Vanessa Watson-Hill, LCSW
The gift of armor has been passed down for generations for black women. Out of necessity armor was and is still needed to navigate many social forces such as racism, sexism, and classism in the United States.
The armor born out of self-protection and used to cope with weight of racism has become a permanent fixture in many women’s wardrobe.
Many generations later we are armed with data that tells us the weight of the armor many black girls and women wear is too heavy.
For over a decade I worked as medical social work in New York City. Every day on my units, I saw the toll of the armor black women carry. The majority of my younger patient’s admitted with complications of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease where often black women.
My patient ‘s with new amputations due to the complications of diabetes often where black women. My patients who needed to be placed on dialysis due to kidney failure from Hypertension 9 times out 10 black were women in their forties or fifties.
The CDC reports HIV is the third leading cause of death for Black woman thirty-five to fifty-four. This was reflected of many of the newly diagnosed patients with HIV in my work. My patients who grappled with crippling depression often were black women. Sadly, many of my patients who declined therapy referrals often were black women.
All of this is heavy stuff, complex, and there are no easy solutions.
I can offer three tips to help you begin to take action to address how this impacts your life.
The first step is self-awareness. Many times, women are not aware they are wearing armor at all. An erosion of self often occurs when you are conditioned to always be strong. That is because you are conditioned to place and think about the needs of everyone else before your needs. In my clinical work I often find my clients who are 95% black women struggle with identifying their needs. This is something I unpack in my capacity as a Therapist.
Going to therapy with a culturally competent therapist in your area may be something that will help you learn more about how your carry your armor. A therapist can help your develop healthier tools to help you with managing your armor.
Commit to intention self-care practices. Selfcare can be taking a walk in the morning before the kids get up. Self-care can be listening to relaxing music during your two-hour commute home. Selfcare can be sitting down and reading a non-work-related book for one hour a week.
Wearing armor 24/7 365 is killing many of us. Sis, I want you to live a full and healthy life.
Let’s start breaking the chains of unhealthy pattens that simply is not serving us in 2019.