Updated: Mar 5, 2020
There was a moment in one of my therapy sessions where I was asked, "Do you get angry?." I was a bit perplexed at the question. "Havent you heard the phrase Angry Black Woman?" I thought to myself as I side-eyed this therapist. (in my head, of course)
I considered this question to be a double edged sword. Of course I get angry. I remember the times my temper was so out of control, I'm embrassed to hit the replay button in my subconcious. On the other end of the sword, I remember the times I've swallowed my anger like a home cooked meal of collard greans and fried okra. My therapist's question wasn't to patronize me, nor to embarrass me. It was asked because I needed to examine what I did with my anger.
If you're a black woman living in America, there's at least 10 anger landmines being pushed on a daily. Just turn on the news, and see the many ways America insidiously ridicules us before we even leave the house. "Great, in what way do I have to repress myself today?" is the question I often find myself pondering. Each morning I arise, I wonder if I have to bear the pain of seeing another black boy being killed by the police on national television, without being held responsible for their irrational decision.
"How do I have to wear my hair today, so Becky doesn't say something contrary to good morning?" I could go on naming the many landmines that could cause a catastrophic explosion to the world, but I'll disgress. Perhaps, the phrase "Angry Black Woman" is juxtaposition of being fed up with having to repress the utter discuss of being openly disrespected and disregarded - as we are expected to swallow the hurt, pain, and rejection we feel - so that we avoid being labeled an "angry black woman".
How dare black women be angry.
"White women’s rage is given prominent position as a healthy exercise of power acquisition,” says Dionne Grayman, a career educator and the co-founder of We Run Brownsville, an organization that uses walk/runs and an “active activism” model to empower women in their physical, mental and emotional wellness. “It is their right to be angry in the face of their oppression. ”She adds: “Given the same consideration, though, black women’s anger has to be tempered and detached from the fire and fury of white women to make other people feel comfortable... White women get to be mad and are not asked to explain why. Our anger has to pass the smell test.” (1)
Anger manifests itself in many ways. We see the effects anger has on our young men in our communities by way of behavior issues at school, agression with both young men and women, with emotional, and physical abuse in some cases. Repressed or rather, unexpressed anger's initial response is to attack. If you've ever been on the receiving end of someone's verbal assault (warranted or not) it's most likely due to repressed anger.
As a child, the memories of my grandmother often yelling and screaming at my grandfather puzzled me. "Why is she so angry?" I'd ask myself. It's almost impossible to understand the concept of repressed anger as a child, but well into adulthood the picture is crystal clear. I never got the chance to sit down with my grandmother to ask clarifying questions to unpack her traumatic experiences in life, as she grew up in the era of the Great Depression. She bore witness to the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panther assassinations, and the crack pandemic in the 80's. As an adult looking back, I empathize with some of her plight.
As black women, we often feel as though we're not allowed to express our anger, or that anger in itself is a forbidden emotion not privy to us. However, we must keep in mind that repressed anger (or any emotion) causes a severeity of other health issues. Healthy outlets for our anger is crucial to our health and wellbeing. Acknowleging and validating our own repressed emotions is the first and very important step to feeling human, and realizing we don't have the play the strong black woman role at all times.
Anger is a healthy emotion. It's a human emotion. How we express and use our anger for the betterment of ourselves and others, can catapult the changes we desire to see - within ourselves, and within our communities. So, I pose the same question to you; do you get angry?