More Thoughts on the maligned Angry Black Woman: From Self Destructor to Survivor
The grief of watching mothers, sisters, wives, daughters killing themselves slowly by supping on anger is a familiar experience to black men and women.There is a great well of power within black women who are the most expert survivors in American culture. But we are experts in suicidal behavior as well, which is what swallowed pain, anger and despair amounts to. If we look at some of the great icons of black creativity like Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Iyanla Vanzant, Oprah, Michelle Obama we see women who have grappled with these issues of self destructiveness in their personal lives, but they have managed to harness some of that energy into positive creativity via art, writing, spirituality and social outreach. These roads of creativity are the ultimate saviours, saving us from ourselves.
What is the quick and easy way to analyze one’s anger, to change it into productivity?
Is there a formula for this? In short: NO there is no formula, there is no EASY way to positivity and productivity. Many women – myself included – are often taken to the brink of death before they learn that in order to survive the only choice in life is change.
And it is a terrifying journey, that Only Choice/ Change issue. It is a lonely journey. But the spirit improves over time. You develop greater strength, even when the terrain becomes daunting the deeper you travel into previously unexplored territory….
We, the Angry Black Women, are seekers in the quest for Validation. Acceptance. Success. Creativity. Spirituality. Safety. Security. Unconditional Love.We are seeking Peace. But the Truth that you must contend with before these gifts can ever be attained is that only YOU are responsible for your own success or failure.
Those virtues are attainable. Yet, no one denies that the road is long and hard. Just the fight for stability in one’s life amidst the struggles with bills, under-employment at low wage jobs, student loans, and family responsibility threaten us with overwhelming despair in the face of one’s fragile and newly formed determination. These challenges are the mundane distractions, real and frustrating, difficulties that we all face.
But the first task in developing and strengthening that spiritual determination is a simple one: begin each day in the soft quiet embrace of meditation. Focus in complete silence and get in touch with one’s soul. In this way you begin to take responsibility for your well being and discover the whys and wherefores of one’s anger and other emotions as well. This is the essential first step. Prepare to be surprised continuously once you begin this journey. Make room for a new friend in your life; make room for the side of your Self that you have never seen before.
The holy grail that you seek upon this visionquest is Peace. From the outside forces beyond our control. From racism and sexism. From ourselves. And we are seeking the comfort of that Self that we know exists inside though it has hidden itself away in fear.
This is the journey out of hell.
It is travel from the suicidal pact of self destruction to the ultimate freedom that accompanies self- mastery. Every black woman who has experienced suffering –through racism, sexism, the demons of addiction, and the heartbreaking routine of inane “work” which provides little income yet still denies one the opportunity of true expression — is on a journey.
Your final destination — like Alice’s trek across Wonderland to the Eighth Square — ends at the place where you shall be crowned in majesty as the Soul Mistress of power and love that is inside. The gift is the return to Self.
What every black woman seeks is to become the Mistress of her own Fate and Queen of her Soul.
First off let’s place Anger in it’s proper context. Anger is a vital element and essential stop off point in the journey of self realization. And the journey self realization begins at the subway station where it becomes clear by the merest suspicion that something is wrong – not just in one’s own personal world but in the world at large that includes all souls. Self realization moves thru many stages no different from Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grief. In fact the journey travels through all of those stages, but has the potential to end with a peaceful and even happy acceptance. But let’s be real: long travels and extended journeys — especially in the economy cabin — are tiring and stressful. Who doesn’t feel some intense emotion on a journey? That’s just human. So let’s first contextualize this discussion by noting that Angry Black Women, so-called, are on a journey and they are in that particular leg of the trip where the travel has become hardest and most unbearable. And that woman who is the strongest of women just can’t take it anymore.
I was watching Chris Rock’s concert Bigger and Blacker recently on Youtube and reviewing the extreme variety of comments so idiosyncratic of that site when I read the top voted post under one of his routines: “Yes black women have such big ego problems.” This comment only proved that the commenter totally misunderstood Chris Rock’s routine frankly, but it seemed to me indicative of a common judgement of black women by white Americans who are chief recipients of privilege and entitlement in society. That disdain and dismissal of the black female’s worth and humanity by reducing her personality to a Psychology Lite diagnosis of “ego problems” is hurtful. Those same judges tend to consistently overlook the fact that black women have historically functioned as the lowest rung of social entities on that ladder of rank and privilege.
