Why I Kind of Hate the Temperance Card

Black Women are Always Being Asked to be Patient

Photo of the Temperance with other tarot cards out of focus in the background

I’ve been learning the tarot for a couple of months now, and I can say definitively that it has helped bring balance into my life. It’s ironic that one of the cards I sometimes viscerally recoil from — Temperance — embodies calm, balance, and moderation.

I’m usually a cautious person, who doesn’t like risk. I also don’t like confrontation. If you try me, though, I will bark back or bite, if I have to. I like things calm. I enjoy the quiet. I practise moderation. So why don’t I like the Temperance card. I think it’s because these qualities are often forced on Black women in ways that are enraging. It’s different when it’s not your own choice.

Angry Black Woman is an insulting trope that seeks to stymie and limit Black women and prevent us from standing up for ourselves and redressing transgressions against us. Any hint of displeasure at being treated poorly is met with demands to “be the bigger person” or “stop being so dramatic” or to “be patient” and wait for justice, when we know it’s a stalling tactic, and they hope we’ll forget and move on. We are constantly being asked to practise temperance for the benefit of people who have no intention of reciprocating.

Demands for temperance from Black women are often patronizing and sometimes rise to the level of gaslighting. They are not genuine requests to allow matters to be settled calmly and allow the harm done to be redressed in a way that creates balance. Demands for temperance are often commands to shut up that are usually accompanied by shaming for ingratitude of some sort. “Be glad to be here being mistreated” is the message. “It could be worse.” In addition, who is allowed to be angry in public is about power. Anger animates. It can also be used to dominate and control. They don’t want some of us swinging that hammer. Anger in the face of a rightful grievance is particularly dangerous. Only certain people are allowed to want more for themselves, be firm about it, be angry when they’re blocked, and fight to gain fair redress. Other people are told to wait for a nonexistent “right time.” Calls for temperance are often about suppression and the delay of a just outcome — interpersonally and in wider society.

The indoctrination to shrink yourself and not challenge authority starts early. It was heightened for me. I’m almost six feet tall and was already 5’7” by the time I was nine or ten. I’ve been treated like an adult almost my whole life. I’m also a middle child, who learned how to be diplomatic young. I’ve been bending over backwards to be temperate my whole life. People try to take advantage of it. I also stand up for myself, though. Something else I learned early that this is when the real manipulation comes out. Self-confidence and firm boundaries are treated as aggression by people who want to control you. Accusing you of sowing discord for refusing to be disrespected is a classic move.

Harmony and balance are ideals I strive towards, and I genuinely want this energy to permeate all my relationships. Some people won’t allow it, though. I also learned that young. Learning the tarot has been about introspection for me. I’ve realized that I have an instinct to resist the message of the Temperance card in readings, because I have to resist it in life, or I’ll get steamrolled.

Originally published on the A Cynic Learns the Tarot Patreon.

*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: books2read.com/u/mBOYNv | IG: kitanyaharrison

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