Ever since I first got published at The Peak, I’ve received constant encouragement and feedback for what I write. Yet I always seem to hear the same things from people who read my pieces: “Gosh, you’re full of anger,” “You’ve got an attitude,” or “Wow, so sassy, girl!”
I’m neither angry nor sassy, nor do I have an attitude. I’m just speaking out. Is that so hard to believe? I’m not your angry black woman.
The moment I speak out, criticize, or otherwise share my opinion, I’m slapped in the face with the “angry black woman” stereotype. Don’t get me wrong: I have more than enough reason to justify being angry. Society throws derogative terms like “ghetto,” “ratchet,” and “baby mama” at me. I am feared. I am constantly being told that I’m too loud. I’m judged before I even speak.
Which is exactly why it’s time to end this damaging narrative. To make myself clear, having strong opinions and being passionate about them does not make me angry. Anytime a black woman stands up for what she believes, she is classified as “the angry black woman,” but when other people do it, they are called passionate.
When news headlines start with “Angry black woman says,” we stop listening and ignore what is being communicated. The stereotype is a social control mechanism that comes from the assumption that I am being irrational and unreasonable, and consequently, that listening to me is not worth anyone’s time.
In movies and TV shows, the angry black woman is often used as comic relief. The trope has grown so extensive that when a black female on screen is actually angry, the audience just finds it amusing. We no longer pay attention to what opinions the character is voicing.
Take Tyler Perry movies, for example. On one hand, his films have successfully created a wide audience and culture for African American comedies in Hollywood; on the other, movies like these only positively represent black men by shoving black women under the bus, perpetuating the stereotypes surrounding them.
Remember Angela from Why Did I Get Married? Or Lauren from Think Like a Man? Both were angry black women who were used as little more than comic relief.
Are you trying to tell me that I’d rather speak of social injustices such as recent shootings of unarmed black men than the Brangelina breakup, because I’m just an angry woman? That I’d rather talk about institutional gender inequalities than about how pumpkin spice is taking over fall because I’m “unreasonable”?
No, it’s because I choose to speak about what most people fear addressing. I’ll point out the white elephant in the room, so to speak. I’m not afraid to say that too many people are so afraid to talk about race that they won’t even mention the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m not ashamed to call someone out for making discriminatory and unjust statements.
To anyone who’s ever reprimanded or criticized another person for voicing their opinion or speaking up: when I speak passionately about a cause that you may not feel as passionate about, don’t try to shut me up by calling me “angry” and disregarding what I’m saying.
Try to dehumanize me and devalue me, but that will never take away my voice. I shall continue to speak for those who can’t, and to stand up even when I’m standing alone. You may say that I’m angry; well, I think I’m brave.