The truth is that the angry black woman trope is a longstanding widely spread pernicious stereotype of black women that has found its way into mainstream popular culture, the media, working environments, schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions as well as rearing its ugly head in everyday interactions and the personal lives of black women.
More often than not, black women are portrayed as aggressive, angry, hysterical, unreasonable, emasculating, strong, tough, uncontrollable as well as ratchet, ghetto, and unfeminine. White womanhood is often the default for what it means to be a woman, with anything deviating from that norm being considered the ‘other’.
It is when white womanhood is protected at all costs while Black womanhood is criticised, subjected to ridicule, viewed suspiciously and is often up for debate. The way black women express their anger, pain and vulnerability is an ongoing focus, particularly in our current times of racial tension and socio-political unrest. The angry black woman trope, as with the mammy archetype and the Jezebel, exist to place black women firmly in boxes, stripping them of nuance, humanity, and individuality.
Despite the angry black woman trope being popularised in the 1900s, there have been very few explorations of the subject and even fewer led by black women themselves. I think that part of that is due to Black women being tired of having to do all of the work. White women and so called “progressive” allies expect us to do the heavy lifting while still handling their feelings and perceived reality with care.
And how do we protect ourselves?
However, the real problem with this stereotype is that is dismisses the humanity of Black women by implying that we are not allowed to feel and, if we do, we need to keep it in check so as not to make white people feel uncomfortable. From early childhood we are taught that we have to control our feelings in order to fit in to the world. We are taught that we have to turn our cheeks, be the bigger person, go high when they go low, don’t ever let them see you cry. All of this is supposed to protect us from the world and its racist intent. But does it?
What does that say about a segment of society that is raised with the belief that the only legitimate feelings that we are allowed to have are those of subjugation? More importantly, what does that say about the segment of society that demands this from us? From the well-meaning white women to our “progressive” allies, we are consistently faced with having to walk that proverbial line where it is made known to us that our views have to be in-line with theirs, and on their terms.
That still sounds like a version of slavery to me but I digress.
yes we are angry so what?
The truth is, we are angry. We are angry that we are constantly being told how to look, how to feel, how to talk, when to stand up and when to sit down. We are angry that we are held to higher standards yet rarely receive the accolades for what we sacrifice to get there. We are angry that we have to sit in board rooms and meetings listening to other people, white people, talk about us, around us, and through us, over issues concerning us.
We are angry that we are continuously asked to show up for white feminism and progressive ideas, yet we are left out of the conversations and plans once you reach the mountain top. We are angry that we are always tasked with helping guide allies to understanding while at the same time being told to do it gently because white women like their tears and have learned very well how to weaponize them against us.
We are angry that the very things that makes us beautiful and unique are criticized and ridiculed, until the appropriation of those very traits makes a white woman money. Then it becomes a “standard” or “trend” because it is more palatable coming from white women. Apparently, the “prison cornrows” that Black women wear only work as “cornrows” on white women and thus, they are a fashion moment.
We are angry that we are not allowed to be angry because white America has decided that other than dealing with its past, it would rather just live behind utopia coloured lenses, because it is easier for them. Meanwhile, Black and brown boys and girls, women and men are still being slaughtered, imprisoned, and marginalized with impunity.
We are angry that you refuse to let us be angry. We are allowed to have that anger, be it “Eloquent Rage” or just being “Good and Mad” we have earned the right to not only be angry, but to OWN that anger with pride and damn anybody who tries to take that power from us.
We have the Freedom to be angry Black women.