Written by Nicole.
In my unprofessional opinion, I don’t think many black women are mentally well. Many of us have undiagnosed depression and anxiety, or underlying personality disorders, and they are not being treated due to pervasive thoughts that therapy is for white people. Therapy is not a cure all mind you, but it can definitely help tackle some deep-seated issues. What goes hand in hand with mental health crises all too often is addiction, used as a means to cope with unspoken pain.
When it comes to addictions that black people, and specifically black women, have, we all know the big ones: smoking (cigarettes or weed), drinking, drugs, and food. Even hair could fall into the addiction category, or at least, a pathological obsession. These are not new addictions, nor are they unique to us as black people. We all know the damages addiction to any of the above can cause. But the range of things people can be addicted to is vast, and despite the magic and strength we proclaim to have, black women still fall prey to them. What am I talking about? Well, here are a few more things that black women in particular are addicted to, but are not really discussed, coupled with suggestions on how to quit.
What percent of black children would you say are planned, vs. accidental? Personally, I have my suspicions, but without any data, they are just that, suspicions. But a vocal subset of black people will scream “eugenicist!!!” in the streets if you talk too much about family planning.
What I do know for a fact though, is that babies don’t just happen to people, and a “whoopsie” attitude could be a predictor of how pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is approached. This is compounded by all the unique challenges that face us when we are pregnant while black.
Medical racism is alive and well and contributes to our maternal mortality rates. However, getting pregnant without having a stable support system or long-term plan once maternity leave is over (in the US, anyway) adds complications and stressors that can literally kill us mere moments after bringing life into the world. Black women have children for all kinds of reasons, none of which are exclusive to our collective. But one thing we do is birth children into the world with a job, to love us, heaping heavy responsibilities onto them before they even know how to spell love, much less show it.
The fact that we recklessly have kids, think little of the consequences, and offer “I did the best I can” if things don’t turn out quite as planned, shows that this addiction has longstanding consequences that ripple throughout the community. This could be via chronic underachievement, attributed to having to be a stand-in spouse and be forced to get a job and pay rent barely out of high school. Or, via no resources spent on teaching the next generation, who were born into dysfunction and knew nothing but that, and make the same mistakes and poor choices when they leave the nest.
A subset of this baby addiction is having multiple babies, when finances, support, and common sense would suggest closing up the baby factory. The Duggars and Octomom and other TLC mainstays all made their fortunes from turning their nose up at birth control. However, they have certain luxuries that the average black woman does not. If the first baby was a struggle, married or not, black love aficionado or swirler extraordinaire, wisdom would suggest delaying, or even not having, a second. Birthing a litter of babies that only receive the bare minimum in attention and support does everyone involved a disservice.
The very sentence “every baby is a blessing” has been engrained into the Black Woman’s Guide to Having Children. You will hear this said when a married couple proudly announces they are expecting their first child that they meticulously planned for, down to the smallest details. You’ll hear it again when a woman announces her third baby by the second bum who bounced before the kid developed fingernails (12 weeks). You’ll even see it when a young black woman, in no state to care for herself, much less a newborn, seeks counsel on social media asking whether she should keep the baby she didn’t want, or consider other options. You’ll even see it when there are CLEAR red flags, like abuse, or no support system, or abject poverty, all of which will make what would have been a joyous occasion turn sour. Babies are not Band-Aids and they cannot fix a broken relationship.
I try to stay out of a few topics, abortion being one of them. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, the fact is that abortion is a procedure that exists. What you do with that information is up to you.
Believing that babies are a blessing is totally fine. But it’s not the whole story. Far too many black women are bringing children into the world with little planned for them beyond their hospital discharge. The baby blessing mantra just enables the addiction, because it provides a false sense of security that everything will be okay in the end, even when evidence and history suggests that this may not be the likeliest outcome. And besides, babies only stay babies for a short amount of time. If the term was changed to children are a stressing, not only would the phrase more accurately reflect the true nature of motherhood, but it would also cover more of the baby’s life span, and perhaps even initiate a mindset shift about how motherhood is approached in the first place.
How to quit: Having children, especially ones out of season, is completely preventable (in the west, anyway). There are plenty of birth control options that when used correctly, can prevent pregnancies with near total accuracy. If you are not married, then your uterus should be declared a no-go zone; if your partner has not seen fit to marry you and grant the legal and societal privileges that brings, then you don’t, and shouldn’t, give him the gift of genetic immortality. But accidents happen, and not everyone is pro-choice. So if you do have that baby you were not ready for, please for the love of your sanity and wellbeing, don’t make the same mistake twice!
