”De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see”-Zora Neale Hurston
Depression and Black girls. Those words don’t belong in the same sentence. Right? Well recent studies have come out dispels the myth of the ”strong, independent Black Woman” that shows that Black girls between the ages of ten and fourteen are experiencing higher rates of depression than ever before. The advent of social media is seen as the culprit that is leading to so many Black girls being depression in their early teens. However I believe that there are many more issues affecting many young, Black girls that is leading to so many being depressed. Hence I believe that it is important to address many social issues affecting Black girls and women to help find solutions to the problems that we face in society.
Depression is becoming a rising problem for teenagers as time goes on. About 11.3% of teenagers between the ages of twelve and seventeen have depression, that has gone untreated. This number has increased from 8.7% in 2005. Among young adults between ages eighteen and twenty five, 9.6% of them suffer from depression, that has gone untreated. One in eleven young adults have had a major depression episode in the past year. Often times, those who are diagnosed with depression were Black, female and suffered from bouts of addiction to drugs. Researchers have contributed to the rise of depression among Black girls to cyber bullying on social media outlets. This problem isn’t limited to America either. Rates of depression and self harm is also prevalent among Black girls in Great Britain. While I do believe that there is some truth to the influence of cyber bullying on social media outlets, I believe that there are other underlying and blatant factors, that is leading to the rising problem of depression among young, Black girls.
Even though I am a college student, I am not too far away from childhood or adolescence. It wasn’t long ago when I was in high school. I vividly remember my middle and high school years like it was yesterday. Anyways, what does this have to do with the rising rates of depression among Black girls. Since I believe that the study posted on Daily Mail was rather vague, I will use my own experiences to find more reasons why the rates if depression are increasing among Black girls.
Many Black girls and young Black women are verbally and physically abused at home. Often times, their mothers put their daughters in dangerous and compromising positions where they are the ones doing all the work while their sons are coddled. They teach their daughters to suck it up and be ”strong” and ”independent” as a coping mechanism to survive the racism and sexism that they will experience in the outer world and street harassment, cat calls, colorism, sexism and misogyny they face in their own communities. Showing emotion was discouraged because it meant showing weakness. These girls were also taught how to cook, do house work and take care of their siblings while their mothers work. Worse, some of these Black girls grew up in homes where the mother was abusive or they are experiencing divorce between their parents or they were adopted by a foster family. The stress from growing up in dysfunctional and disadvantaged homes can be very detrimental to the psyche of many Black girls in their early teens.
Being mistreated and bullied in school is another experience that can cause depression in young girls particularly Black girls. Studies have shown that Black girls are twice as likely to be suspended from school as their White counterparts. Many Black girls find themselves being rejected and ostracized by their peers due to their race and gender. Particularly if she is a dark skin girl. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, don’t have the same problems with fitting into school settings like Black girls do. Many school children look down on Black girls or expect them to act out stereotypes to affirm their beliefs about Black womanhood. Or they face peer pressure from their peers to fit in and act, think and talk like the rest of them. Worst of all, little Black girls are being fed images that they are unattractive, unworthy of love and undesirable by media and society, at large. Black girls face in society doesn’t deter the negative effects that it places on the psyche of Black girls in America and other Western countries.
However, the most heartbreaking and painstaking form of abuse takes place among Black communities. Many Black women can attest to the catcalls and street harassment that they face while walking anywhere in their neighborhoods as a child. There are even stories being told of them being sexually molested or violated by male relatives and acquaintances. In fact, a statistic showed that 60% of Black girls are sexually molested before their eighteenth birthday. For every Black woman that reports her rape, fifteen of them don’t. Couple that with the effects of generational poverty and lack of guidance from adults that were supposed to protect them, many Black girls feel depressed because they were taught to shut up and suck it up. They were taught to overlook whatever struggles and tension that was in their life and take on the responsibility of being a parent, protector or provider to their households and families. Black women and girls were always taught to be strong and resilient in the face of adversity while their male counterparts walk out on their responsibilities. Or when they are facing abuse in the outer society. Or raising children all by themselves. The worst failure committed by Black people particularly Black males is the failure to protect Black girls. Since it is a belief that Black girls are ”strong”, they don’t feel the need to protect Black girls’ innocence from predators, who seek to harm them in their own communities and families. Often times, many people in the Black collective especially older Black women shame Black girls, who were victims of pedophiles and molesters and call them ”fast” as a way to keep these girls ”in their place”. And if a Black woman does report her abuse, she is accused of trying to ”bring down the Black man” and allying herself with the White supremacist system. Either way, Black girls can’t win or survive untarnished in living in Black residential communities, which is why I believe it is much more dangerous to live in such communities than outside of it.
