I first drafted this post on October 11, 2021. I never shared it because it felt too personal, too raw, and too radical. Well, this is my blog and I can say what I want! Plus, the recent Supreme Court nomination hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson highlighted the impossibly high standards that Black women face in our society. So it feels fitting to share this reflection now.
Yep, I’m saying it- life has tried to make me an Angry Black Woman! It’s funny how the very things we avoid ultimately haunt us. Not in a bold, ostentatious way, but like a silent and deadly disease. Lurking in the background, waiting to be triggered and coaxed out by the most seemingly benign incident. There’s a running joke in our culture that we fear becoming our parents. But many of us eventually look in the mirror and see our mother’s or father’s face, mannerisms, quirks, bags, baggage and all. While I might share that fear, what frightens me most is turning into the very derogatory, divisive, condemning term that I’ve spent my whole life dodging.
Growing up in a predominantly white environment, I constantly felt the pressure to prove myself as intelligent, capable, kind, non-threatening, and simply worthy. This led me to deny my most authentic feelings in order to be considered nice, accepted, respectable, professional and unintimidating. On the rare occasion that I used my voice to express a non-popular opinion or offer an alternative suggestion or to dare to self-advocate, I quickly got dismissed, invalidated, shut up and shot down. As time went on, this cycle of toxic (self-)silencing became deeply ingrained. And like a pressure cooker, my internal temperature eventually rose to a volatile volcano of fire and fury just waiting to erupt.
I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly when and what was my final straw. Was it when I failed to call out the bad behavior of yet another guy I dated? Or was it the years I silently did more work for too little pay? Maybe it was when a white “friend” had the caucacity to say the n-word in my presence and I had the stupidity to console her in the end? Perhaps it was the disappointment of becoming a Mediocre Millennial? Or was it the slow accumulation of one too many workplace, academic and societal microagressions? It certainly was the emotional toil of fighting social justice while trying to survive a global pandemic, right? Honestly, I don’t know what the tipping point was. There are thousands of instances and memories that I can conjure up to explain why my back and spirit have felt broken for so long.
In our society, women aren’t allowed to express anger and feel accepted at the same time. We can be sad, hurt, disappointed, and afraid. But anger is not listed in our emotional dictionary. And we all know that if you are a Black woman in America, any hint of annoyance or frustration will be interpreted as being intimidating, threatening, aggressive and too much. I’ve spent so much of my life internalizing this bias to avoid falling into its grasp. Running away from this trope at the expense of my own emotional and mental wellbeing and authentic humanity. In the end, the very thing I ran away from for so long caught up to me! And the rage was/is real.
The first step to healing is acknowledgement and acceptance of things as they are. So, I recognize I have some suppressed anger issues that are now bubbling to the surface. The next step is to release some of these very real feelings. So I’ve booked a rage room session with one of my best friends! The ultimate task is to figure out how I can express the fullness of my humanity in a way that is both honest and healthy. Instead of allowing life to turn me into an Angry Black Woman, how can I develop myself into an Authentically Brave Woman? I’m working on this as the next phase of my journey. And boy do I have my work cut out for me! But the work is mine alone…
Suitie, are you feeling angry too? How do you allow yourself to express emotions that are not deemed acceptable to the world? How can you support Black women around you to show their full humanity without judgment, fear, or reproach?
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