At first glance, placing black women on a pedestal and creating a mythological image of them as “superheroes” or virtual “demi-goddesses” would seem a positive way to bolster their collective image.
But thought leaders within the black community said inflating the reality of black women to unreal proportions does more harm than good. It creates a caricature of black women that is ultimately problematic.
A far better take is to appreciate black women for what they are – human beings who both triumph and fail as they get up every day and take their place as an integral element in the fabric of American society.
The issue of mythologizing black women was raised in the national consciousness recently when 23-year-old Amanda Gorman was tapped to make a presentation at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden. Gorman is America’s National Youth Poet Laureate. After her bracing and inspirational performance, media observers and social critics wrote about her as if she were a “magical being” with the power to save the United States from itself.
That’s a burden that should be placed on no one, much less a 23-year-old poet. Yes, Gorman can inspire and provide literary fuel for positive social movements, but she’s just one voice. She is a young black woman amid a complex American society still struggling at its core with issues of racial equality.
The media occasionally latches onto an extraordinary black woman for accomplishing something remarkable, but it does so in a way that hypes the situation for a time, only to abandon it as soon as the news cycle is ready to grind on.
A good example is Stacey Abrams. The former George state legislator and the gubernatorial candidate is rightfully credited with turning the U.S. Senate from Republican control to Democrat control. Her voting drive efforts in the Peach State were instrumental in putting now Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock over the top.
The trouble is, the incredible feat pulled off by Ms. Abrams tends to make large swaths of the population believe that when there is an intractable problem to solve, all one must do is shine the “black woman bat signal” in the sky.
However, all black women already take care of all kinds of large and small problems as a matter of routine. Black women don’t need to be mythologized. They’re out there taking care of business every day.