The ‘angry black woman’ stereotype comes from somewhere. Although it is grossly over-exaggerated (black women do not go around smacking their gum, snapping their fingers, and yelling at everyone), it is not a complete myth. Or it shouldn’t be anyway.
As a black woman, I do believe we should be angry. Angry at men (of all races), angry at white women, angry at a world that fetishizes us while at the same time undermining and undervaluing us. It is not possible to convince me that we do not all know this:
‘Only 12 per cent of African-American and Caucasian women believe there are positive images of African-American women in the media,’
But this is not to say that this is only the case in America.
I grew up in Nigeria, a misogynistic country (it was only on June 1, 2009 that women were allowed to renew their passports without their husband’s permission) but one where my race was not something I was especially aware of — as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said: ‘I didn’t know I was black until I came to America’. But in my case, this was England.
I moved to England when I was 13, to an all-female extremely feminist boarding school. I was surrounded by females; our principal and deputies were all female, we were all about girl power — but it was also clear that I was black. Black women’s problems are trivialised by both white women (who do not see the difference between how black and white women are treated) and men.
In this article, I will concentrate on white women, and black men — another oppressed group in society who are adamant that the modern-day sexism is not at all comparable in gravity to modern-day racism.
Let’s start with white women. The typical white feminist thinks that one size fits all; this despite the fact that women in the US are typically paid 80 per cent of what men are paid, while black women in the US are only paid 63 per cent. The white privilege that is prevalent in the world means that white women are still treated better than women of colour.
However, it seems that many white feminists believe that the problems they face are the problems all women face. Anytime a black woman speaks out, there is a backlash by white women thinking that we are putting a target on their backs. This is not the case. If only white women would understand that although all women face unequal pay, assault, and misogyny, black women have the added struggle of having to act in a certain way (tone down their personalities in order to fit in), dress in a certain way (my weave is more acceptable than my afro), and talk in a certain way (my British accent gives me more respect than my Nigerian one), in order to be taken seriously.
It is true that men everywhere, of all races, generally do not seem to understand what women go through. However, for white men especially, it would not be unfair to say that some are so blinded by their privilege that they have no idea of the forms of oppression out there. Black men know about oppression, and yet, find it hard to understand that ‘just as white privilege comes at the expense of African-Americans and other people of colour, gender double standards come at the expense of women’.
As well as being racially profiled and discriminated against because of the colour of our skin, just like black men, we also have to carry around pepper spray and constantly send our location to our friends. We constantly have to reject the advances of men we have no interest in, while being scared they might take it the wrong way, and, we constantly get refused job opportunities simply because we are women … My point is, no one is trying to undermine what different people go through, but standing with us instead of making our lives even harder would be very much appreciated.
So, the next time you see a joke about the ‘angry black woman’, I urge you to ask yourselves: why are we so angry about it? I do believe that the answer is straightforward, and, frankly, it is getting quite tiring to keep explaining something so obvious.