The Blessings and Burdens of being Black

burdenA burden by definition is a load that is especially heavy for one to carry. A blessing, on the contrary, is a beneficial thing for which one is grateful.  Is it feasible for someone to be grateful for a load that is especially heavy for them to carry?  I submit to you that it depends on the load.  There is not a day that I rise that I am not grateful that God made me a Black woman.  This is true.  I am honored and proud to be Black.  But there is another truth; and it is that I’ve had some negative experiences as a direct result of being Black.

Today I would like for readers to reflect upon a burden that is carried and rarely spoken of.  It is the burden of being Black.  In the same vein, I ask readers to identify blessings of being Black.  I have asked friends and family (across gender, socioeconomic, and demographic strata) to provide their perspective and highlight what they see as some of the blessings and burdens of being Black.  Their responses are honest and thought provoking.  I implore you to take a gander.

Some of the BLESSINGS of being Black:

  1. I love the fellowship of sistaness and the support and love from Black brothas.  I love how we celebrate and lament our lives together.
  2. Though I have been fed lies as a Black man, the validity of my worth as a human isn’t hinged on another group of people feeling less than.
  3. It is a blessing that many Blacks have developed a sympathy for the un-white/ non-western world.
  4. As a Black woman, I feel powerful.  Knowing that some people’s perception of me incite feelings of intimidation, gives me a slight advantage and presumed confidence.
  5. Blacks have a culture that encompasses a lot of good, including THE ABILITY TO DANCE!
  6. We are blessed to possess DNA that enabled us to survive the treacherous roar of the Middle Passage. Blacks all over the world were stripped from their homeland only to be beaten and starved in every corner of the earth. Somehow we now outnumber the Europeans who trafficked us. Our greatest blessing is biologically proven strength.
  7. I don’t know what the blessing is of being Black, said a 5 year old girl.
  8. Black women are stigmatized as strong and overbearing. I find this a blessing because in leadership roles, especially at work, when decisions have to be made as a lead administrator, people are not surprised by my “strong personality” and tend to follow more willingly. It’s sort of a catch 22 because in my world where I work with older white men, women in general are not expected to be very vocal or to have strong opinions. As a black woman, I unfortunately get a “pass.” They may even talk about me and stereotype me, but they do what I ask them to do. This stigmatization/stereotype makes me less likely to be incorrectly handled or taken advantage of in a work environment.
  9. It is a blessing to be a part of a strong heritage.  When I look at what we have overcome as a people, and even in my own family, I am reminded of the strength that my ancestors have walked in before me.  I remind my children of their heritage to realize that no matter what they face, they come from a lineage of over-comers.
  10. The African Diaspora is beautiful. The harmony of colors found in a people group. The collective community. The pride of surviving hate crimes against our skin with love. We are a grateful people who have learned that weapons drawn against you can be a witness of grace for future generations.

Some of the BURDENS of being Black

  1. I don’t view being Black as a blessing or a burden. I view other people’s reaction to the fact that I’m black as the burden.
  2. As a Black male, it is a burden to fight for the freedom of an independent existence without the burden of stereotypes, generalizations, and unfair expectations.
  3. It is a burden to get others who’ve succumbed to the oppression of Blacks, to see the light.
  4. As an American descendant of the African diaspora, I am confronted with the barrier of conformity on a regular basis. Most blacks will experience an inability to conform to their Eurocentric environments without losing a portion of who God created them to be. The workplace provides an excellent example, as natural hair can present a problem in many corporate environments. Unfortunately, the barrier of conformity extends far beyond the workplace.
  5. The profiling of Black people sometimes turns out to be true. Our communities need more role models because we often fall into the stereo types that are placed on us.
  6. It burdens me that Blacks are presumed guilty and incompetent until proven otherwise.
  7. As a young Black teenage male, I am burdened when I see  that other students (of other races, white particularly) are allowed to be outspoken on any topic and not be called out by the teacher. On the other hand, when I am outspoken on the exact same thing, I’m told to quiet down or not share my views.
  8. Blacks have to work twice as hard as our white counterparts, only to get half as far as they have. This speaks, I feel, to the work place. Biases, perceptions, experiences, and the media paint a picture of African Americans that we have to overcome to gain respect in the marketplace (sometimes not given the benefit of the doubt).
  9. I am burdened that I have to prove over and over that being Black doesn’t make me who others think I am.  I’m just as good as anybody. The color of my skin does not define who I am.
  10. I hate having to prove that my Black experience is valid…over and over and over again.  It’s so hard – and sometimes I have to do it with other Black people too.  I also grieve at the colorism – why in the heck would I ever be more beautiful than my sistas that are darker than me?
  11. It burdens me that we are still fighting for something which every human is entitle to, and that is equality.
  12. I am burdened by the media’s repeated negative portrayal of the Black community because some folks then take these misconceptions/inaccurate portrayals (along with other preconceived notions and judgments) to dictate how they treat the Black diaspora.
  13. As a Black man in America, I am constantly put under the radar whenever I step outside of the box. I am still not welcomed with open arms until proving that I am not what others fear.
  14. I struggle not necessarily as a black woman, but as a black woman with natural hair. There is something about natural, kinky textured hair that is less acceptable in corporate America. Most of my counterparts have hair that is bone straight or the black women have perms/straightened hair. When I meet new people or have to be the face of the department at an event, I always pull my hair back. I never wear It out for the fear that I will be taken less seriously or perceived as less professional than my counter parts. I have to work twice as hard to make sure that people not only see beyond my skin color, but beyond my hair as well.
  15. Blacks are captured and live on captured land.  The fertility of our land has been removed from our hands and so our opportunity for wealth. Our minds have been captured by concepts of superiority, favoritism and division based on race. Our hearts have been removed from our communities and have assimilated into an individualistic paradigm leaving us disengaged and vulnerable.
As in the lyrics of the song, “Glory” by John Legend, is there a possibility for the “…Sins that go against our skin to become blessings?” Can our burdens be turned into blessings? I believe that some of them have. This blog has been written in honor of Black History Month, to provide a sneak peek into some of the present day predilections of various generations of Black people.  However, blessings and burdens are not exclusive to one ethnicity.  I hope this post will help us all acknowledge that each ethnic group possesses blessings and burdens of being born into that particular group.  As I spoke with many who provided input for this blog, they mentioned the natural tendency to focus on the burdens and the difficulty of identifying blessings.  There is no doubt that these burdens are heavy, but if we all lift together, it will be lighter.  I have found my burdens much easier to bear when others simply recognize that what I am “carrying” is too heavy and they come along side me to help me lift.  They lift even if my burden was not their burden initially.    For me, many of my friends and family have helped me lift my confidence, my courage, and my pride in the beauty of this hue I’ve been given.    Whose burden can you help lift today?  #itdoesntmatterifyouareblackorwhite  #helpliftsomeonesburden
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

2 Replies to “The Blessings and Burdens of being Black”

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