The Danger of the Black Women Superhero Trope

The Danger of the Black Women Superhero Trope

From an outside perspective, the phrase “Black women saved America” or “Black women are our saviors” sounds like a compliment. After the 2020 Presidential Election and pivotal Georgia Senate Runoff, these pseudo-praises grew abundant on social media.

This is because 90 percent of Black women voted Democrat for the Presidential election while 91 percent of Black women also voted Democrat in the Georgia Runoff election. Additionally, former Georgia Representative Stacey Abrams partnered with Black women organizers from across the state to raise awareness about voter suppression and encourage Georgians to vote in record numbers. Considering this, it is somewhat understandable why these “savior” slogans have become popular online and subsequently in real life. To many, Black women did save America, and without Black women’s impact on the local and national elections, outcomes would be completely different. 

The notion that ‘Black women saved America’ is harmful and places an unfair burden on the shoulders of Black women. It erects this image that any time America is in peril or the Democratic party is in danger of failing, it is up to Black women to ‘save the day,’ because if they don’t—then who will? And if Black women fail, then the blame falls on them.

This also takes heavy responsibility off of voters and activists who are not Black women. It sets up a scenario where others, who preach equality and justice, need only wait for Black women to do the hard work for them and reap the benefits of their struggles. 

More so, this alienates Black women and, in a way, dehumanizes them, setting them to such a standard where they are invulnerable and ‘strong’. And when society does things like this—then when Black women are in need after having ‘saved’ everyone, who saves them?

From the perspective of a Black woman, it’s hard to believe that society cares for us as much as we think they do. It seems that the only people looking out for Black women are other Black women. When Black women face issues such as racism or inequality, who speaks up for us?

This brings to mind the report of job losses in December 2020 and how 100% of those job losses accounted for were women. However, more specifically, every woman within that 100% was a woman of color—primarily Latina and Black women. So this notion of Black women ‘saving America’ is great—but when America itself fails to save Black women, when America fails to address issues such as mass layoffs that primarily include Black women—then really, who is here for us and is it fair to push this narrative that we save America when America turns its back on us? 

When America cannot even guarantee that Black women have jobs, income and housing—then is it right that Black women are propped up as saviors? 

The lack of care and protection of Black women does not stop at unemployment. This need for society to prop Black women up as saviors and invulnerable perpetrates the false ideas that Black women are strong, and that Black women do not need help. In the face of violence and brutality, Black women can power through without the help of others and this so inaccurately gives ground to the ‘strong Black woman’ archetype. This way, Black women aren’t allowed to be seen as victims and this inevitably leads to Black women being harmed both outside and within the community. 

Black women are victims of police brutality, yet we seldom hear of any cases and if we do, Black women rarely get the deserved justice. The tragedy of Breonna Taylor is not lost on our minds, and we have not forgotten that she was denied justice. We then think of other names that call to mind various brutalities Black women face, such as Sandra Bland or even Oluwatoyin Salau, both deaths that showcased the brutality Black women face from law enforcement and in our own community. We see no justice. 

Black women continue to be the silent victims of police brutality and intracommunity abuse without receiving any type of protection. Yet, similar to how Black women are seen as people who “saved” America, Black women are among some of the loudest and most dedicated organizers when it comes to Black Lives Matter marches and discussion against police brutality.

Black Lives Matter was founded by three Black women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi—all determined to raise awareness for police brutality Black men face. Oluwatoyin was an outspoken community activist as well before she herself was killed by someone within the Black community.

This recalls the quote, “The most neglected person in America is the Black woman”, from Malcolm X and as we can see how Black women are viewed and treated in American society, those words ring true. Luckily, with campaigns like #SayHerName , by the African American Policy Forum gaining traction, and well known activists and writers like Kimberle Crenshaw using her platform to discuss police brutality against Black women, we can see a positive change in Black women’s hardships being recognized.

However, the glaring revelation to this is that at the end of the day, it is primarily only Black women, going these lengths to help other Black women. This unfortunately brings us back to square one—wherein we are our own saviors, yet to everyone else we are invincible. We are made to suffer in silence, with only other Black women to help us. Therefore, the phrase “Black women saved America” and those similar, need to be eradicated.

We “save” America but America clearly does not save us. Whether it be the America in our own community or the America who praises us. At the end of the day, we still face erasure and mistreatment in many factions of the government and propping us up as saviors only serves to further those harmful views of us. Hopefully as time goes on, the very people seeing us as the ones who ‘saved’ America, will start to see us as people who not only need solidarity, but in many cases need saving as well.


Avery Oliver is a Black freelance journalist from Texas. She enjoy writing about topics that pertain to Blackness, media and social justice. Find her on Twitter at @AverysAcademia

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