top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Speshal Walker Gautier a.k.a. Dr. Spesh

Sis, Don’t hurt your back.

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Let's continue the discussion on baggage. Erykah Badu wastes no time with the opening line of “Bag Lady.” She begins with the following words of wisdom, “Bag Lady you gone hurt your back, dragging all them bags like that.” It makes perfect sense that a ton of heavy baggage would get too heavy for any person to carry, yet somehow there is a shared cultural belief that such laws of physics are nonapplicable to Black women. Through years of intergenerational racial trauma and systemic oppression, Black people have had to be resilient to survive. Black women in particular have borne a unique burden in dealing with the detrimental effects of racial trauma while caring for families. Black women have had to be strong to ensure family survival. This strength, however, has been both helpful and harmful as we expect and have been expected to carry unimaginable loads with grace.

Research on the “Strong Black Woman” stereotype has demonstrated that the pressure to exhibit and maintain strength through adversity comes at a cost for Black women. On one hand, such strength has been useful in buffering and coping with the negative impacts of racism, however, this response has also been linked to emotional suppression and poor psychological and physical health among Black women. This is our collective baggage, Sis. In my last letter, I asked what have you learned about how others will respond to your emotional needs? Through what scholars call racial socialization, many of our caretakers attempted to prepare us for racism by warning us of the harshness we would experience in the world. While society traditionally links femininity with emotional vulnerability, the interplay between race and gender often creates different circumstances for Black women.

As Black women, we learn that we must prepare for a life-long battle with sexism and racism. We are often taught to be cautious, guarded, and strong so as not to have our spirits broken by the countless experiences of discrimination we will ultimately endure. In effort to protect us, many of our caregivers both taught and exhibited unwavering strength. While protective, this attempt at impenetrability leaves little room for emotional vulnerability. Such emotional hardening can come at a cost to self-care and allowing ourselves to be taken care of. Invulnerability creates barriers to emotional intimacy and in turn, can cause major challenges when it comes to love and relationships. As you continue these letters ask yourself, what messages have I internalized about vulnerability? Do I allow myself to express my feelings and emotional needs? Don’t hurt your back, Sis. It’s time to put the bags down.

*Dr. Spesh is an Atlanta based Clinical Psychologist, blogger, and diversity consultant.*

Thoughts? Questions?

Email: for a chance to have your question anonymously featured in the Q&A with @Dr.Spesh on Instagram.

Follow me @Dr.Spesh on Instagram @sisbydrspesh on Facebook

Subscribe for all the latest including weekly love letters.

54 views0 comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page