According to the social scale of white supremacy a black man will always be beneath all whites, and everyone sits atop the black female. So, yes, in that sense one could say that black women encounter ego problems.
This is communicated in numerous ways and means but black women are never left in the dark regarding the very specific judgements of white counterparts because we are told ever so clearly and succinctly that we do not measure up. Black women in America are non-conformist in their very being. Every black female I know in my generation (EVERY ONE, ALL) at some point has been told by a white person “You know you do your job well but some people think you have a chip on your shoulder sweetie”.
Shacondria: Really? Is that what people think? Can you give me their names so I can beat the shit out of them?
*Politrixie stares mournfully across the room at the speaker*
Okay. I didn’t say that nor did anyone else I know. But that is Shacondria over there who just said that, um, violent thing. She doesn’t mean it.
S: Oh yes!! I mean it!! Don’t tell me what I mean to say!!
Let’s talk about Shacondria. You won’t know about her because I don’t see her so often anymore. But there was a time when Shacondria and I were really tight. I mean, I know her as well as I know myself–
S: You are a simple, silly bitch. I am yourself, idiot!!
Shacondria is my evilene ego-trippin Angry Black Woman self. My other personality. I knew if I tried to discuss this subject that she might hear me …but I thought she was sleep and maybe I’d get away with it. And I admit that she – um, we have some legitimate issues. It’s cool. I’m open. I know there’s work that me and Shacondria need.
But the bottom line is that she doesn’t need is to be continually told by entitled white male kingpins of our society about how she could more effectively go about slinking beneath the oppressive weight of every superior individual’s criticisms in order to conform to the black female Miss Celie- stereotype. I mean maybe one day the time will come when we can have that conversation as whites and blacks but right now we’re still in the stage where folks need to do some seriously listening and learning and understanding.
And, lord, let’s don’t even get on the topic about how the paler nation transmits its disapproval of her name. Respectable Negro types too. People don’t even pretend to try to address her courteously.
Leave it to the black woman’s oracle Alice Walker to discuss the truth in her seminal essay “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens” in which she identifies the stereotypical roles of black women from the “mule of the world” to Sapphira to Evilene. Is there any other race that is granted so many rich, complex but negative stereotypes? I don’t know. I think black women have a serious lead in the race. Black women are maybe just coming into their own where they can be seen as individuals of high capability and promise. We’re maybe beginning to stop being mules in the eyes of the Man. But not quite.
So before those of you related to the Man go to judging maybe try a little compassion first. Here let me help–
The thing that takes Shacondria all the way there is the arbitrary method that white folks go about identifying their bete noir, the Angry Black Woman. It makes no damn sense. Because first and foremost they go after her face. Everyone has a face and every face has its expressions. For some reason that I have never understood a black woman’s blank straight-mouth face is always interpreted as a mean face or a sad face. I mean, maybe inside that woman does feel that way but Bitchy Resting Face is a thing now as I have heard but that doesn’t mean that one should treat a woman bitchily. That’s not nice, now is it?
People get in your face and say dumb shit like “SMILE!!” It’s startling to be thinking about your laundry when some stranger foists their own unfamiliar visage in yours and shouts something so inane. It is such a harsh and deeply unfair criticism to be picked on for how you look, and black women are always being told their hair is too nappy, their asses too big, lips too full. We have never been able to conform to bodily stereotypes and then you go and tell me my face is unsatisfactory?
Sometimes people are sincerely inquiring if you’re alright, sure, I know. But I’ve never understood the perception. Why is the straight face, the I’m-just-minding-my own-business-face on black women so threatening to some whites?
Don’t you think it’s hurtful to be told so in so many different and vividly expressive ways?
Perhaps black women just don’t tend to look dewy, doe eyed as a rule. I don’t know. But nothing makes one more self conscious than to be told that your Minding-My-Own-Business Face is intimidating. How would you feel if that continually happened to you?
