I Am An Angry Black Woman: Ain’t I A Human?

Photo by Noa Denman

Yesterday, Black Connecticut Congresswoman Jahana Hayes’ virtual town hall was Zoom bombed by trolls using racist slurs. As I watched the replay, in spite of the vitriolic attack, Congresswoman Hayes remained confident, focused, and steady. When asked about the incident afterwards, she discussed how, although the slurs were directed toward her, she immediately checked in on everyone else to see if they were okay. Upon reflection, however, she disclosed that while her instinct was to be ‘strong’ and emotionally push through the all too familiar occurrence, she in fact, was not okay. She stated: “It’s exhausting to always take the high road, to always show grace and poise, like we’re these super human beings and we’re not bothered by this…It’s not okay, and I’m not okay.” In response to her brave admittance, she subsequently penned a raw and poignant article aptly title: ‘I Am Not Ok’.

I distinctly remember the day I questioned the effectiveness of the superwoman cape that I and other Black women proudly wear, often to our detriment. It was right after the Breonna Taylor murder. I was unpacking with my therapist, and I just blurted out “I don’t care anymore! I AM an angry Black woman!!” He then looked at me as if his grasshopper had finally seen the light and calmly responded: “Of course, you have every reason to be.”

Oh, word?

Here’s the deal…I AM an angry Black woman — AND IT…IS…O…FREAKIN’…K! The reality is that we have been so conditioned to self-police our raw emotional responses, that we dismiss the fact that the angry Black woman trope was originally designed to make us look as if we were co-conspirators with the very sins committed against us. We spend such an inordinate amount of time trying to refute the white gaze, that we ironically fall right into the psychological trap set before us. You see, as we try to constantly avoid stereotypes, we are at the same time unconsciously suppressing the emotional response that initiated the stereotype in the first place. It’s a sickness that continues to reinforce itself, and we are then accused that this (justifiable) response is somehow an innate character flaw or a consequence of our own doing.

“It’s exhausting to always take the high road, to always show grace and poise, like we’re these super human beings and we’re not bothered by this…It’s not okay, and I’m not okay.”

Sis, it’s time to deconstruct how we see our anger. Negative emotions such as anger serve a purpose. It essentially tells us what we care about. I seriously doubt that when Jesus was flippin’ tables over in the temple courts he was experiencing joy and peace. He was angry — in fact, righteously so! Understanding how we can use our anger allows us to get in that ’good trouble’ that statesman and civil rights leader John Lewis spoke about. Suppressing it not only ignores what ignites us, but it is emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually damaging — not to mention, it plays right into the hands of the perpetrators who created the pejorative stereotype in the first place!

Dear Black woman — it is okay to not be okay. It takes courage to admit when you are not okay. It is okay to pause and temporarily retreat when you are not okay. Acknowledging that you are not okay — that you are in fact angry, exhausted, and sick and tired of being sick and tired, does not define nor diminish your strength, but rather serves as an alert for you to re-up your tank for the next battle.

I am an angry Black woman because I am human…because I have been scarred…because I am passionate…because I see and have experienced injustice. The question is not “How shall I get rid of it?” but rather “How shall I use it?”

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