One of my favorite scenes from Being Mary Jane takes place when Mary Jane confesses to her mother that she is having an affair with a married man. It’s a sweet and vulnerable moment filled with brutal honesty tempered by a mother’s love. Confused and hurt, the successful over-achiever of the family tearfully seeks the wisdom of her mother who offers her compassion filled with stern advice, "Cry tonight, but in the morning you will fix it."
Though a short scene, it showed an important reflection that we do not often see on our television screens. Stripped of all pretenses, in a beautiful moment between mother and daughter, a black woman cries. In mainstream media, when black women hurt, they react in anger. We are used to seeing black women "go off" in fits of rage, ready to destroy and cut down anything in their paths. If we see tears, they often spill from angry eyes shortly before the woman exacts revenge.
The images representing black women are usually one-dimensional, failing to show us as complex human beings who experience a range of emotions. Despite the infamous strong black superwomen myth, black women experience moments where we feel vulnerable, naked and exposed. Outward appearances and academic and professional accolades aside, we too hurt and feel deeply. Yet, a lot of us are afraid to show that side, because we live in a world that is swift and harsh in judging us or we’ve been foolishly taught that vulnerability equals weakness.
In truth, we all need a safe place to cry and/or to express the most vulnerable and softer sides of ourselves. Whether it’s our mothers’ arms, a therapist’s couch, a significant other’s shoulders or our friend’s living room, life's valleys demand that we have a soft place to land. It’s deeply human to want to be seen and loved for who we are – flaws and all. What I appreciate about shows like Being Mary Jane is that they show the full range of black women’s humanity. Yes we are strong and accomplished, but we are also vulnerable and we make mistakes. Often we are pillars of strength for others, yet at times we too need pillars to help us to hold it together.