Because it’s happened countless times to Shacondria. I know she feels self-conscious. Because she’s so often told that she just doesn’t conform; she can never quite pull off the trick of invisibility – and she tries so hard.
S: So don’t fucking look at my face. Fuck you.
ME: SHACONDRIA!! STOP IT!!!
S: Don’t tell me to stop, you silly-ass bitch!! I’m not stopping nuthin!! Fuck them people!! I do my work. Pay me and let me go the fuck home. I hate them crazy ass white people!!
ME: Okay but you’re not helping this situation and I’m trying to explain why–
S: Fuck helping!! I don’t feel like helping nobody!! Somebody need to help me!! Help me pay this goddamn rent and —
ME: Okay see that’s exactly what people don’t understand. You’re shouting and cursing. You’re way up in my face, girl. Back up. And why are you so mean ALL THE TIME. Nobody can say a damn word to you without you rolling your eyes and–
S: See!! That ain’t even true. I don’t act that way. Why do people get to lie on me and when I say something to defend myself I get called a hater and shit?
It ain’t fair! Those white people who say that shit are crazy. Crazy and mean because that’s essentially what racism and sexism is about at the end of the day! But I’m the one with a problem?!Excuse me for living! OOH!! Makes me so mad!
I don’t act that way because my mother raised me with manners! So why don’t I deserve to be treated with manners?! Them white people got your head fucked up, girl. I do my job. I do my job well. I don’t bother nobody. I mind my own business and do what I’m told.
Then people get in my face and talk about “You got a CHIP on your shoulder” What the fuck does that even mean? How about this you white muthaf—
ME: Whoa!! whoa!! CHILL OUT!! SHACONDRIA!! You need to calm down!!
S: I need to whup your ass is what!! Up taking up for the Man are you? Why don’t you and Don Lemon hook up!!
*dead silence, hateful glare from Shacondria to Politrixie, heat radiating in increasing temperature. Danger!! Danger!!*
*looking warily at Shacondria, moving far away, looks at audience*
Anyway. Look here’s what you’ve got to understand: Shacondria is angry. She is alright? You don’t know her life but she’s had a hard time. Yes that’s no excuse to be mean and angry. But what you’re not considering is that Shacondria has no one but herself. She is alone in the world. She can’t lean on anyone. There’s no one there to lean on. She pays her own bills – on time. She works hard and responsibly.
But she is naked and vulnerable in the world to all the worst hates and judgments, and these are powerful forces that work upon our souls. We are shaped by the worlds we live in: if Shacondria is so intimidating yet she is the least powerful of all those who number the social classes, what does that say about how we treat those who most need protection?
So do a lot of people but they don’t act that way. You’re right. But you know Shacondria isn’t STUPID. Calling her names and judging her and refusing to try to get to know the person in that brown skin behind Bitchy Resting Face only means that you have already invalidated her and demeaned her as a human being. You made an assumption about her without knowing. She’s smart. I mean, deeply intelligent. She’s not the “mule of the world” but she isn’t unaware of that her condition in this life amounts to that at times. Shacondria knows what you think about her. She knows that you are judging her. That you feel threatened enough to not bother to try to humanize her by understanding her.
I used to be her. She used to be really un-self aware. But now she isn’t and that’s why she’s angry. She knows that there are so many things wrong in the world and that in a wrong world no one is more vulnerable to mistreatment than the least of these, of whom black women prominently number. You think that because Oprah has a network and Michelle wears pretty dresses in the White House that discrimination is dead.
See that’s what I’m trying to tell you.
Shacondria knows that isn’t true.
She knows that for every beloved mainstream token that white America chooses to adopt, it merely hides the millions of unnoticed, unloved, unheard black women like her. And while the favored black representative lives well and parties well and becomes the face of the Black Woman, she is breaking her back everyday. The Special Ones merely distract from and obscure the condition of the Dispossessed classes who struggle daily without making the damnedest stride ahead. And no one cares.
