Black America, I think it’s time to confront our love hate relationship with bitter black women.
Yes, I said love…but mostly hate.
Spawned from the angry black women stereotype, the bitter black woman manifests as her twin, unafraid to unleash her emotional trauma unto the world in hostile and aggressive ways. She is always in a constant state of disgruntlement, resentful of everyone she sees for no apparent reason. She’s a woman who unabashedly carries her jealousy for non black women deemed better than her by black men on her sleeve, never missing a chance to cast a frown their way or snidely remark on a black man’s interracial dating status. This woman is aggrieved, indignant, spiteful and of course bitter.
And everyone from Tyrone to Brad makes sure that black women never forget it.
Thanks to the hundreds of years of the Sapphire stereotype, the bitter black woman has become a fan favorite amongst those who aim to characterize black female personas- or ‘attitudes’ if you will- in a negative light. A black woman is giving you a hard time, she’s bitter. Black women are whining about how black men undermine us in order to legitimize their dating preferences? They’re just bitter. You’ve just found out that a black woman was abused, beaten, or killed? If she had a better attitude she probably would’ve been much better off.
What you’re really saying when you call black women undesirable.
The weaponization of dating preferences in white supremacist patriarchy
Allow me to explain why existing as a black woman is terrifying
We are unprotected because we are deemed unworthy of protection
Yes, we all know of the bitter black women and we all do well to hate and disparage her. But we do love to complain about her bitter antics. They give us reason to justify acts of abuse and vitriol against black women and pretend that black women are having their livelihoods taken from them for a reason. But despite how loud we claim the bitter black woman is in her bitterness, I can’t help but notice her silence. Her story- like the story of most black women- seems to be told by everyone except herself and in it, she is always the villian. Based solely off of the countless and relentless complaints, one would think the bitter black woman was born in bitterness. She lives it, breathes it, and has made it her life’s mission to make sure that bitterness is felt by anyone who comes near her. But according to the principle (emphasis on principle) of the U.S criminal justice system there are two sides to every story. But if that’s the case, why doesn’t the court of public opinion grant her the space to tell it?
It seems that bitter black women are like hurricanes. We never are never told about where they came from or why they exist, but we are always told about the destruction they reap. Out of all the survivors that escape the storm, black men are always the ones scrambling to take the stand and use their testimonies to breathe life into this archetype allowing the campfire to become a wildfire. Now I know what you must be thinking, and I agree. The bitter black woman didn’t come from the imaginations of black men, but from the mind of white supremacist patriarchy. But although this is the case, black men and black patriarchy undoubtedly has a hand in keeping it alive.
Regardless of the oppression het/cis black men face in white spaces, the privileges and structures they benefit from in black ones are not to be ignored. In the black community, het/cis black men, especially rich het/cis black men, are at the top of the sociopolitical hierarchy. They are the kings, holding the most privilege and having the most power. Maybe that’s why they continue to be centered in black liberation politics and movements. Maybe that’s why the black community, more specifically black women, have bought into the idea that the only way for black liberation to be achieved is to invest all of our energy and resources into black men and ignore the concerns of everyone else. Maybe this, combined with a patriarchal system that places the the emotions of men over the physical wellbeing of women, is why so many black men feel comfortable with wielding their power in order to uphold an environment that is reluctant to hold them accountable for the antiblackness and misogynoir they perpetuate in black spaces. Whether you know it or not, black men have done well to use this.
Because of their oppression, black men can have sob stories and use them to justify outrageous behavior and their emotional trauma will be centered. But in a world where the easiest way to delegitimize the voice and feelings of a black woman is to call her bitter, it’s very clear that we aren’t allowed to do the same.
From R. Kelly to Bill Cosby these men and their critics have weaponized the ways in which pro blackness places them as the most victimized group in the black community to evade accountability for their crimes against women and black women alike. They have weaponized the sentiment that black people, particularly black women, have a moral obligation to ‘protect black men’ at all costs, and silence black women who dare to investigate or question misogynistic and antiblack behaviors. But when they are not trying to dodge accountability for their actions, they’re trying to justify them, often with the help of black women.
Earlier this year, Snoop Dogg was invited to the Red Table to address misogynoiristic comments targeted at Gayle King after she had asked questions concerning Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault case in 2003. Regardless about how you may have felt about King’s interview, the reaction that she garnered from Snoop Dogg and other manifestations of violent misogynoir from the public did not fit the crime. Although many people who supported Snoop Dogg cited the depreciation of the legacy of a black man as a reason for doing so, I failed to see the same vitriol and misogyny against the white woman who began this conversation in the first place only hours after Bryant’s death. The mass outrage targeted against King wasn’t just a matter of protecting the legacy of a great man, it was about misogynoir. But the Smith women disagreed. In fact, from the very beginning Jada Pinkett Smith refused to acknowledge his wrongdoing and instead decided to center his emotional trauma instead of his long history of misogynoir and how that led to his behavior. The conversation did more to talk about his feelings than hold him accountable and was one of the least productive interviews ever hosted by the Red Table Talk show. But even though Smith proved to be an inept interviewer and the interview itself a waste of time, I understand her reluctance to ask the difficult questions necessary to hold him accountable. She, like other black women, lives in a world that socializes us to prioritize the feelings and struggles of black men over our own.
