The “Angry Black Woman” is a stereotype that most black women try to avoid. She is loud, has a bad attitude, and is just difficult. She comes off as bitter and maybe even rude sometimes. She is just angry, and nobody wants to be her. Working in corporate America, I have found myself in positions where I have silenced myself when inappropriate racial things were said because I did not want to be the angry black woman at work. I did not want people to view me as someone who just had a problem with everything, who couldn’t take a joke, or who was too uptight. As I grow, I continue to question this whole “angry black woman” archetype, and the more I learn about womanism and the intersection of racism and sexism, I find that this stereotype is just another way of silencing black women when we are in the face of oppression.
The angry black woman stereotype became popularized by the racist show Amos ‘n’ Andy in the 1950s. The show featured white men in black face who played caricatures of black women. Sapphire was the character who was the angry black woman, and she was loud, mean, and emasculating to her husband. Shows like Amos ‘n’ Andy portrayed black women in such a negative light, and it helped spread these negative images and messages of black women and their behavior. However, this show was simply a live presentation of pre-existing ideas about black women that allowed for the abuse and oppression of us for centuries.
The Angry Black Woman stereotype serves as a way of silencing black women from speaking out for ourselves. Black women are faced with the most criticism of any group of women in America. When we have a problem, instead of it being taken seriously, it turns into, “stop being an angry black woman.” Because of the negative connotation and history of angry black women, we are put in positions where even expressing our feelings about the transgressions against us gets labeled as angry and is belittled to this stereotype. Society acts as if black women are the only women who get angry. And even more, they act as if anger is not a normal emotion that every human has. Why is it such a problem, then, for black women to have this emotion as well? Which takes me to my second point.
Black women have experienced levels of oppression, abuse, and suffering that no other group of women in America has experienced. Since slavery, we have had our children snatched from us, been forced to have children even if we didn’t want to, been raped and bred, had our fathers, brothers, and uncles killed and locked away, have been denied jobs because of skin and hair, and continue to see our brothers and sisters shot in the streets. We continue to live in a society that tells black women that we are ugly unless we are serving the purpose of sexually pleasing a man or unless we fit into Eurocentric beauty standards. We continue to live in a society where our friends and family and brothers and fathers and sisters and mothers are being incarcerated at alarming rates and in disproportionate numbers compared to our white counterparts. We continue to live in a society where we go into a workplace and they weren’t expecting a black woman and by the end of the week our job is gone. We continue to live in a society where we have to act one way around our white peers and another way around our people. We continue to live in a society that tells us our features are unacceptable on us, but acceptable on white women (big lips, braids, etc). We continue to live in a society that forces us to ignore what we feel in order to please everyone else. Yet, with all of this, we are expect not to be angry? No. I am angry. And I have a reason.
As black women, we all have a reason to be angry. I am angry that this country has stripped me of my native tongue and religion and has fed me white Jesus and English. I am angry that the black family structure has been destroyed over generations, and as a result, I and so many other black women have grown up without their fathers. I am angry that I can go to China Town but there is no Black Town. I am angry that we never got our 40 acres. I am angry that black people have very little resources, but the government is giving money to foreigners to come over here and open businesses. I am angry that black people are dying by gun violence everyday, both at the hands of other blacks and at the hands of police, and nothing is being done about it on a large scale. I am angry that drugs have flooded our communities. I am angry at gentrification. I am angry that black women have the highest rate of STDs and heart disease, and there is misinformation and lack of health education in our communities. I am angry that little black girls are being brainwashed by Disney and are being programmed to know their places under a system of white supremacy. I am angry that little black girls are walking around with relaxers in their hair and have “Bieber fever” but can’t name any young black artist that they like. I am angry at white patriarchy and the dishonoring of womanhood. I am angry at Future for fucking someone’s “bitch” in some Gucci flip flops.
I could go on and on about all the things that I have to be angry about as a Black woman in America. The Black woman’s anger is justified. We have a lot to be angry about. There’s nothing wrong with us being angry. It’s all in how we act and display our anger, which is where emotional maturity comes into play. Of course, we shouldn’t go around screaming and hitting people because we are angry. However we do not have to be quiet, polite, or nice when expressing how we feel about the wrongs done to us or to our people, because usually quite, polite, and nice means not saying anything at all. This stereotype has done nothing but diminish our feelings, voices, and problems. But I will continue to voice my opinions about the bs that goes on in this country. I will not tolerate racist remarks. I will not tolerate disrespect. I will not be afraid to discuss issues that are important to me as a black woman just because it makes others uncomfortable. If that makes me an Angry Black Woman, then so be it.