Another day on social media. Another day that a Black woman is being labeled as “angry.” It is exhausting to repeatedly hear this tired and basic trope used by White people to describe Black women. Any time a Black woman makes you feel uncomfortable, she is labeled as angry. When a Black woman has an opinion, she is labeled as angry. When a Black woman states facts about racism, she is labeled as angry. If a Black woman decides to stand up for herself, you call her angry. Any time a Black woman doesn’t want to go out to the office get-together because she knows she will once again be the only Black person in the space, she is labeled as angry. Any time a Black woman sets a clear boundary, she is angry. Any time a Black woman speaks up for herself, she is angry. Any time a Black woman says no, she is labeled as angry.
A Black woman being labeled angry is always the default because White people have no other emotions to ascribe to Black women. Black women were not brought to this country as human beings with a full range of emotions but as property. The myriad of emotions that Black women have never were considered. Black women were brought to this country to serve White people and do it all while wearing a smile. Any emotions Black women felt had to be stifled and choked down so they could survive another day. It is not that Black women don’t have a range of emotions; it’s just that this world believes we are void of emotions. In the last 400 years, they have never even taken the time to begin to understand who Black women are, and because they do not know Black women, they can only say that Black women are angry.
You believe that Black women are just supposed to serve you with a smile. You act as if Black women are Burger King, and you can have it your way. You are fine with Black women as long as they are the caricatures you have created in your head. Black women are supposed to be the smiling, laughing, pleasant, head-nodding, finger-snapping mammy who is always around to grant you whatever you need, like a magical genie. The minute a Black woman deviates from the image you crafted in your head, you label her as angry.
I am here to tell you that you have not seen Black women angry. The fact that Black women have not burned this nation to the ground is a miracle that many should be thankful for.
You do not understand the level of restraint Black women are using every single day. Trust me, the Black woman you are working with right at this very moment is restraining herself. Look at her. She is beautiful, poised, skin glowing, sitting at her desk, drinking her water, and minding her business; she is restraining herself. I can guarantee that a million thoughts are racing through her head, most of which are probably centered around how she is underappreciated and underpaid. She is smiling at you, but she is thinking about how she has to deal with constant microaggressions, how you have touched her hair for the 4th time this week even after she asked you not to. The fact that she hasn’t cussed you out yet should let you know how much she is restraining herself. She’s sitting at her desk, and she knows you will ask her to stay late even though you never ask Carol, and she knows if she says no, she will be labeled as “not a team player.” So she is restraining herself just to survive another day in the office.
I don’t think you understand that inside of every Black woman is a simmering volcano that daily we fight to keep under control. You haven’t seen our anger. We have given White people a level of grace that you cannot even begin to comprehend and most certainly do not appreciate.
Black women have every single right to be angry in this world. As James Baldwin said, “To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” There is no way that you can watch what is happening in this nation and not be angry. Instead of sitting back and asking Black women, “Why are you so angry,” I want to know why the hell aren’t you angry? At what point will you start getting angry enough to change some shit in this nation?
What you view as anger, I regard as love. It is because we love this country that we keep fighting for it. When will you love it enough to fight for it? When will you love it enough to say something is wrong when Black people cannot shop in the grocery store without being shot and killed. When will you love it enough to say something is wrong when women can’t make decisions about their own bodies. When will you love it enough to say something is wrong when our babies are being slaughtered in school. When will you love it enough to say something is wrong when an officer can walk into your home and kill you. At what point will you be angry enough to care? At what point will you be outraged enough to do some shit?
Black women continue to fight for this country every day because we know what this country can be. We will shout from the rooftops about justice because we love Black people. We understand that when Black people rise, everyone rises. We are fighting for our freedom just to be, and if we say it loudly and passionately, that is not anger. That is love.
However, please know that Black women are well within our right to be angry. Trust me, you haven’t seen our level of anger. And in fact, you couldn’t even begin to handle our level of anger. This very nation would be turned upside down. Know that Black women have been remarkably calm, poised, and patient.
But don’t tempt us.
We have been keeping score.
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Categories: Thoughts, Musings and Reflections
I truly appreciate the way that you are able to articulate so brilliantly the way that I see the world & the thoughts that go through my mind daily.
It is reassuring to know that I am not alone, and it gives credibility to my reaction to the situations that occur in my life and how I react to them. Thank you, sis!
Thank you for this great article. You expressed so much of what I feel but couldn’t express in words because I find myself in the position of being so angry I’m afraid to open my mouth for the words that will come out won’t be kind.