Embracing My Angry Black Woman
I’m the angriest I’ve ever been.
I stumbled upon this story of a Black woman in the city I live in who committed the unpardonable sin of jogging while Black. An enraged white woman threw a bottle at the jogger and yelled racial epithets at her as she passed by. Someone across the street happened to videotape the incident and posted it on social media.
Of course, this is hardly new. Black people are subjected to these as well as other violent and dehumanizing incidents every day. While I have always been unnerved over them, my feelings have shifted of late. Now I feel pure rage.
It’s challenging for me to find the best ways to channel my anger. I have a dysfunctional relationship with the emotion due to my intersections as a Black woman. I grew up with the message that my rage would threaten people. That it’s unfeminine. That it’s bad and would make me unlikeable.
As a result, I grew up repressing my anger and contorting myself to be as genial as possible so that others would be comfortable around me. However, doing these things downplayed my pain and served to turn my anger inward.
If I got catcalled on the street, I must have deserved it somehow because of the clothes I wore or the expression on my face. It wasn’t the fault of those men who didn’t respect boundaries. If people interrupted or spoke over me during a conversation, it was okay because nobody cared about what I had to say anyway. If a white sales clerk followed me around in a store and invaded my space, I didn’t have the power to object because doing so could lead to arrest or even death.
As the pandemic continues unabated and the resulting lockdowns have caused me to have the most time I’ve had to myself in my entire life, I’m fully acknowledging my anger for the first time. Since there are fewer opportunities for people to chastise me over it or diminish it, it’s bubbled over my soul’s surface like lava.
Initially, I squashed my anger down as it didn’t feel pleasant but now I’m starting to unpack why my first impulse is to push it aside. And I realize that my first reaction to shrink away from it is because of my conditioning. Anger threatens those who don’t look like me. Aggression is unbecoming on a woman. I should strive to be docile and compliant. In short, I should be silent and invisible.
I’ve discovered that my anger is the part of me that knows that my dehumanization and mistreatment are unacceptable. My rage knows that I deserve to be treated well and with kindness. My anger is a form of self-love.
I’m furious that my skin color or gender doesn’t allow me to exist in this world and take up space without question or fear of harm. A simple walk around my neighborhood could subject me to leering men. Also, because I live in a gentrifying neighborhood, that same walk at any given time could lead to my death because the white people that invaded it don’t think I belong here, even though I’ve lived here far longer than they have.
I’m incensed that I have to take other people’s political beliefs into consideration when I meet them and that men and/or white people don’t have to. Because someone who harbors the belief that I don’t deserve the same rights that they do isn’t someone that I can feel safe around. The gutting of voting rights, the restrictions on reproductive rights, the state-sanctioned violence against my people and forcing brown people into cages don’t affect the most privileged of us. So figuring out other people’s political leanings literally is a matter of life or death for me.
I’m enraged that hardly anyone looks at me as an individual, with my unique passions, traits, likes or dislikes. Instead, people shove me into a box and regard me as a bunch of stereotypes. I’m a woman so I must be emotional. I’m Black so I must be lazy. Because I’m both Black and female, I’m incapable of doing anything.
It’s taken a lot for me to allow myself to feel my anger in a world that seeks to squelch it. Our society would prefer that I remain silent and invisible. It would prefer that I perpetuate the cycle of self-hatred that I spun around myself for most of my formative years. Now that my essence is consumed with my anger, I intend to roar. Because I finally love myself enough not to put up with society’s bullshit. I know I deserve to be treated equitably. I refuse to allow anyone to deter me from speaking out against injustice or oppression.
Channeling my anger into my writing is certainly a constructive way of managing it but it feels like there’s always more that I can do. Until such time that I find more ways to manage my anger, I’m befriending it and letting it guide me to a place of even more self-love and acceptance. It took too long for me to allow it into my life. I have no desire to let it go.
©Vena Moore 2020