Why African-American Women ‘Make it Happen’


While sitting at a symposium this week, the following question was asked regarding African-American women:

Why is it that we always have to make it work?

As I rolled the question around in my head, I constantly came up with the same answer. We do it because we have to. After realizing that there was so much behind that thought I began to think about how far that answer went.

African-American women have been making it work for centuries. That’s all we know how to do. We make sure we can bring home the bacon and throw it in the pan. We just DO!!! I don’t know why but we do.

I think it because for decades we just didn’t have a choice. At first it was out of necessity. Slave owners often ripped families apart and most women did what they had to in order to survive. Later on, in the 50s and 60s, women were forced to make what their partners brought home work. They were also put in the position where their partners had to work far away to bring home a less than livable wage, while the women at home did odd jobs to “make it happen” or “make it work.”

Fast forward a decade or two and you have women working to prove their independence or being put in situations that force them to hit the pavement. So when did we start just “making it happen?”

It seems like it’s from the beginning. However, as a young African-American mother I also see where it could be detrimental. Because we are so used to just doing, we often don’t know when to don’t. I’m not saying I walk around stripping men of their masculinity, but I’m not really opening myself up to them being able to the lead either. While I know I can pump my own gas, take my car to be serviced, and (in my old 1990 Toyota Corolla) change my own engine oil, would I be able to step down if one of my African American brothers decided to do it for me?

I can do. What I’m unsure about is whether I can’t.

I’ve been forced to just do for so long that I find myself often turning down the request to pump my gas, carry my groceries up the stairs or to take out the trash. We’ve been taught for so many years to be I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T that I think some of us find it even harder to allow ourselves to depend on anyone, even if it’s a kind gesture that lasts no longer than five minutes.

We put up our backsplashes, we can landscape our yards and what we can’t do is make ourselves vulnerable to someone else. We are too busy guarding our hearts, making our money, raising our babies to worry about the manboys that society has produced for us. So many manboys that we don’t even see the men among them. Fancy that.

I think Alicia Keys sums it up in her song ‘Superwoman’.

“And I’m breaking down, and I can’t be found, Cause I start to get weak, cause no knows me underneath these clothes, I can fly, we can fly oh

Oh let me tell you I am superwoman, yes I am, oh yeah.

Cause even when I’m a mess, I still put on a vest with a “S” on my chest, oh yes.

I’m Superwoman, said I’m a superwoman.”

A woman forced to be Superwoman while waiting on a Superman. So in the meantime, we just do.


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