My mother is the greatest woman that I know or know of, yet I wouldn’t describe her as “strong”.
I would describe her as clever, shrewd, and frequently outraged, intellectually curious and open to any and all possibilities.
She is kind and she is beautiful, quick with her wit, slick with her tongue, among the best in her field (database programming) and ready to be anything but wrong.
Nobody’s laughter is more sudden, startling, or contagious.
She raised me as a single parent and badmouthed my father almost as much as she gave him credit.
She was overprotective and underconcerned, confident that I’d make plenty of mistakes but sure that I’d pull through.
It took a lot to see her as a woman outside of being a mother—my mother—but I’m glad that I finally did and as such she was even more spectacular.
She’s fly as a teenager with her fashion, she also was—and is—always out there, out front, doing whatever it is that gets one noticed, but not because she wants to be noticed, just because out front is where you’ll find the best view of the action.
But I still wouldn’t describe her as “strong”.
She put me through college by herself and picked me up (and held me up) whenever I stumbled and fell.
And I can’t even say that she did this because it was the right thing to do or because she loved me. Not that I doubt that either one of those are true, but it’s just that in my mom’s case, she simply doesn’t know any other way to be.
So is that strength?
We hear so much about “Strong Black Women”—recently even newly crowned NBA MVP Derrick Rose described his mother as a “Strong Black Woman”—that it almost seems as if the words “Black woman” should also, by definition, have the word “strong” implied.
But “strength” is a masculine trait.
And as the psychological warfare continues that is now trying to explain to us that Black women are the ugliest women alive because they have more testosterone than other women, forgive me if I don’t feel comfortable using any terms even remotely manly when describing someone as lovely, tender and delicate as my mother.
Suffice it to say, I always believed that Nikki Giovanni wrote Ego Trippin’ with her in mind.
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