Through the ideal of the strong black woman, African American women are subject not only to historically rooted racist and sexist characterizations of black women as a group but also to a matrix of unrealistic intraracial expectations that construct black women as unshakeable, unassailable, and naturally strong. Many African American women have internalized self-reliance as central to their identities. They believe that to be a good black woman is to be strong; therefore, strength is foundational to who they are. As long as they can present themselves as self-sacrificial and independent, their identities feel firmly rooted. While this attachment to strength may be adaptive, it also creates dangerous exposure for black women— routine human weakness and fragility are potential sources of shame. ‘‘Society,’’ comments the psychologist Regina Romero, ‘‘expects the African American woman to handle losses, traumas, failed relation- ships, and the dual oppressions of racism and sexism. Falling short of this expectation is viewed by many African American women as a personal failure.
— Melissa Harris-Perry, Sister Citizen