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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.