Bethel Biru" />
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Sunday, September 24, 2023


The essence of blackness rests on Black women’s shoulders

Even if their stories weren’t told or transcribed into history books, black women have always been at the front line in the fight for equality. As key elements and essential to our very existence, many of the benefits we reap today were given to us because of the struggles of black women, known and often unknown.

To be a black girl is to be the backbone of humanity, gracefully embracing our obligations to serve as society’s mother, continuously giving birth to life itself in hope of creating better generations for our people.

History has taught us that black women are the most neglected but the most needed. From leading the civil rights movement like Coretta Scott King to valiantly fighting to end segregation in schools like Daisy Bates, black women have been keeping the nation alive by involuntarily bearing its weight on their backs, yet no one seemed to properly honor them.

Fannie Lou Hamer shed light on the struggles of black people in Mississippi. | Courtesy of Warren K. Leffler, Wikimedia Commons

From a young age, it’s ingrained into our heads that we have to be twice as good to get half of what everyone else has got. We’re taught to give our all but not to expect anything in return, and we are constantly reminded to hold our tongues and become more passive in order to avoid being the angry black girl.

Growing up as one of the only black girls in my school wasn’t as bad as it could have been. They just couldn’t seem to grasp the culture difference between Africans and black Americans. Of course there were times when I was challenged about my race, being asked “Why don’t you act black?” A couple minutes into conversation and the infamous and common “you’re not black, black” saying gets thrown in there, often accompanied by a proud smile as if it were the indicative of some untapped potential I had.

Coretta Scott King was a integral contributor to Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for civil rights and racial equality. | Courtesy of Warren K. Leffler, Wikimedia Commons

My Ethiopian heritage may have been different from the African American one, but I still faced the same racism and microaggressions as black Americans. I still checked the same box — black.

God bless the women who refused to bend under pressure and broke free from the chains of obligation. God bless women like Fannie Lou Hamer, whose passionate depiction of her own suffering due to racism was so moving it brought President Lyndon Johnson to call an impromptu press conference in an attempt to divert attention from her testimony; women like Miriam Makeba, whose South African passport was revoked for denouncing apartheid on the world stage and campaigning overseas for the end of the oppressive policy.

Their words set the world ablaze as they demanded for their voices to be heard, proving that just because a black woman has strong opinions and is vocal about her thoughts doesn’t make her angry. It makes her human. 

I’m inspired by women like Marsha P. Johnson, who bravely spoke out against the harassment of LGBTQ people in New York and Ruby Bridges, who was just six and set America aflame by being the first black child to racially integrate an all-white elementary school in the South.

I’m inspired by all black mothers, who nurture and raise children in a world that shoots them down for wearing a hoodie or sitting alone in a park holding a toy gun.

Our history as black people in America is rich. The food we eat and the dances and music we create continues to build and shape society. It’s safe to say there would be no America without the major contributions of black people.

Ruby Bridges had to be escorted by four federal marshals to attend an all white elementary school five blocks from her home. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The very reason the essence of blackness hasn’t ceased to exist is because of the sacrifices of black women.

Our story consists of greatness woven by the golden touch of our ancestors: the warriors, the queens, the aunties, the grandmothers. Knocking down barriers and breaking glass ceilings, black women continue to propel us into a future greater than any known before.

God bless black women, and may they continue to thrive. May this world begin repaying the massive debt it owes to black women by giving them the recognition they deserve.

Opinion assistant Bethel Biru is a broadcast journalist senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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