The label “angry black woman” follows any display of black female emotion. It attaches itself to any black woman who displays any epistemological alignment with an African past. The label is untrue at best and a complete dismissal of black emotion at worst. Anger is also a violent oversimplification for the emotions that accompany blackness in an American context. To displace anger as the emotion that befalls black people, is to circumscribe a black past into a single scene of upset, overlooking the outrage, disrespect, the beauty, tenacity, and heartbreak that encapsulates the totality of the black experience.
I want to be clear by what I mean by heartbreak, because I am not at all interested in socially reproducing another “dark girl narrative.” Blackness is not detrimental; its manifestation under a global hegemonic gaze is the catastrophe. To regard that gaze in glory is a victory for anti-black agents; to see red and white but refuse to be blue remains a hyper site the white world censures in its defense. Moreover, to deny black emotion remains a prominent component to racializing the body at the expense of personhood.
A quote by late author Toni Morrison affords this mediation on blackness and emotion its necessary critical foundation. In God Help the Child, Morrison writes:
“You should take heartbreak of whatever kind seriously with the courage to let it blaze and burn like the pulsing star it is”Toni Morrison from Novel God help the Child
Though employing the English language, Morrison’s words attain resonance in feeling. Particularly, Morrison’s words underscore the injustice that follows avoiding life’s emotions. Scholarly and general discourse frequently references blacks as dehumanized by systemic forces. However, censuring black emotion remains an overlooking methodology in dehumanizing the black collective.
This detour from life’s detriment however, is not an escape route; it’s a trap door.
Morrison’s words prove especially pertinent to the African in America, whose history consists of the horrors that incite resistance, whose present consists of truths that seem better pacified by selective acknowledgment, if acknowledged at all. The white world presents many escapist routes disguised as trap doors to the African in America. Drugs and alcohol encompass perhaps the most blatant examples, but as demonstrated in what drugs and alcohol have done to black communities, this detour route delineates that all roads lead to racism. Attempts to avoid heartache, be it drugs, alcohol, social media likes, retail therapy, sex, etc, engenders participation in systemic pain that festers collective defeat.
Emption or feeling, the searing sensation that occurs beneath the flesh, is not for the faint of heart, nor is it a death sentence. The emotion is a constellation; it is that pulsing star that guides the black collective to a metaphysical space beside our ancestors. The guidance only manifests when emotion blossoms in its entirety, when the feeling is allowed to fester its way to healing.
Black trajectory throughout the globe, especially in the United States, should incite a mirage of feelings. To allow the pulsing star to attain its optimal luminosity is to be angry, hurt, brave, beautiful, curious, compassionate—to acknowledge any and every emotion without apology.
It is this unapologetic emotion, that leads the African in America to that space over the rainbow, over the Atlantic Ocean, back to the metaphysical space before the pivotal disruption. To eschew emotion as an African in America is to sacrifice one’s full potential and remain lost in the lies of a venomous racial labyrinth.