I am sure we have all heard of the ‘angry black woman’ label.
If you have not it is basically a title given to black women to depict that they are naturally loud, irrational, ill-mannered and hot tempered. Some of my favourite shows like “Love and Hip Hop” and “The Real Housewives” do a good job of confirming this stereotype because we have black women cussing each other out and throwing drinks at each other even for the slightest of misunderstandings as entertainment. What is not emphasised in those shows is how the same women are career oriented, entrepreneurs and homemakers etc. Are we really like this as black women or is this a stereotype that needs to be debunked?
Personally, I feel like this is just a myth. We do not just wake up and go about our day angry but if we are provoked we will get to a point where we are furious just like any other group of the human race right? So there really should just be an angry person title period. That is what is natural. I would like us to explore why all black women have been cast under the “the angry black woman” umbrella and how it has affected us over the years.
Black women are a force to be reckoned with. Look at your mother, aunt, grandmother right up to prominent figures like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mara Lowe and Michelle Obama and so many more. They have a natural charisma that makes them exude confidence and strength.
This usually does not sit well with other groups of people. Because we are the forever underdog it intimidates them and makes them feel uncomfortable. As means to push themselves forward and destroy our victory, no matter how small or to make the people around the black woman lose their faith in her the “angry black woman” statement is brought in. It is used as an attack on, especially, successful black women from an angle that suggests that this woman is not only bitter but she is unpredictable and therefore cannot be trusted especially because she is black.
It becomes worse if the black woman is passionate about empowering other black women and creates awareness on issues that affect this group. With absolutely no evidence or reason, the seed of doubt is planted in other people’s minds that this woman is unreliable. It is definitely the card used when a black female is in authority and is very outspoken and in control in this position. She will be called an angry black woman by her counterparts and subordinates if she expresses an idea passionately or opposes a motion.
It is very likely to be because the face of a black woman is not usually giving orders and when it finally does it cannot be viewed as positive but has to have negative connotations like she probably got to be in power by being rude or aggressive. Kerwin A (2017) explains that this is one stereotype amongst many that is directed towards black women and influences the way they are perceived at work and in social situations.
On the flip side look at your mother, aunt and grandmother again. As a black child was it easy living with them or did everyday feel like you were partaking in an extreme sport? Growing up in a black African household I know firsthand the heights that the temper of a black African woman can spiral to and somehow I feel like they take pride in being that way. Very often we hear women in their conversations beat their chests for being stand offish or rude to someone else with phrases like ‘you know girl; I told her, I don’t play like that’ or ‘I have a very short fuse, I put her in place!’ Not all black African women are like this. We have some of the most soft-spoken and gentle women amongst us.
It is almost like we are sitting and waiting for someone to offend us. It has become usual to see these women shout and frown numerous times on a daily basis. Their child or husband could do the tiniest thing and it would be taken out of proportion and a screaming frenzy would be in order. I mean I am not a therapist but that sounds and looks like anger issues in some way or form.
To be so aggressive that as a wife and as a mother they fail or just simply forget to channel their softer and more lovable side. Hands up if to this day you find it very difficult to just give your mom, aunt or grand mom a random hug and a kiss. Why? Because growing up they were just always angry towards you and that made them super unapproachable.
The sad thing is that this behaviour is learnt and has been passed down to us probably the same way it was passed down to our mothers and aunts from our grandmothers and so on. Since we grew up terrified of our mothers all we know is that our kids have to be absolutely scared of us as well because in some twisted way that is how we know a good mother to be. I see young mothers in town snap at their young kids and promise them spankings for, say, lagging behind because their tiny feet cannot keep up to their mother’s big strides. I mean our mothers are great providers and we knew they loved us but they were just so angry and it is a vicious cycle that only feeds into the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype. However, I do feel like this attitude is more of armour that not only black African women but different types of people wear to cover up their different vulnerabilities.
The hardest thing about this stereotype, despite the fact it was probably created by a man who knows nothing about women let alone black women, is having to live everyday trying to prove to the world that you are not an “angry black woman” It forces you to act in way that will be seen as “civilised and feminine” according to the people who push the stereotype. It makes you suppress your natural way of reacting to mistreatment and forces you to be a good girl and be quiet.
However, we are not responsible for the stereotypes pushed upon us and all we can do as black women is live our best lives and hopefully the more other groups interact with us the more the stereotype of “angry black woman” will be just that… a stereotype. We cannot be remorseful for our being and if we are backed into a corner… we will react.