last week, tamar braxton broke down on her television show the real about facing constant bullying on social media. the popular singer and reality tv star has been the recipient of verbal attacks by many, including chris brown and k.michelle. in an era where “shade” and “reads” less than 140 characters can travel at the speed of light, taking shots has never been more toxic.
i’ll always remember the anger in my grandmother’s face when i told her that i was being bullied; however, she wasn’t mad at the bully. she was mad at me. how dare i come home and cry about being psychologically tormented? at seven years old, my responsibility was to use any ammunition at my disposal to clap back. her anger was my first conditioning into a lifestyle that black women know all too well — not to experience pain when hurt, but to hurt others.
i come from a long line of truth-telling women who annihilate the unworthy with words. when words don’t work, they’re known to lay hands. this violent experience of black womanhood is not unique to my family, and represents the mechanism we’ve adopted to survive both patriarchy and white supremacy. our tongues of fire protected us through slavery and racial apartheid, and continue to serve as a safeguard, even when our safety isn’t threatened. welding negative power is better than having none at all.
such negative power is captured in the “strong black woman” stereotype, a depiction of black womanhood that has taught us strength requires toxicity. affirming ourselves beyond the superficial and practicing self-care is weak. affirming other black women and leading with kindness is extremely weak. what’s most ironic is that given our oppression, black women being kind to one another is actually the strongest thing we can do.
we should be ashamed that tamar braxton was brought to tears on national television because of the black community’s abuse. it’s frustrating that so many of us have been raised to construe negative critiques as love that we deny the harm caused by verbal assault. until black women change the definition of strength to include self-care and unapologetic kindness, our emotional well-being will continue to suffer.