The Definitive List of Reasons Black Women Are Depressed

Posted by Regina Whitley on

 Depression can happen to anyone regardless of their age, sex, gender, or sexual orientation. It affects 264 million people every year (World Health Org., 2020), and black women are 50% LESS likely to seek help compared to their Caucasian counterparts.

Let's explore some of the reasons why black women don't seek help:

  • Slavery
  • Absent Black Male Lead
  • Medical Abuse/no healthcare
  • Cultural Bias
  • Educational Bias & Harassment
  • Workplace Harassment & Bias
  • "Strong Black Woman" Narrative
  • Legal Neglect
  • Generational Curses
  • Physical Abuse
  • Stockholm Syndrome

There is a deep distrust in the American system, which is run by a legacy of white men, leaving a vacuum of neglected generational trauma from past wrongs on the African diaspora. This piece is going to be an opinion on why black women struggle to live with depression, this first section will give a brief history on slavery and the generational curses that stem from it.

To start let’s quickly analyze the Trans-Atlantic slave trade also known as the Euro-American and Atlantic slave trade which lasted from 1525-1866.

“A large percentage of the people taken captive were women in their childbearing years and young men who normally would have been starting families”     (National Humanities Center, On Slaveholders’ Sexual Abuse of Slaves: Selections from 19th- & 20th-century Slave Narratives 1840-1938)

In all 10-12 Million African captives were trafficked to the Americas and the Caribbean.

If a woman survived the voyage from being kidnapped to being marched to the coast ( 10-15% mortality) as well as the voyage to the Americas (additional 15-25% mortality) she was met with a brutal chattel existence where she will be examined, poked, prodded and sold at the market like any other item, she will be bred with a male slave regardless of their martial status, wishes or tastes, she will be the subject of sexual abuse from the master, his associates, overseers, guests etc. as well as suffer physical abuse, emotional and psychological abuse from the mistress of the house. The black woman is the most unprotected demographic in the world.

A side effect of all the atrocities those women faced is DEPRESSION. Clearly there was no health care or mental health care for black women back then and even at this early juncture we can see that she has no outlet, she will have to internalize and process her pain however she can which may have negative affects on her and/or her children. First hand accounts in slave narratives of the horrors that slave women faced shed more light on this;

 “ Let me explain to you very plain without prejudice one way or the other, I have had many opportunities, a chance to watch white men and women in my long career, colored women have many hard battles to fight to protect themselves from assault by employers, white male servants or by white men, many times not being able to protect [themselves], in fear of losing their positions. Then on the other hand they were subjected to many impositions by the women of the household through woman’s jealousy.”

RICHARD MACKS, enslaved in Maryland, interviewed 1937 [WPA Slave Narrative Project]

“In them times white men went with colored gals and women bold[ly]. Any time they saw one and wanted her, she had to go with him, and his wife didn’t say nothin’ ’bout it. Not only the men, but the women went with colored men too. That’s why so many women slave owners wouldn’t marry, ’cause they was goin’ with one of their slaves. These things that’s goin’ on now ain’t new, they been happenin’. That’s why I say you just as well leave ’em alone ’cause they gwine [going] to do what they want to anyhow. . . .”

Unnamed former slave, enslaved in Georgia, interviewed ca. 1937 [WPA Slave Narrative Project]

“If their master thought that a certain man and woman might have strong, healthy offspring, he forced them to have sexual relation, even though they were married to other slaves. If there seemed to be any slight reluctance on the part of either of the unfortunate ones, “Big Jim” would make them consummate this relationship in his presence. He used the same procedure if he thought a certain couple was not producing children fast enough. He enjoyed these orgies, very much and often entertained his friends in this manner; quite often he and his guests would engage in these debaucheries, choosing for themselves the prettiest of the young women. Sometimes they forced the unhappy husbands and lovers of their victims to look on.”

SAM & LOUISA EVERETT, enslaved in Virginia, interviewed 1936 [WPA Slave Narrative Project

“Nevertheless the fact remains, in all its glaring odiousness, that, by the laws of slavery, children in all cases are reduced to the condition of their mothers. This arrangement admits of the greatest license to brutal slaveholders and their profligate sons, brothers, relations and friends, and gives to the pleasure of sin the additional attraction of profit. A whole volume might be written on this single feature of slavery, as I have observed it.” Douglass, F., & Smith, J. M. C. (1855)

You get the point.  I’m sure your next rebuttal would be “well, that was hundreds of years ago how does that relate to depression in modern black women?” Modern black women are still suffering these same issues in modern times (slavery is still happening in countries like Mauritania) it is just in a different manner. It is important to always check the history when you're stumped on a problem, Doctor's do it, investigators do it, and right now we're investigating a condition that women in the African diaspora are struggling with and a short sighted history of family will not cut it, we have to look at this differently...

In time as we go down the list of reasons why black women don’t seek help for their depression you’ll start to notice patterns of behavior from the larger society in mores, laws, economics etc. that consistently tell and show black women that they are not valued, are not safe, and never have been, when will a change occur.

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 Sources:

Douglass, F., & Smith, J. M. C. (1855). My bondage and my freedom. Miller, Orton & Mulligan.

National Humanities Center. (n.d.). On Slaveholders’ Sexual Abuse of Slaves: Selections from 19th- & 20th-century Slave Narratives. www.nationalhumanitiescenter.org. http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/maai/alltextschrono.pdf.

World Health Organization. (2020, January 30). Depression. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

 


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