The Burden of the Black Woman

Image Credit: GUY DALEMA/FX

I was recently watching an episode of ‘Atlanta’ for the first time with my friends. Since the episodes are somewhat stand-alone, we ended up watching Season 2, Episode 4, ‘Game Over?’.

If you haven’t watched the episode, Donald Glover’s character, Earn, accompanies his pseudo-girlfriend, Van, to a bizarre Oktoberfest event. Though the events that transpire during the episode are very interesting, it is Van’s character that resonates with me the most. Van and Earn clearly have tension in their relationship. Earn is vehemently discontent with participating in the event, despite the importance it has to Van. His feelings of discomfort lead to the two spending most of the episode doing their own thing.

But what about Van?

Van later reconnects with a past friend who identifies Van as nothing more than a ‘baby mama’, saying that Van chose to live a ‘black life’. It is important to mention that Van’s friend is also a Black woman and that it appears as though the two come from similar backgrounds. From there, we see Van struggling to realize and maintain her own identity and to be seen as more than a ‘baby mama’ or by her relationship with Earn.

Donald Glover brilliantly paints the portrait of the Black woman. Van is highly educated – before becoming a mother — she was a teacher, she fluently speaks German, and she is very culturally aware. Despite these things, she is seen by those closest to her not by her own identity, but by her relation to others. Tragically, despite her intelligence, she is seen as a statistic.

So how does this translate to the ‘Burden of the Black Woman’? As a Black woman in America, I feel the constant need to not be a statistic. And let’s be real — I was born and raised on the south-side of Chicago, I come a large family of 7 children, I am a survivor of abuse, and I have experienced racism and prejudice my entire life. If there were a checklist for things that American Black women statistically experience, I would use a lot of ink. However, throughout my life, I have been trying to break away from the stereotypes that America has forced on my demographic.

However, like Van, I have struggled to be seen for my strengths and accomplishments, and have had to fight break peoples’ unjustified opinions of me. My successes have constantly been overlooked and I have been systematically placed into the ‘baby mama’ narrative. It is exhausting.

So where do I go from here?

Van’s character appears to submit at the end of the episode, expressing how tired she is of fighting. I can only speak for myself, but I can speculate that the majority of Black women in America are tired, as well. It is exhausting to try to maintain your own identity when the world is forcing on you their idea of who you should be. Unlike Van, however, I am not too tired to continue to push back, and there are many other educated Black women who are pushing back, too. As a community, we must support each other. We need to continue to push away the stereotypes, the misinformation, and the ‘baby mama’ narrative. No matter where you are in life, you must not lose your humanity and if you are Black woman, you must support other Black women despite what label has been assigned to them.

 

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