Calling a Black woman strong is typically seen as a compliment that acknowledges the racial as well as gender discrimination they have faced, when in reality, the correlation of Black women and strength can be deadly. The idea that Black women are strong has resulted in the “adultification” of Black girls, the lack of empathy shown to Black women, and the implicit bias and racial disparities in the healthcare system.
In a study by Georgetown Law, they found that adults see Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their White peers. It is not a privilege that Black girls are seen this way, in fact it is the direct opposite. Because there are already discrepancies in law enforcement, the idea that Black girls are “strong” and more mature leads to harsher punishments and more use of force against young Black girls than young White girls.
This doesn’t only apply to law enforcement, the same image of Black girls is deeply ingrained in education as well. Black girls are punished harsher by administration and school resource officers for things that would be considered typical child behavior if a child of a different race did it. They are also less likely to receive help from their teachers, or be called on when raising their hand in class.
The idea of Black girls being “strong” translates into adults believing they need less protection, nurturing, assistance, and that they don’t need to be treated like the children they are.
“Adultification is a form of dehumanization, robbing Black children of the very essence of what makes childhood distinct from all other developmental periods: innocence” -GeorgeTown Law’s study, “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood”
This dehumanization continues into Black women’s adult lives. In a book titled “Invisible Visits: Black Middle-Class Women in the American Healthcare System,” Tina Parks Sacks, an assistant professor of social welfare at UC Berkeley, explains the disparities in the healthcare system that leads to the mistreatment of Black women.
In her book she talks about how a lot of doctors (even pediatrics) are trained to treat pain based on racial profiling, according to Berkeley News. This results in higher mortality rates during childbirth for Black women than White women because of the lack of empathy shown to Black women and the notion that they are more resistant to pain. To be specific, Black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not only that, but Black women are less likely to be recommended genetic testing when they need it, less likely to receive pain medication from ER Physicians even when displaying the same symptoms and pain levels as a white patient, and more likely to be misdiagnosed than their White counterparts.
So while commending Black women’s strength is intended to be a compliment, it is why there is so little empathy shown to Black women. It is why young Black girls are treated like adults. It is why Black women have higher mortality rates in the medical field. It is why Black women are one of the most unprotected, and overlooked groups of people in the United States of America.