Regardless of what we are taught to believe, the bitter black woman is both a weaponized reality and a weaponized stereotype. She is not someone who was born in bitterness but someone with unprocessed emotional trauma. Her bitterness is armor to protect her from a world that has shown time and time again she doesn’t matter.
Since birth, black women are taught to see black men as the ones who are the most oppressed among us in the black community, that they are the ones who have it the hardest (if it’s hard moving through the world as a black straight, cisgender man imagine what it’s like to do so as a black trans woman, but I digress). Doing so not only ensures that those on top of the sociopolitical hierarchy in the black community always have black women to fight their battles, but it also ensures the protection of black male privilege. Yes, I said privilege. We all have it and black men are not exempt. This privilege manifests in many ways, but in the case of the bitter black woman, their privilege allows them a luxury black women are not afforded: emotional freedom.
In black spaces, black men are allowed to use their emotional trauma to justify acts of abuse and carry out harmful behavior. They are allowed to call black women ‘dog headed b***hes’ and use the fact that they’ve experienced the loss of a loved one to excuse it. They are allowed to continually perpetuate misogynoir against black women and have the death of their black mother to justify it. They are allowed to shoot a black woman in the foot and say they did it because they felt disrespected. Black men are allowed to revel in their rage and manifest it in dangerous and harmful ways, and still get the support of the black community. Because of they face racial oppression, black men can have sob stories and use them to justify outrageous behavior and their emotional trauma will be centered. But in a world where the easiest way to delegitimize the voice and feelings of a black woman is to call her bitter, it’s very clear that we aren’t allowed to do the same. But why? Why is it that Snoop Dogg is supported because of his anger and bitterness and not in spite of it, while bitter black women are shown the door? Why is the bitterness of a black woman deemed more provocative than the bitterness of a black man, even though bitter black men are more prone to manifest their bitterness in dangerous ways? What is it about the bitter black woman that we’re so determined to silence? Who is the bitter black woman really, and why does she manifest her emotional trauma the way she does?
It seems that bitter black women are like hurricanes. We never are never told about where they came from or why they exist, but we are always told about the destruction they reap.
Based on what I’ve seen, the bitter black woman is a woman who has been wronged within black spaces and has the nerve to question the men, cultural practices and systems that did her wrong in the first place. Black women who call out the misogynoir behind the dating preferences of black men are labeled as bitter. Black women who come forward about their experiences regarding sexual assault against black men are labeled as bitter. Black women who refuse to center black men’s feelings and experiences at our own expense are labeled as bitter. Black women who ask when we will draw a line between protecting black manhood and protecting black abusers are labeled as bitter. Because these black women are women who are unwilling to uphold a culture that refuses to hold black men accountable for their wrongdoings. So what do we do? We silence them. There are many ways to dismantle the credibility of a black woman and calling her bitter is one of them. In the name of protecting our black men, when we are approached with critics regarding their perpetuation of violent misogynoir we’d rather insult their characters because doing so allows us to evade confronting how we allow the continued disrespect and violence against black women. We label black women who refuse to uphold a culture that lacks self accountability in regards to black men’s behavior as bitter because we associate black male accountability with black male bashing. In the black community, we still can’t tell the difference between protecting black male abusers and misogynists with protecting black manhood.
Regardless of what we are taught to believe, the bitter black woman is both a weaponized reality and a weaponized stereotype. She is not someone who was born in bitterness but someone with unprocessed emotional trauma. Her bitterness is armor to protect her from a world that has shown time and time again she doesn’t matter. But instead of sympathy, the bitter black woman is met with disdain. While black men are given plenty of room to rudely manifest their bitterness and emotional trauma in black spaces and still be seen as credible and worthy of sympathy, the bitterness and the trauma of black women is dismissed. We are not invited to Red Tables to discuss how our pain led us to act outrageously. We don’t get the benefit of the doubt and an olive branch. Our feelings aren’t centered, even when they should be. Instead we center the damage that the bitter black woman has brought on the world and deem that more important. Then we are told to hurt in silence, especially when our pain came at the hands of those who looked like us. On the other hand, the bitter black woman is an archetype used to silence those who step out of line and question the black community’s ‘black men first’ policy. She serves as a way to antagonize black women into complacency and punish those who forsake the unconditional loyalty black women are told to have towards black men. And that, despite the hatred we have towards the bitter black woman, is why we love her. Not just because she waits in the wings to punish those who refuse to swear to protect black men, but because she gives those same black men reason to write off black women as impossible to love, care for, and protect.
Much like a ruinous hurricane brought to life by climate change driven by humans, the bitter black woman is not a reflection of herself. She is a reflection of the pain we’ve inflicted but we don’t want to see and a voice we’ve silenced and don’t want to hear. She is a product of white supremacy, kept alive by the neglect, dismissal, and misogynoir of the black community. She is our hurricane and her wrath won’t be lessened by centering the feelings of her victims, but by wondering where her wrath came from in the first place.