The Stress of Being a Black Woman Can Kill Her

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written by Dianna Benjamin

Ms. Wanda Cooper-Jones is a mother. Her youngest child was 25 years old on the day he was murdered by two white vigilantes.

His name was Ahmaud Arbery.

“I’m not sure that I’ve really processed it,” Ms. Cooper Jones said in an interview with Roland Martin.

“I’m still in the numb stage. And I can’t begin to heal because [his case] wasn’t worked appropriately. Then I was beginning to heal, and the video came out. It’s just been a nightmare. It’s been really hard.”

The murder of Ahmaud Arbery leaves its most profound wound with his family and community. But the loss is felt collectively by black people across the country.

That pain is added to the grief we feel every time another one of us is murdered for being black at the wrong place and time.

And that grief is killing black women.

The cumulative stress of racism has a physical toll researchers call “weathering,” damage to immune, hormonal, physiological, and neuronal systems due to racism-related anxiety.

The weathering hypothesis may explain why black women are three times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related causes than white women. Black mothers are more likely to have preterm births. Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. All of these disparate health outcomes are linked to coping with the chronic stress of racism.

Despite the disparity in health outcomes, black women are woefully underrepresented in marketing targeting the wellness market. The cannabis industry is a space where black women can and should explore wellness not only as consumers, but as entrepreneurs.

Iyana Edouard, founder of Kush and Cute, decided to do just that.

“I combined my knowledge of natural/holistic cannabis medicine and desire to create a female driven cannabis company that was inspired by and curated for women,” she explains. Kush and Cute provides cannabis skin and self-care products catered to women.

Undefined Beauty is another black woman-owned skincare brand providing “clean” cannabis products. Founded by Dorian Morris, the brand incorporates social equity into its business strategy. Morris partners with formerly incarcerated women to create an equitable supply chain ecosystem.

The ripple effect can go both ways. We all feel the pain when another black son dies. But we can all be empowered when black businesses succeed.

Targeting black women for mental health and wellness products has the potential to move the needle on the accessibility of self-care to black women.

Doing it through the cannabis industry can rework the narrative that has, thanks to the war on drugs, stifled black entrepreneurship in cannabis.

The stories of black-mother-loss need to be heard. The anger needs to be felt. The grieving must be faced. Justice must be pursued.

But alongside those heavy truths, let’s tell the story of the black mother who also takes care of herself. Who meditates, goes to therapy, and practices yoga. Who, instead of unwinding with a glass of wine, settles in for the night with a joint. She is not invulnerable. She is not a criminal. She does not deserve to bury her son.

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