We say we don’t like drama, and hashtag ourselves into #nodrama with every post, and yet, we love it. We crave it. That’s why comment sections discussing certain aspects of the black woman’s experience is filled to the brim with warring factions from both sides. We watch with glee as people from opposite camps face off in the latest online beef, complete with gifs of people eating popcorn and taking seats.
Research suggests that black people use the most social media, and while I don’t know exactly what content is being consumed or how it’s being used, again, I have my suspicions. This desire for drama is not unique to specific platforms either. I admit and accept that many of my posts are not meant to go down smoothly. But even so, the complete drop off in views and engagement from one topic, say, nail polish recommendations, to the next, like the topic that shall not be named, suggests for all the righteous indignation, we love it. If we didn’t, platforms catering to black women of all affiliations would face significant losses.
This could also take the form of voracious gossip consumption, be it at work, or with friends, or even online about complete strangers. Even the music pushed out in our community is laden with low vibrational drama.
How to quit: It is a lot easier to avoid drama online. Take regular social media breaks, unsubscribe from the gossip channels on YouTube, no matter how juicy, and scroll on by the latest furor taking place in the comment sections. I am not above this one, mind you. While I don’t participate in any comment sections, except for the odd post under my blog, I do consume quite a bit of the drama, be it for inspiration for my next blog or to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in these spaces. However, I too need to cut back on how much I take in. After all, that’s why I took over a month off.
The word “triggered” has been thrown around so much, it’s almost lost its meaning. But it is the perfect word to describe black women’s addiction to getting hot and bothered in the bad way. It is easy to get under our skin. This is evidenced in certain ways online – black women will flock to comment sections of black males whose only claim to fame is gaining any sort of relevance…due to triggering black women. Take for example, the one guy earlier this year who likened Ari Lennox and Teyana Taylor to a Rottweiler. Who was checking for him before all this? Nobody. But via the triggering of black women, he got what he wanted: attention. Entire advertising campaigns can be used to trigger black women, and our outrage can generate more traffic than even the finest ad agencies.
This addiction to being triggered is not exclusive to black women reacting to black men, either. Black women will also be triggered by other black women who they believe have wronged them in some way (real or perceived), or if she “think she’s better” or if she charges for access to her body of work, or something. However, instead of avoiding the trigger, they hang around, waiting for the next thing to rile them up, like an addict waiting for their next hit.
How to quit: if you know you have little patience for something or someone, rather than lurk in the background waiting for the next thing they post or say to enrage you, just say your goodbyes and go. Online, this may mean a simple click of the “Unsubscribe” or “Unfollow” button. In person, this may mean declining phone calls of friends and even family who don’t truly have your best interest at heart. If you are sensitive, avoid people that would seek to intentionally upset you. Sometimes people will see your sensitivity as a mark and aim to poke, poke, poke you until you snap, and switch from the role of aggressor to victim when you retaliate.
Black women are hyperfocused on how the world should be, rather than how it is. It is this addiction that allows a black woman to look at the out of wedlock birth statistics, domestic violence statistics, scientific studies, and anecdotal evidence from friends and family, and still hold out hope for that unicorn of a Good Black Man thinking that she’ll be different. Viewing the world with rose-colored glasses is a defense mechanism of sorts, because realistically, the community is in dire straits and it is quite painful to look at it in depth for any length of time. This doesn’t mean that you should write off every single black man out there, but simply understanding that the ideal may be a lot more difficult to come as a black woman.
How to quit: the addiction to the ideal is difficult to shake. It is rooted in religious doctrine and slave morality, hardwired into the black belief system. But the simplest way to beat this addiction is by doing your own research. I don’t say this to be dismissive like when it is used in comment sections as a means to shut down an argument. I say this to actually do research on why you hold your beliefs, and use sources to back them. Also, take everything you hear with a grain of salt, no matter how much you respect the person saying it (even me. In fact, especially me). The world is literally at our fingertips (case in point: I’m writing this on my phone) and to not take advantage of the plethora of available information not only does you a disservice, it keeps you uninformed at best and gullible at worst.
As black women, we face several challenges that are not only unique to us, but can derail our plans to level up in life. Recognizing and addressing these addictions early on can help us address them, and get the help we need to deal with them so we don’t go on a multi-year avoidable detour.
Have you noticed any addictions black women have? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Disclaimer: This blog was written by me, Nicole, and my ideas are not necessarily reflective of Christelyn Karazin or other writers on this platform.