Let’s Talk About “Angry”
As a black woman, I’ve always looked up to black women. They have been my first teachers, caretakers, supporters, disciplinaries, and inspirations. My great aunt Barbara, at 80-something years old, is a woman of elegance, grace, knowledge, and power. My mother has been the epitome of love and devotion for my whole life. My oldest sister is a shining light of intelligence and wit—hands-down the smartest person I know. My younger sister is full of bravery and courage; her very existence has motivated me to being a better woman for years now. My best friend is the most loyal, hardworking person I know. My youngest niece, only 10 months old now, reminds me of the freedom that comes with living for oneself and no one else. These women, young and old, are my reason for being.
So, when a black man told me “I can’t stand black women; y’all ain’t shit,” I really didn’t know how to react. I was stuck somewhere between dumbfoundedness and utter, sheer repulsion. How dare you, a black man, stand in my face and tell me that women who look like me—who look like you—ain’t shit and then proceed to provide reasons so illogical I almost can’t believe someone thought them up? “I don’t hear black women when y’all speak,” he told me. Then he went on to tell me, and several of our white female coworkers, why: “Black women got too much attitude. Why y’all gotta come at me so hard and angry all the time?” He continued for ten more minutes, but there was far too much stupidity at work and I wouldn’t subject readers to that kind of torture.
Of all the big, descriptive words in the dictionary to describe my experience, “angry” is the least fitting. I am not angry. I am carrying the weight of the world’s burdens on my shoulders. I am heavy with years of sexual oppression; violence from the very men whom I was taught to protect at all costs; a history of erasure from a movement built around the supposed uplift of women everywhere. Tattooed in the creases on my hands are the words of spiteful, ungrateful black men, whom I cannot help but love.
I’m weary. Of the ways of the world; of you niggas; of this country; of having to hide my body behind pounds of cotton like we didn’t stop picking that shit a long time ago.
I am loud and vocal. Better yet, I am silver-tongued, grandiloquent, impassioned, expressive, passionate, powerful. For so long, people have demanded that I be quiet. Do you know how it feels to be stripped of your words? Of the right to express yourself? Your pain, anger, frustration, love, joy, sadness? Have you felt the pain of your tongue being ripped from between your lips then hearing your words from the mouth of another? Do you know how it feels to scream and shout for help only to have your voice to fall on deaf ears, even though the shrill sound of it pierces still air?
I am the physical manifestation of love. I am a product of the struggles and accomplishments of countless black women before me. I am a sister, daughter, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, and lover. I am smart, important, loyal and courageous. Most of all, I am unapologetically myself. Everything you are you owe to women like me: black women.
Fuck it. Call me angry. I am, in fact, angry. And rightfully so.