A textured green cylinder meets three dark green triangles. The apex is slightly off centered. The background is a brown textured surface. The bright light on the subject lightens the brown in the center, and it gets darker towards the edge of the frame. Underneath the three dark green triangular forms, a humanoid figure is arranged to create an X like shape with the triangular shapes.
This is a photograph of my brother’s Christmas tree. The fourth base leg for the tree went missing, and my brother just grabbed something from the kid’s toy box quickly and used it to prop up the tree. I found this moment fascinating. This Barbie’s placement expressed what I have trouble communicating: The curse of the strong black woman.
The black Barbie’s body is being used to serve a function, used for the greater good, at her expense. Black Barbie was created for one thing, but her real value is when she is propping up the fake Christmas tree. No one thinks about the weight of the tree or the social responsibility placed on black Barbie because she is a strong black woman. Underneath the tree black Barbie can’t be weak, soft, or vulnerable because she will be crushed. If black Barbie were to be complex, to have feelings other than anger, to ask questions and seek answers she would have flesh – she would be a person.
Humanity isn’t something given to a person, but it is taken by others. Today humans have created efficient systems that strip the humanity from specific groups of people and turn them into anything society needs. Oppression is the perfectly designed machine to turn humans into humanoids to serve a function, like propping up a tree, or filling up prisons, and labor.
To be a human is to be complex; to be weak and strong, to be flexible, fluid, and free. To be a strong black woman is to be just that: to always overcome adversity because your existence is adversity. To be so angry it turns to bitterness. To be rigid, to be the strong foundation on which others can build on top of. Trapped.
So black Barbie finds her self in a quagmire: Be human and be crushed by the weight of the society. Or, to be a strong black woman. Strong enough to prop up the machine and the needs of society.