The Myth of The Angry Black Woman: Chapter 1

I was confronted a few months back with leading answer. By this I mean, I was presented with a scenario to which the speaker fully intended on hearing a specific answer. When this did not happen, their intentions became blatantly obvious.

The speaker confronted me about the behavior of his black female coworkers, citing that they seemed friendly and even flirtatious until shown pictures of a partner who happened to be a non-black. The speaker mentioned that this revelation transformed once friendly and flirtatious demeanor to indifference.

I responded by complimenting the speaker on his above average appearance and remarked, which I do believe by the way, that women tend to be, and rightfully so, disappointed when a handsome man is taken. The speaker is an educated and professional black male that makes what I am sure is a generous salary. To this, I mentioned that many black women find dating quite challenging, noting that professional black women are often frustrated in  a quest to meet a man who has achieved her level of conventional “success.”

This response was not good enough for the speaker. A fact unveiled in his insistence that these black women must be “angry” that his partner was not black. It then became shockingly clear, this anger, although not present, was a validating component to this individual’s action.

This instance was the not the first time I had been sought out to validate black female anger. But somehow this instance was most poignant in unveiling black female anger as entirely necessary in consummating an illusive whiteness. For if the black woman is not angry, black femininity fails to embody the essential savagery and bitterness–traits entirely orchestrated by the white world.

I want to examine this topic in three parts:

  1. Who is the black woman and is she angry?
  2. How does she function?
  3. Why does it work?

I. Who is the black woman and is she angry? 

We’ve all see her—popping her neck, rolling her eyes, bellicose and unprofessional, scouring the interracial couple with fatal looks. Or maybe your mind roams to Bernadette from Waiting to Exhale, torching her estranged husband’s car after he leaves her for a white woman.

To those that have supposedly seen such a woman, may I ask how did you know she was black? To properly discount the fictive “angry black woman” it is imperative that we as a collective stop assuming affiliation based on skin color. If you are a black woman, I am sure that you have experienced virulent engagements of women with African lineage, but in reality they may not have been black women.

Blackness is much more than skin color. I say that not to omit skin color as a facet of blackness, but that color does not encapsulate the totality of blackness. The truly black woman, a woman who bears the lineage, the education and consciousness of the blackness, could never be an angry individual. To be cognizant is to exist in a rare state where trivial emotions like anger, happiness, and pride all dissipate into a collective purpose, erasing individualism.

The caricatured black woman who embraces all stereotypes, even ones about herself, may be angry, but is not conscious enough to be angry about behavior or words that do not reflect her personally. Thus, this melanated individual may be upset if she’s skipped in a line at Walmart, whereas if she was black in body and mind she would realize that she should not be giving the white man any money, let alone being in a rush to do so. These melanated individuals are often angry about not being included in the white world, an emotion that has only produced results that benefit western capitalism. Similarly, a melanated woman may become indignant in her hair being unlike the Indian or Malaysian woman, and often becomes a prime consumer for the weave and hair industry. The black woman on the other hand, embraces her natural beauty, even when it may be more convenient or conventionally appealing to don an inauthentic hair piece.

“Anger” is the reaction of those crippled by oppression. It is an attempt to combat the western world, with something seemingly as cold and hard as its wrath, but it functions to only to quench the oppressor’s thirst for power. Oppressed anger is not really anger, but a reactionary tool used to mask the true anger and evil of the oppressor.

II. What role does she play?

It is imperative to note that the “angry” black female body serves a distinct purpose in the traditional and contemporary world. Namely, the shallow “anger” of the melanated woman serves as a catalyst for fathering western commerce.

Anger is a trivial emotion that is temperamental thereby inevitably short lived, but when intertwined with a fractured identity, produces long term results that are lethal to the physical and mental health of black bodies, businesses, and culture.

Black female collective emotions, however are blatantly ignored. The true black woman who reflects the shared emotions of a collective systemically disenfranchised for centuries, is seldom labeled angry but is often labeled revolutionary or crazy, if acknowledged at all. Collective emotions, or black unity in general, has no place in the western world, so it is ignored so to salvage western fiction.

