritize the comfort of others…This is unacceptable. We are not accessories. We are not wind..just passing through communities with nothing that sustains nor anchors us. We hold space. We are space.
It is time to practice our NO.
It is time to access the freedom in NO. It is time to access the protection and self preservation of NO. We don’t owe explanations. We don’t owe apologetic preambles. We don’t owe anyone free educational labor. We don’t owe anyone insight. We don’t owe trust. We don’t owe vulnerability. We don’t owe sacrifice. We don’t owe “LOL”s and emojis to lessen the weight of our NO. We don’t owe forced smiles and upbeat moods to prevent others from seeing our discomfort. Our NO is enough. It is a warning. It is a full stop. It is our statement of self worth in spaces where others choose to ignore our value. NO in response to exploitation…belittlement..invisibility…is Power. It is a power that we have freedom to use.
Our survival is magical. Yet, so is our laughter. So is our joy. So is our rest. So is our sleep. So is our exercise. So is our vacation. So are our opinions and ideas. So is our health. So is our desire to be loved. We deserve to thrive in nurturing environments where we are seen…where we are heard…where we are held. ..where we are loved…where we are forgiven…where we are celebrated…where we are compensated fairly in accordance to our labor..where our pain is not overlooked but met with grace and love…Where our anger and our cries are not labeled as “too much” but met with justice and understanding.
If NO is going to protect the ground where we nourish healthy places for YES…then say NO. We deserve to receive all energy and healing necessary to thrive. We are more than our exhaustion. We our more than fear of judgement. We are more than false imaginations concocted by non-black folks of what black womanhood is.
Yes, I am magic. But my magic is mine. I share it as I see fit. I retain it for myself as I see fit.
Is Black Girl Magic meant to be consumed and abused by others until they’ve have had their fill of it?