Did you know that Black women are viewed as more similar to Black men than to other women who are white? It’s true according to according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. As a result, some social justice movements are failing to advocate for the rights of Black women.
Black women are often overlooked in conversations about racism and sexism — even though they face a unique combination of both of these forms of discrimination simultaneously. This ‘intersectional invisibility’ means that movements that are supposed to help all women may be contributing to the marginalization of those who are Black. For example, feminist groups that focus on issues that predominantly affect White women without addressing racially motivated sexism.
There are higher rates of police abuse, sexual violence, and domestic and sexual abuse from their partners for Black women than white women. Black women are also less likely to report this violence. Studies have found that Black women and girls are more associated with threat and danger than are white women and girls. One study reported that adults see black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection than white girls. Thus, Black girls are disciplined more harshly in schools and in the juvenile justice system. Black women are also expected to be strong for their families and communities, often resulting in their financial, physical, and emotional exhaustion, as well as experiences of trauma.
It’s important to remember that Black women who experience high levels of trauma, including interpersonal violence, childhood sexual abuse, and other forms abuse, have greater needs for substance use and mental health treatment . Yet, historically they have less access to care. And when they do access behavioral health services, they are of lower quality.
It’s time to dispel the myth of the “strong Black woman” and ensure that social and treatment services understand their specific vulnerabilities, as well as strengths. No one is strong all the time. And that only makes us more human.