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Still She Rises: Celebrating the Strength of Black Women


Whether fighting racism, misogyny, or HIV, Black women have always persevered in the face of adversity.

Did you know that Black women are the most educated demographic of people in the United States? Many of you may not have known that based on the narrative that has been created about us. Society doesn’t like to tell you how educated and accomplished we are, and if they do it is always called into question by someone. Society will take all our positive attributes and spin them into something else. They will tell you that Black women are not assertive but aggressive, not bold but hostile, not confident but arrogant. Not enough and too much at the same time.

Black women continue to be the most devalued group of people in America, even though we make the world go around and have been for years. Black women go to work, take care of their kids, their kids’ kids, their significant other, their parents, the elderly couple up the street, the people at church, and then if we have anything left...ourselves. Since the days of slavery, we have been taking care of other people and putting ourselves last. We have had to exist in multiple settings and constantly adapt to our surroundings. We must keep calm and maintain our composure as we face discrimination and mistreatment.

We saw this play out recently as millions watched Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. She has more accomplishments and qualifications than all the other justices, yet she had to deal with gendered racism and ridiculous questions that had nothing to do with her ability to hold the position. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson questioned her LSAT scores. In the hearings, Ted Cruz asked her if she thought a baby depicted in a book was racist. Marsha Blackburn asked her to give the definition of a woman. None of these questions, among many others, have anything to do with the scope of her job. Despite the nonsense thrown at her, she remained calm and poised. Compare that to Brett Kavanaugh, who cried and raised his voice when asked questions that he didn’t like. A Black woman could never do that without facing ridicule. We must keep it together and persevere. Black women always persevere.

The same remains true when it comes to HIV. While HIV prevalence among women has decreased in recent years, Black women still account for 60 percent of new HIV diagnoses among all women. In the transgender community, it is estimated that 50 percent of Black trans women are living with HIV. Even with advances in HIV treatment and prevention and success in reducing new HIV diagnoses, Black women remain vulnerable. There is no doubt that misogynoir (the hatred of Black women) and transphobia contribute to this. There is no doubt that these women have faced stigma and discrimination. And there is no doubt that these women have persevered.

I encourage Black women of all identities to be mindful of the narratives that people create about them or that we create about ourselves. Know that we are assertive, not aggressive. We are bold, not hostile. We are confident, not arrogant. We deserve to be seen and heard. We deserve success and opportunity. We deserve love and good health. We are not too much. We are just enough.

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Ashley Innes