I am an angry black woman: an open letter
September 08, 2015 at 2:00 am
I’m Jasmine, and I’m an angry black woman.
Yes, you heard that right. I am angry, black and a woman. The trifecta.
This facet of my identity has been under constant, heightened attack in recent years. As a response to those who attempt to diminish black women’s grievances by labeling them as angry, and thus irrational, black feminists have tried to shirk the “angry black woman” narrative. Despite the very valid need to undermine the harmful aspects of this trope, I find legitimacy in the idea of being angry, black and a woman.
In a society where the latter two characteristics mean we are paid less than our male and white counterparts, rarely see ourselves represented positively (or at all) in popular culture, are constantly questioned about our hair and are treated like an exhibit because of our body types and facial features, joviality is unwarranted. If anything, it is our anger that will change these insidious and overt forms of discrimination. I mean really, have you ever heard of a pleasant demeanor or giggle reforming a law and making racists and sexists better, more aware people?
In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. If we take a look back on some of the most influential black women, many were pretty angry. For example, how many photos have you seen of Harriet Tubman smiling? The answer, of course, is very few (if any) — she had no reason to; being angry came with the territory of her activism. Black feminist pioneers and freedom fighters such as Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and Winnie Mandela spent a lot of time being irate, pissed and downright fed up. As James Baldwin said, “To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” Now try adding female to that cocktail of oppression and the source of our anger becomes clearer and even more palpable.
Instead of silencing our rage, we should be forcing others to hear it. We must underscore the idea that it’s possible to be critical and infuriated while also being rational and worthy of response. This is not to say that black women are never happy or having fun — laughing is something I do often and passionately — but having to pretend to be calm and joyous when faced with situations in opposition to those feelings is unfair. The attempt to silence my identity by asserting that my anger is inappropriate because I am a black woman is purposeful. It is directly linked to preserving white and male comfort, a role I am not interested in assuming.
So, to all of the black women reading this, I encourage you to let out your anger. Do not feel like you have to hide it or bury it behind a pleasant face. You deserve to be fully human and express any emotion you choose. Unfortunately, as a black woman today, that means you might spend a fair amount of time pissed off — but having to hide it will only make that feeling worse.
An Angry Black Woman
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