The truth is, to understand the totality of black disenfranchisement is worthy of anger. But given that most blacks do not fully understand racism, most black people, and black women are not angry. Late author and black feminist Audre Lorde, who was often pegged as an angry black woman, garnered said labeling because of her ability to dissect the complexities of white supremacy. Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and bell hooks are black women who possess a deep understanding of white supremacy, their assertive disposition often misconstrued as anger, and only allowed to surface under specific circumstances—namely, the subjectivity of the humanities.

Davis and Shakur occupy prevalent positions in the black collective, but are rarely the topics of colloquial conversation. For to discuss Shakur and Davis is to move beyond anger and begin to conceptualize the totality of black existence. Alternatively, to fixate on anger is to reduce the black female body to a capricious being incapable of being taken seriously.

The gentleman referenced in the beginning of my argument, for example, conceptualizes the black women at his workplace as “angry” to oversimplify their behavior to individuals who reflect a common resentment towards his choices. A resentment he needs to validate his interracial romance.  For to look at anything at a higher level, or as a collective thought or opinion, is to have to admit that something is deeply flawed within the general western collective, an admittance most oppressed by western influence refuse to consider.

In refusing to confront a world that nurtures this fictive “anger,” the angry black female face validates subjecting the black female  body to invisibility or incarceration. Angela Davis and Assata Shakur both illustrate a collective black rage that fails to produce empathy but inducing real consequence. Namely, both women served time in prison because of the belief that collective black rage, or in this case black female anger, constitutes white murder.

The angry black woman also functions to discount black female beauty.

With every passing moment, a young black girl, or black woman is told to smile. The fixture on the black female face as bearing anger, is a subtle way to discount her attractiveness by implying that “she’d be so much prettier if she’d smile.” In reality a smiling black woman is more approachable because she garners less concern about what it is that she is thinking. The unpredictable black female body threatens a society that functions on a controlled black female body.

III. Why does it work?

The angry labeling works because no one wants to be angry. To be angry is to occupy a remote and inaccessible position, which serves as the perfect excuse to a world that does not wish to help you anyway.  Imagine if we changed the labeling of these women. Imagine if we called these women “Educated,” “enlightened” or “Skilled thinkers?”

Well, then the connotation of black femininity would be positive and thereby poisonous to white supremacy.

The angry black woman operates as a barricade, obstructing the black female body from much needed access to the resources needed to thrive. The angry black woman caricature places a facade over valid emotions experiences by the collective black woman made to endure patterns of injustice planted in a path that will ultimately induce her destruction. Moreover, the angry black woman is not real, but her consequences are.

IV. Closing Remarks

In revisiting this story, I still find it hard to identify what exactly is wrong with the described black female reaction. Correct me if I’m mistaken, but is it not standard procedure for any woman to maintain a respectable distance from a married man?

If these women did not maintain a respectable distance, they would be treacherous beings seeking to desecrate the conjugal sanctity of a happy couple. But in their restraint they are angry. Furthermore, the black female body remains displaced in a disposition bound for negativity. She is damned if she does and damned if she does not– her damned state fundamental to very ground to which she walks.

The adversarial compartmentalizing of black female anger is a strategic act of deflection implemented into the western mind by white oppressors. For it is far easier to say that something is wrong with the black woman, as opposed to concede that there is something wrong with the world.

Deflection is an act mastered by the western world, and the angry black woman exists to deflect victim status from the oppressed onto the oppressor.

The caricatured black woman prompts many to ask: What a pity for the world to tolerate this angry black beast? Collectively forgetting that the caricatured black female body is created from, not of, atrocity.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. kelley says:

    Great breakdown. I especially agree with the point of Black anger as a barricade. So well put!

  2. “Well, then the connotation of black femininity would be positive and thereby poisonous to white supremacy.
    The angry black woman operates as a barricade, obstructing the black female body from much needed access to the resources needed to thrive. The angry black woman caricature places a facade over valid emotions experiences by the collective black woman made to endure patterns of injustice planted in a path that will ultimately induce her destruction. Moreover, the angry black woman is not real, but her consequences are.”
    Very well written! Beautiful breakdown of the “angry black woman”. Thanks for this great post CC!

  3. Excellent analysis and observation C.C!!!

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