Why I am OK with Being an Angry Black Woman

To whom it may concern,

I have officially given up pretending like I am not an angry black woman. For years, you’ve been using the threat of my own anger against me, the label “angry black woman” being bandied about in one disparaging public forum or another. I’ll admit it. That scared me enough to keep me quiet. No one likes their opinions to be misunderstood or misconstrued.

I didn’t want my views to count less because they were packaged in a tone of voice that you didn’t appreciate. Even as I saw white men *cough* Bill O’Reilly *cough* (and the occasional white woman), express their opinions with fervor and zeal, I knew that for me, passionate prose come at a cost. My blackness makes my anger suspect and my femininity makes it incomreprensible.

That used to matter to me. It doesn’t anymore. But since I’ve been living with the symptoms of “nice girl syndrome” for so long, I’ve taken the liberty of drafting a re-orientation memo. 

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To society…

This racism and sexism has got to stop. No, really. While I know that Facebook and Twitter are only narrow slices of perspective on what’s going on in the world, I cannot log in to my profile one more day and see another stream of articles chronicling how effed up the world is right now (usually I am a bit more careful with my language but right now “effed up” is literally the most accurate summation I can muster); how much hate, how much bigotry, how much misogyny, how much homophobia that folks are still dealing with every. single. day.

And trust me, even if I gave up social media all together, I couldn’t escape the reality of how hard it is these days to be a woman, or how much more so it is to be a woman of color.

I know too many women who have been objectified, or worse, raped, molested, or otherwise sexually abused. I know too many people whose self-esteem has crumbled under the weight of impossible (European) beauty standards. I know too many women who have been passed over for promotions, disrespected on the job, forced to choose between motherhood and a career (because even in 2012, we are still maligned for choosing both).

Racism is not dead. Sexism is alive and well. And that has the tendency to piss me off.

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To white people…

Not all of y’all – just those of you who want to be allies. I want – no, need – you to step your game up. Stop talking about your experience as if it is the norm. I.e. looking at me with a befuddled or bemused expression every time I have an opinion, response, or experience that is different than yours because I’m black.

I’ll admit it: Hell yes, I’m “sensitive” about race. And? Your point? As long as we live in a racist society, I have a reason to be.

Next time you make an ignorant or insensitive comment, be prepared. I’m calling you out. Why? Because I love you and I expect more from you than that.

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To everyone else with privilege…

Men. Straight people. American citizens. Cisgenders. Folks with degrees. Newsflash: you and your needs and your opinions and your experiences are not the end all, be all for everyone in this country. For once you are going to need to listen to folks whose lives look different than yours. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t make stupid comments. And don’t try to insert your thoughts or opinion into their lived experience.

For example: If you’re a man, you don’t get to tell women that sexism doesn’t exist. If you’re white, please don’t tell me that we live in a post-racial society. How the hell would you know?

Stop assuming that just because a space is safe and comfortable for you, that it will be safe and comfortable for me (or other folks who don’t have as much privilege as you do) as well. Or at the very least, be willing to lean into discomfort when the shoe is on the other foot. Sit down. Close your mouth. Open your mind and your heart and go from there.

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To my sisters…

Man on man, I love y’all. I love y’all enough to insist that we do better. There are a lot of things in this world that we can’t change. The way we interact with each other though? Yea, that’s on us.

The powers that be have worked hard as hell to keep us in a “scarcity” frame of mind. And as long as they continue to entice us into competing with each other, we will never be truly free.

According to mainstream media, there are not enough “good” black and brown men to go around; there aren’t enough opportunities, enough slots at top schools, enough promotions, enough “success” for all of us (although apparently, none of us succeed on our own merits anyway); and since we learn from a young age that we’ll never be as pretty as white girls, we might as well hate on each other and be content with the title of baddest black chick around. Right?

Wrong. I have too many other threats to my physical and emotional help to worry about one of my own sisters throwing me under the bus. Let’s start building each other up rather than tearing each other down, shall we?

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To my readers…

I know this letter might lose me a few fans. When I started Colored Girl Confidential, I wanted it to be a mixed community of women. And I still do. But I’m realizing more and more that it is hard to be true to both my black and female identity without fear of isolating some folks who only have to care about the “female” part.

Well, eff that. I can’t be half a person online any more than I can be half a person in real life.

I am not just a woman. I am a BLACK woman. And I am not always happy and caring and motivational. Sometimes I’m angry. And hurt. Because being a black woman is hard. And from now on, my writing will reflect that. For some of you, that will be a turn off. Others will stick around and offer encouragement, love, and support because you know that no matter your race, gender, nationality, sexuality, religious beliefs, or any other label that society has deemed relevant, I will do the same for you.