Personally, I find the social atmosphere of America very toxic and detrimental to the health of Black girls and women. Black womanhood is always under attack by non Blacks and Black people alike. Black woman’s likelihood and image is tarnished in the media by baseless studies proving that she isn’t marriageable, attractive or worthy of love, respect and esteem. Her image is being erased and downplayed by having biracial, multiracial, racially ambiguous and non Black women portray her life in the media. Black woman’s likelihood and image is tarnished in Black collective with Rap lyrics calling her a bitch, hoe and thot and the likes of Tommy Sotomayor making videos generalizing Black women as hair hatted hooligans, whores, bad mothers and every stereotype under the bus. Social media plays a role in this because social media is being used to push these stereotypical notions of Black girls and women. In fact, Tommy Sotomayor uses Youtube to post videos putting down Black women. If it hurts to see your image erased or others bashing your image, cyber bullying of Black girls is on the rise. Even comedian, Leslie Jones wasn’t immune to being attacked by racists on social media for her role in the remake of the Ghost Busters. Many Black girls find themselves being attacked on social media for posting varying opinions or posts that is different from others or just for being Black and female. I know this all too well because I have experienced such assault on social media too many times. Being surrounded by a toxic social atmosphere can really negatively impact the mental and emotional state of Black girls to the point that they can be depressed.
Worst of all, Black girls seem to dislike other Black girls. Black girls pick each other apart from the way they dress, wear their hair, talk, think etc. I know this all too well because I experience passive aggressive and sometimes overt aggression from other Black women. In fact, the worst experiences with customer service in public revenues has been from other Black women! I experienced many Black women spread rumors about me not being a Black woman due to my name and Facebook profile(which I recently deleted) in the so called Black Woman Empowerment spaces, which is partially why I no longer look at those spaces. In fact, one of the women in these so called Black Woman Empowerment spaces said that the term, ”sisterhood” plays into patriarchy and men’s needs. What? And I know that I am not the only Black woman that experiences this either. Way too many Black woman and girls experience people that look just like that go against them because many of these women hate themselves and take it out on other Black women. Or they are in competition with each other and feel jealous of the other Black woman. It is unfortunate considering the fact that Black women are the only people that we have to protect our interests, but it is best to find like minded Black woman that is for unity among other Black women.
What can be done to prevent rates of depression among Black girls from being higher than they are right now?
First of all, I believe that there needs to be safe spaces for young, Black girls to come together and discuss whatever problem that they are having in their lives. Safe spaces like shelters and homes designed for Black girls to go to in case of trouble. Or online spaces that are specifically geared towards Black women. Once more safe spaces are created for Black girls and women, more of us will be reassured that they aren’t alone in their fight. This is one of the reasons why I created my blog so that Black girls and women can have a safe space to talk about their hopes and dreams without disruption. Having shelters and homes designed for young Black girls is helpful for Black girls living in abused or disadvantaged homes. Then more Black girls and women will realize that there aren’t alone in their fight against depression and confide in each other to better themselves.
Once safe spaces are created for Black girls and women to confine in, more Black girls should consider seeing a therapist. In order for them to consider seeing a therapist, one must let go of the binary thinking that she is a ”strong Black woman” because it dehumanizes her humanity. She also needs to let go of the belief that prayer can solve all problems because prayer can only do so much. Prayers can come true but one has to take the initiative and do something to better themselves as well. Once she sees herself as a human being with her own needs and interests, then she is more open to confiding in an therapist, who can help her treat her depression. Having a therapist can help her overcome depression because telling a trusted therapist everything that is bothering you can help clear your mind. Once one clears their mind of such events, it helps them move on from these events and do better for themselves.
Most of all, I believe that more Black women should learn to love themselves. It is not easy to love yourself when everyone around you is telling you, you are worthless. Unfortunately, I believe the vast majority of Black girls and women don’t love themselves. Look at the rates of untreated mentally illness among Black women. Look at the rates of out of wedlock births. Look at how Black women treat each other and themselves. This is why believe that creating safe spaces and seeing a therapist is a step in helping Black girls learn how to love themselves and value themselves.
Fortunately, Zora Neale Hurston’s comment about Black women being the mules of the world can be applied in many ways. Black women are continually bashed and debased on all segments of society yet are seen as ”the help” once something goes awry. Thus there is some truth to the belief that Black women are the mules of the world, but with help and assistance, we can raise above it and achieve tranquility and love of self.
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