Why in the fuck do we Black women always have to get characterized as angry? Yes, admittedly, I am angry now. And yes, I see the irony of me being angry about being accused of being constantly angry; but . . . “it is what it is.” I am pissed.
Now understand me: I am not angry 99.5% of the time. I’m a happy person—some might call me damn near jolly. We Sistas like to laugh and joke. Hell, didn’t a group of us just get kicked off of a wine train in Napa because we were so giggly and loud? You must admit, if you go into any restaurant, the happiest people in there will always be a table of Black women. We find joy in anything, anywhere. So why have we gotten tagged with the stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman?”
Anger is an emotion. From what I know EVERYBODY experiences anger now and then; but I don’t think that Black women experience it anymore frequently than anyone else. Perhaps we, Sistas, simply DO it better. Even if we are whispering, a Sista has a special way with words and inflection. I think we got it from our mommas and our grandmommas. Those women could scare away a thief, discipline 5 kids at once, make a man twice their size go from the streets to the church, and shame the meat man who tried to give her less bologna slices than she paid for by stringing together a few choice words brilliantly (and with THAT look for added measure).
Actually when I think about it more, we Sistas DO emotion – all emotions – bigger. Think about it for a minute: A Black woman will exuberantly celebrate the smallest of things: her song being played on the radio or in the club, the first taste of her Grandma’s chicken & dumplings, a sale on a pair of shoes she’s been eyeing. The joyous sounds when two sista-friends run into each other at the mall can cause everyone to stop what they are doing and pay attention. Who laughs with so many melodic variations or regularly laughs to the point of tears? We don’t laugh; we whoop and holler. We don’t cry; we wail. We don’t curse you out; we read you or tear you a new one.
Why do you think that we have some of the best writers and singers in the world? When a Black vocalist in a church choir opens her mouth, raw emotion leaps out and runs straight to your heart. Perhaps we are just raw and unfiltered? Perhaps we are willing to show our authentic emotions, without society’s rules of how they should be shown. We allow our emotions naturally come to, through and out of us—all emotions—not just anger.
I desperately want this characterization of the angry black woman to disappear. People don’t see us; but rather a caricature of us. It misrepresents and masks us, making it so that others can’t see who we truly are. It gives us an unearned resume and reputation – making it harder for us to get hired, promoted, befriended and trusted; yet quickly accused (of being difficult), abused and refused.
For instance, when my oldest son had just begun Kindergarten, I quickly bonded with some of the other parents. We were together at that moment when you erroneously believe that who your child is in Kindergarten indicates who he or she will be later in life — so we agonized over every poorly glued macaroni project or failure to distinguish between a “M” and a “W” together over coffee, school committee meetings, hikes.
Several of us mothers, with our husbands, one evening attended a school fundraiser. I can’t remember about what our table was debating, but one of the women said, “Randi, I see you over there rolling your neck. I know you disagree with me, but hear me out.” I was dumbfounded. I’ve never rolled my neck—ever (I think I’m still so traumatized from the harsh punishments I received when I rolled my eyes when I was a teenager that I am incapable of rolling any body part as in protest or disgust).
Me and this woman had worked the clay table together, chaperoned field trips, soothed each others’ worries; but she hadn’t seen me—not really. I wasn’t her friend; I was her Black friend—a stereotype. To her, I was a finger-snappin’, lip twistin’, neck rollin’ Black woman ready to go off during a typical dinner conversation.
This characterization doesn’t just come from non-Black people. Frankly, I’m disgusted by the way I hear many Black men talk about Black women. Some even go as far to say that they prefer to date White woman over Black woman because of our nasty attitudes. Again, I contend that Black women don’t get angrier more frequently or intensely; but differently. I have a diverse group of friends. Be clear: my Black, White, Asian, Latina friends get angry with equal frequency; yet the anger may be displayed differently due to cultural differences. My Black girlfriend may curse out her lover and then be done with the issue; while my White girlfriend will take all of us out to dinner on her lover’s credit card and flirt with the waiter all night. Trust me men, women are women, emotion is emotion, and all women, regardless of race will deal wit’ yo ass and her anger–maybe just differently.
Recently, I sent an email to someone I’m partnering with on a project. It was professional and well-written. I had my husband review the email to ensure that my message was well-stated because I earnestly care about this project. Within two minutes of me sending it, I received a terse, passive-aggressive email in return. It was obvious that the the woman took offense to my email. I reread what I sent. I had my husband read it again. We were on our way to dinner when this happened, I had our dinner mates read the email. Everyone agreed that my email was professional, at worst direct, but certainly not catty, nor did it contain anything that would cause offense.
But I have taught business communication for years. [bctt tweet=”How people receive your message is oftentimes greatly dependent on how they perceive you.” username=”beatnik24″] I believe that my directness was seen as aggressiveness; my clean, business-like tone seen as bitchiness. I think that my message would have been received as simply professional had a White male sent it, instead of a Black, woman.
So, you know how on your cell phones, there is a standard signature that appears after every email such as, “Sent from my iPhone” or a disclaimer that appears at the bottom of your company’s email; I’ve joked with my friends that I am going to customize my standard signature message to read, “Please receive this message, as if the sender is a White man.”
Wouldn’t it be liberating if we could just be seen—without the added pressure of knowing that people are looking at us through thickly colored classes—without feeling pressure to display an extra sunny personality to shine though the preconceptions? We, Black woman, deserve to be seen as all people are: complex, full the myriad of emotions (even if our culture permits for us to display them more colorfully). See us completely and clearly. See us.
Disclaimer: Though this message was written with about race, the writer is not angry, racist, or looking to make everything about race.