Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Fortitudinous Femininity: Black Women's Resilience in the Face of Struggle

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Fortitudinous Femininity: Black Women's Resilience in the Face of Struggle

Article excerpt

In response to the delaying tactics used by the U.S. Senate to stall the recent confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the first Black female United States Attorney General, a confederation of Black female leaders from across the country met on Capitol Hill and prayed. This behavior, characterized by news media as unprecedented, is far from unusual for Black women, especially those who acknowledge and persistently fight against the barrage of discrimination dually felt by this group of American citizens. While Lynch's confirmation is yet another victory for the United States as she joins a group of unique Black women who have made history by crashing down the wall of marginalization, for most Black women her achievement is only a brick falling from that wall. Black women continue to experience less success in the areas of political representation, economic/ family stability, professional/business development, health and educational achievement than Black males, White females and White males collectively. These inequalities exist despite a relentless battle waged by Black women against forces such as Ronald Reagan's iconic depiction of the Black welfare queen. This icon and other media images have henceforth perpetuated the myth of lazy, government-draining Black women who created their own despair.

Far from slothful are Black women who propel themselves to press forward in the face of insurmountable challenge. A long history of shouldering burdens for their entire families rests with Black women who played numerous roles in the struggle against African American bondage in the United States. At a time when marriage was often denied to Black women, a precedent of managing independently under extreme circumstances became their norm during American slavery. After Emancipation and up until World War II, Black women experienced an increase in marriage and statistically enjoyed the support of an assumed advocate at the very least in their domestic lives. Currently, however, Black women are the least likely group to marry and those with children are more likely to participate in the labor force despite being the most unemployed group among all women of Color. On the home front, Black women are anything but lazy and they often manage the trials of home and family life without the benefit of a dedicated partner.

In the professional world, Black women report their efforts as invisible, and this is confirmed through the inconsistencies between their qualifications, interest in leadership positions, history and experience, and commitment to organizations that go unrecognized when individuals are selected for succession planning programs and ultimately placed in senior positions. Black women are essentially trapped by the stereotypes that doom them. All professionals suffer when they choose passivity by keeping their heads down, working hard and waiting to be recognized for their contributions--a practice often used by Black women who do not want to rock the boat off its mainstream. Furthermore, Black women are recognizably challenged if they reject passive behaviors with strong vocalizations of their skills or contradictions of the organizational practices that would diminish or assault their abilities to be promoted and are rewarded with banishment from the inner circle and labeled as the angry Black female.

These disparities continue into the realm of health where the psychological stresses of living Black and female manifest as physical ailments for many Black women. High blood pressure and breast cancer affect Black women at rates far above their racial and gender counterparts and the mortality rates of these diseases, along with pregnancy complications/mortality as a health condition; far outpace the rates of other women in the U.S. Attempting to address every problem in their immediate and extended families and suffering in silence at work are practices utilized to cope with home life and provide economic stability that contribute significantly to the internalized emotions directly compromising Black women's health. …

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