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So, yes, I am an angry black woman.

My anger is righteous. Motivational. Fierce.

My anger doesn’t fester, it inspires. It doesn’t just chronicle what’s wrong with the world today, it makes it personal.

My anger is an “up yours” to a culture that insists it is more feminine for a woman to cry in a corner than it is for her to speak up. To talk back.

My anger doesn’t come from being black or being a woman. My anger comes from being human, and is born and nurtured in those moments when I, or others, have being made to feel less than.

And finally, my anger does not define me. Just like you, I am capable of being more than one thing.

I am an angry black woman. A loving black woman. A sensitive black woman. A passionate black woman. Deal with it. In fact, join me.


BOTTOM OF POST OPTIN

Comments

comments

22 Comments

  1. Where the heck is the LOVE button? Yes! Just, heck emphatically Yessssss! And i love the end about being a half a person online…Your niche, the people you give voice to, will follow you as long as you continue to speak your own truth, a truth that reflects an experience too often ignored. You got a fan in me! As we say out here in Dominica, “Who vex, loss” in other words…Who gets upset, its their issue, not yours. Keep it up Sis!

    Reply
    • “Who vex, loss.” Loooooove that expression! (Even tho I would probably sound like a fool saying it with my southern accent. Lol) This is probably one of the most difficult posts I’ve written so far. In today’s world – online and off – folks often talk about what it means to create a personal “brand.” But as women of color, our brand is so much more than just a skill set, or a particular field of interest. It also has to do with being true to our lived experiences, although, like many other things, the concept of “personal branding” was not really developed with a diverse range of experiences in mind so we kind of have to make it up as we go along!

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  2. Wow LC! I don’t have much in the way of words right now. Thanks for writing this. I’m blown away! You’re so brilliant and spot-on. EVERYONE needs to read this.

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    • Thanks, Colleen! I know this type of writing scares some people away but glad to see that you aren’t one of them! I love having your voice as part of the CGC community.

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  3. OMG LC! THIS! I had to come out of lurk mode to let you know that what you wrote definitely touched me. I agree wholeheartedly with what you wrote. I am def going to share this on FB. It can sometimes take a lot for people to open their minds but when you call people on their privilege it can shift some perceptions. Beautifully written piece!

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  4. Well said, my sister…well said.

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  5. I couldn’t relate more to this post; so much in fact that my eyes got watery while reading it. While I am usually perceived as a nice and pleasant woman, the truth is that deep down I am angry. I hate how we have so little representation in society. I hate that every rap and hip-hop song objectifies women. But what scares me the most is that young girl are growing up listening to these songs and receiving all of these media messages and thinking that they have to be “bad b**ches” or that they would look better “red.” Many of these messages belittle young girls which in turn lead to low self-esteem and like you say, force us to cry in corner instead of speaking up and saying what is obviously wrong with this society. Perhaps because a woman who speaks up, specially a woman of color who speaks up is rarely perceived as courageous or brave, instead we are labeled as b*tches. I trust that if we work together as a community we can change many of these sexist stereotypes and move forward in order to create a brighter future for all young girls so that hopefully they don’t have to endure the level of sexism and belittlement that we a have endured. I know we are strong and are capable of great things, we just have to help each other see our potential; this blog does just that. I hope you are proud of yourself because you have no idea how many lives you will inspire by simply sharing your thoughts and experience.

    THANK YOU!!!!
    Estephany

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    • Estephany, you hit one one of the major challenges of so many women… having to stuff our real feelings deep down and out of the way in order to feel and act “appropriately”. From a young age, girls are told not to be “too much” and as we get older the refrain becomes “she’s too emotional.” There is nothing wrong with strong emotions – especially not if they are warranted. Black women have an even more uphill battle to climb as we are already stereotyped as “angry” and “aggressive” but I’ve recently realized that we will never liberate ourselves from labels if we continue to fear the label itself. Viva la revolution, my love!

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  6. That was fabulous! I loved every word of it! It inspires, it motivates, it encourages, and it allows us to become comfortable with the women we are and have becomed. As a 21 year old Black female I often suffer from the trails and issues that have been placed in front of me. It causes me to want to give up, scream, shout, and tell everyone around me how I feel, but because of what society has done to “our” image we are unable to be ourselves without constant judgement. I needed to read this today. It made me smile and let me know that yes I AM AN ANGRY BLACK WOMAN but damn i have a reason to be and someone, somewhere undertsands that too.

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    • I’d much rather you be angry than hopeless – especially in moments when it feels like those are your only options. (And trust me, I have had many of those moments myself!)

