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The notion of Black Girl Magic is cute and marketable, but there is nothing cute about the way that Black women are unprotected, mistreated and underrepresented in conversations surrounding mental health, intimate partner violence and overall protection in the Black community. Women like Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, activist Toyin Salau and now Megan Thee Stallion are just a few names in the public sector that have been swept under the rug, not taken seriously or have become the butt of social media’s latest joke. Regardless of her awards and an amazing career in the rap industry, this traumatic incident, which we’ve only seen from blurry clips on social media, could have easily ended Megan’s life. Now, instead of showing her the love and support we should have from the beginning, it was easier for social media goers to crack Harlem Nights related comments and joke about her sexuality.
On Monday (July 27), Megan took to her Instagram Live for an emotional confession about the current state of her mental health, coping with the loss of her mother, and how she is learning and growing as a 25-year-old.
Though her knees may be strong, we shouldn’t expect this “savage” to be just that all the time. Yes, she’s classy, bougie, ratchet, sassy, moody and nasty — but she’s a human. She’s a person who hurts, cries and laughs like the rest of us. Being a Black woman is already a doubled disadvantage in today’s society, but being a chart-topping rapper and Black woman in the public eye cannot be an easy day-in-the-life.
Unfortunately, we missed the ball on this one because we waited until she stripped back all of her layers and the confidence she often exudes, and gave us who she is as a person to realize that her mental health has been compromised.
More than ever, Black women need support. There is no backbone like a Black woman, so it’s nearly flabbergasting to believe that those who weren’t even bystanders in an encounter as traumatizing as Megan’s would not even hesitate to create memes and threads around being shot. Black women’s pain and suffering is a joke to many, and that’s not okay. The idea of a strong Black woman has become so glamorized and a staple in Black culture that when the slight chip in the porcelain doll is seen, we either paint right over it or throw the whole thing away. We have done a poor job at being there for our women.
Just to name one example, John Legend’s wife, Chrissy Teigen, put out a tasteless tweet following news that Megan had been shot. Though she is typically crowned one of the clap back queens with the tightest Twitter fingers, it’s never the right time to poke fun at someone who is currently in recovery from a violent attack. Sure, the joke probably did not intentionally mean any harm or ill-will, but that was not the time. Though her issued public apology seemed genuine, some of Teigen’s own loyal followers considered it too insensitive and poorly timed because of the rapper’s condition.
Unfortunately, social media is everyone’s playground and users are free to play however they please. As we all know, some don’t play fair. Surprisingly, Draya Michele, a fellow Black woman and public figure forgot the old saying, “Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you.” As a Black woman herself, it was shameful that Michele spewed her predictions of the chain of events that left Megan shot.
The rapper didn’t take lightly to this commentary — and she shouldn’t have. There is nothing “likable” or “shareable” about a traumatic event in a Black woman’s life. This isn’t clickbait. This is real life.
Women in the music industry from Summer Walker’s admission to her struggles with mental health to Tamar Braxton’s reported suicide attempt have clearly demonstrated how misogynistic, heartless and vulturous gossip blogs and hecklers can be in the wake of heartbreaking events. Shall we even get started on the amount of victim-blaming that Rihanna had received after her domestic violence relationship with Chris Brown back in 2009? The receipts on the lack of support and compassion for Black women are endless in the music industry alone. Megan’s story is tragic, but not new. This has come in way too many forms.
Even involuntarily when we watch a movie and spew shameless commentary blaming the protagonist for “putting herself” in a dangerous situation with an abusive partner, that in itself is problematic. It doesn’t register to us that we’re victim-blaming because the strong Black woman is always supposed to be wise and ahead of the curve. So, in the event that she’s human and makes a mistake or something traumatic happens to her, we jest or we fault her for something that was not in her control. On our screens alone, whether it be television, movie theaters or Netflix, the narrative of the strong Black woman is over-glamorized and under-analyzed. Being told that they’re “strong” is not something that they always need to hear. The definition of the word has been misconstrued and miscommunicated like a bad game of Telephone. What does the word even mean anymore?
Black women are automatically pre-registered into the “strong Black woman” club without notification. Strong should not equate to being desensitized and sweeping our feelings under the rug until the lump is large enough for the next person who enters to trip over it. Strength is acknowledging your weaknesses, being vulnerable with the ones you love and allowing yourself to break down in order to build yourself back up. Strength is protecting your brothers and sisters when they can’t protect themselves. Strength is speaking up when you need protection. Strength is implementing self-care in the way that works for you. Strength is knowing that you don’t have everything together, but you want it bad enough to keep going. Strength is pushing, working and healing through the pain rather than moving pass it on a surface level. Strength is reparenting yourself to healthily redefine what that word means to you despite every stereotype in the book about Black women.
The unfortunate circumstances of Megan’s event is just the most recent example of, as the rapper said, Black women being unprotected. This is more than just a Twitter trend or content for the gossip blogs. This is a Black woman’s real life experience and many are giving it the breath it needs to go viral in the most negative light possible.
Strength for Megan Thee Stallion is taking control of her story and sharing it when she is ready, and not succumbing to the pressures packaged with being a celebrity.
We can’t say Black Lives Matter when Black women are still left on the outskirts of the conversations. Instead of being so quick to retweet a meme or say a seemingly meaningless comment, take the time to assess whether or not you’re giving life to the problem at hand or putting out the fire. Protect Black women not just physically, but emotionally and mentally; today, tomorrow and yesterday. Black women’s mental health matters.