Shacondria knows a lot of things. She’s probably the most insightful individual in American culture among the myriad vegetables in the Salad Bowl. Cuz that’s another thing this ain’t no Melting Pot. Unless you want to say that maybe other folk melt and blend in the cauldron and Shacondria and women like her are the charcoal. Do you see what I’m saying? Bet you never thought about where the fire came from to make the heat for that chemical melting process.
Well it’s us in the fire, and for sure the Native Americans can’t even give off enough proper fuel anymore there’s so few of them left. Poor folks of all colors. The Dispossessed classes defy color and they provide the fuel, and do the burning in the fire beneath the Melting Pot. Shacondria belongs to the Dispossessed, and she knows it.
No, it is not cynicism. She knows that in her lifetime this will not change. Deep intuitive analysis that penetrates the very soul of our nation is located in the Dispossessed which you would know had you ever truly listened and tried to understand. It is a heavy load, a heavy burden to know that you can attend the barbecue as long as you burn and don’t eat. It’s a heavy load on her back, that knowledge, and it is painful. And there just ain’t no medicine for that kind of pain, outside of freedom. Freedom from the chains that bind the Dispossessed to the burden. And there isn’t going to be any freedom for Shacondria until we listen and learn and change.
You remember that tale of the Lion with the thorn in his paw? Yeah. Pain makes you angry. Sure does. Shacondria wants to know when someone plans to come along and take the thorn out of her paw. The load from her back. She’s been waiting a long time. She tried to call out for help and no one listens. The doctor is not in. He has left the building.
She’s not so bad at all when she’s not hurting. You’d be surprised if you got to know her. She’s funny!! And so smart!! She can sing and dance and Paula Deen wish she could cook like Shacondria. She–
S: Fuck that bitch!! I can make my own Soul Food.
ME: Girl I’m not telling you again!! And stop with the cursing! Damn! They already think all of us are ghetto trash as it is and you are making it worse.
*mumbles* Crazy bitch.
*loudly* I ain’t afraid of you so stop acting up. I will put you out!! Now shut up.
*Shacondria begins taking off her jewelry, pulling her hair back. Grabs the vaseline to grease her face. Cracks her knuckles. She’s preparing to fight Politrixie. *
*Politrixie looks on warily as Shacondria performs the necessary reverse toilet. Prepares to bolt*
ME: Look I got to deal with something just now.I’ll be back later. This girl is trippin…
*sets out at a dead run*
TEXT: Um, check it out. I can’t talk just now because Shacondria knocked me in my mouth for calling her a bitch. But I didn’t finish what I was saying. I’ll come finish our talk — you know, like, after my face unswells. But don’t be mad at her. I love her. She is me. I know her heart. But I mean, straight up, she needs some counseling for real.
~Politrixie :@ mwa!
I cannot go on, she says
in the night
it hurts I’m afraid, and I’m too tired to fight
I have been cut by the dull edge of the blade
Wounded by the quiet rip of the knife
Inside I am alive
but the fear is so bright
that I stumble
in spite of the mourning star’s light
I fall and I rise
I am a daughter of Night
Covered in the dust of the trek
the dew washes my wretchedness
So I stand bare before my love:
I am betrothed to Kismet
Walk with me,
We shall cut the morrow
like a veil
to protect us
And our children shall never
nor shall any blade
rend them apart
then I shall be free
to repent and atone
the nights I nearly gave
my life too wantonly
from fear of being alone
Because I nearly succumbed
to that serpent,
the King of Loneliness,
the Prince of Despair.
From the likes of the sorrowful
he hears each and every anti-prayer
but the night I cried
still, I was guided away
And I tell you, the heart-riven,
that moonlight is enough
to guide even tear-blinded strays
thru stones of turmoil
thru the thorns and the brush
These are undiminished memories
of recklessness in disguise
always in the language of desire
exquisitely expressed by the eyes
that burning elixir feeding
that throb twixt the legs
Do you believe in love at first sight?
So beautiful while it lasted
stroke of time
one distinct moment
in the vastness of life
And it freezes me
recurs endlessly, eternally
inside my mind
Artwork by Daniel Johnson
It is intensity that scorches the heart (not sorrow)
we fucked (over)
each other again
to a discordant melody
our dance steps cloaked
and abject fears of flight
while the lover’s
a fairy tale frivolity