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  7. Simply put – Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for saying what I needed to “hear”. It’s so easy to doubt my /our emotions. The truth is, heck yes, I feel angry. Not all day, every day, but more than I’d like. And the fear of being judged leads me to be less authentic. Can’t I be Passionate, Assertive, Talkative without being Angry? For real, having to double-check myself can make me angry even if I wasn’t. *LC*, I “hear” your voice in every post just like one of my girls was talking – sometimes I laugh, sometimes I feel like crying, and mostly I’m just amazed that someone I don’t know, a decade younger than me, can “speak” in my mind – getting a link to your website has made my week :)

    Reply
    • As Aaliyah once said (yea, I went there! lol): Age ain’t nothing but a number! The CGC community is home to fabulous women of every age, race, ethnicity, and background yet somehow, so many of us go through such similar challenges. One of the most oppressing thing about the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype is that it makes us feel like we need to double check our every emotion and that’s no way to live an authentic, emotionally honest life.

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  8. Coleen, I completely agree with you and I hereby claim my Angry Black Woman status. I am happy to see other sistahs standing up and acknowledging that this emotion is valid and warranted. There are many reasons to be angry, one of them being watching other women fail to express this important emotion when it is completely understandable to do so or who fail to support a woman who does. I’ve noticed how much women are still behind the eight ball in today’s society ie unequal pay, higher medical insurance premiums (that alone makes my fist clench), more housework, fewer career choices that support motherhood, the war on Planned Parenthood. If women acted on this anger in a construction and creative fashion, this world would be something else. I hope we all channel our anger to produce the change our society desperately needs.

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  9. “If women acted on this anger in a construction and creative fashion, this world would be something else. I hope we all channel our anger to produce the change our society desperately needs.” I love this! It’s not necessarily about the emotion, it’s about what you do with it!

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  10. You are absolutely right! If you are an angry black woman, you surely have a reason to be. I honestly think that it is this optimism people carry around, both colored and white people, that clouds the reality of things. And the reality is racism still exists. But there’s a black president…., but there’s black people driving the buses and not simply sitting in the back…, but there’s affirmative action… With so much progress, why complain, why be mad? But, people who think about this side of things forget to realize that there are more black people behind bars than in college, more black people in the ghetto than in the suburbs, and more black people taking orders rather than giving orders in all areas of the work force. Being black in this country is hard but if people (especially black people) simply ignore the reality of the situation instead of demand real equality, then it is hard to see where the angry black woman is coming from.

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    • Very true, Nelly…I couldn’t agree more!

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  11. Wow,this was a great read. And this is coming from a non-black man. ;o)

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  12. Hell Yeah!

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  13. LC,
    I read this post today and I wanted to say that you are on point with your remarks.

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  14. LOVE this post! I’m so tired of second guessing my response in certain situations with fear of being seen as a “typcial” black person or an angry black woman with a chip on my shoulder. Worst still when I haven’t responded as I would like to, still being told I’m being agressive or overreacting for actually just indicating that I’m not happy and then wishing I just let rip in the first place, because their response was the same anyway!

    So I’ve realised that if someone thinks I’m an angry black woman, aggressive or that I have a chip on my shoulder, they’ve normally already decided that before I’ve even responded.

    I’m so loving this website! :D

    Reply
    • Right on, Leanne…that is what bothers me most, having to make sure that my body language and voice are “appropriate” in every situation so that I will not be accused of having an attitude. I doubt that people of other races have to deal with this crap.

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  15. Amen to ALL of this! *claps loudly*

    Sorry that my comment is late to the party, but I completely agree with what was said by all of you ladies. As a woman of color (who doesn’t look black but is mostly black), I want to thank you for speaking the truth.

    I’m sick of being called “emotional” simply because I dare to show that I’m vulnerable and sensitive. I’m sick of being told about my “attitude” simply because I speak my mind sometimes, especially when somebody is disrespecting me. I’m sick of having my experiences dismissed. I’m sick of being told that I’m too light-skinned, curvy, nappy-headed, etc…to be pretty.

    I remember speaking to a therapist once, who happened to be white. She refused to listen or acknowledge my feelings and experiences. She was condescending and she would interrupt me to say that I should be “strong” (hello, stereotype!) After all, aren’t we “post-racial” now because of Oprah and President Obama? After only 6 sessions I was DONE with her, chile…finished. I will no longer allow people to shut me up or shut me down as if my feelings don’t matter. I’m not some silly little woman. I am a person with real emotions/experiences. There is more to us than what others choose to see.

    So thanks again, for creating a safe haven where we can talk about things that affect us in society.

    Reply

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