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6.18.2008

Fox News pundit Cal Thomas made a point in a recent conversation about Michelle Obama that there are no non-angry black women portrayed in the media.

THOMAS: I want to pick up on something that Jane said about the angry black woman. Look at the image of angry black women on television. Politically you have Maxine Waters of California, liberal Democrat. She's always angry every time she gets on television. Cynthia McKinney, another angry black woman. And who are the black women you see on the local news at night in cities all over the country. They're usually angry about something. They've had a son who has been shot in a drive-by shooting. They are angry at Bush. So you don't really have a profile of non-angry black women.

(CROSSTALK)

PINKERTON: Oprah Winfrey.

THOMAS: Oprah Winfrey. Yes, there you go, Oprah Winfrey.

[H/T WAOD] Some people aren't pleased with the comments. Taken out of context, as these things almost always are, they are inflammatory, but Thomas is right (though his examples suck, as not all black women are angry because their kid got shot in a drive-by, I mean, come ON). Over at Daily Kos, there's an interesting post which strikes me as a teensy bit reactionary. But really, we know that images of black women in the media and pop culture tend to be angry ones. The unhappy bloggers out there seem to think that there's something wrong with black women being angry. I don't think there is. All black women aren't angry, but many (if not most) are, and I say, why shouldn't they be? Here are five reasons why black women have every right to be pissed.
  1. Sisters have to do it for themselves. Something like 70% of black children are born out of wedlock. Some of those kids are supported by single fathers, but most are being raised by mothers, grandmothers, and aunties.
  2. Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire. Black women in the media tend to fall into one of three categories. Either she's an asexual, maternal Mammy (Oprah), an acceptably lustful Jezebel (Halle Berry), or a bitchy, angry Sapphire (Omarosa). Not only are these dangerous stereotypes, but they also are terribly misogynistic, which contrasts nicely with the fact that...
  3. "All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, but Some of Us are Brave." White women are the baseline for womanhood, and at no time has that been more clear than during this primary season. The myriad articles about women choosing Hillary, while blacks choose Obama (save one Times piece back in October) make little-to-no mention of the fact that black women are — you guessed it — both black and women. I used to think I chose my blackness first, but in the last few months, it's become clear that it was chosen for me. The fights between white and black feminists have been very telling, as well.
  4. Professional black women are all at sea when it comes to dating. While I don't buy into the notion that there are no good black men out there for educated, well-off black women, it's clear that pickings are slim. There's encouragement to date outside the race, but like most women, black women are seeking to find a man who's like their daddy, or other important male figure, who is usually black.
  5. There's not freedom to be oneself. Granted, this is something that every non-white-male group experiences in some way — anger isn't exclusive to black women, obviously — but black women are beyond the pale of the mainstream, different, in a way that isn't exotic or acceptably fetishizable, like Asian or Hispanic women are. Black women work so hard to fit in — hair relaxers, adjusting speech/code switching, wearing fashions which weren't designed for women with curves, the list goes on. Maintaining the veneer of acceptability is tiring, and when you think about it, utterly enraging.
So there you have it. Five reasons I think black women are angry. I'm a black woman, so I have a little bit of authority on this. Black women readers! What makes you angry? Not-black-women readers! What makes you angry? Let's talk.

7 new thought(s):

the joy said...

Hmmm... I'd have to say those are very good reasons to be angry. I usually don't get angry, not globally, its more joy-specific, but I can understand how when you're in the public eye and they don't really try to understand you or conform to you the way you've conformed to them, well it can put you on the defensive.

The Breaking Point said...

As I'm not a black woman, it isn't for me to say whether black women are justified in their anger.

It seems, though, that you're agreeing with the premise that black women are angry and providing reasons as to why.

I consider myself fortunate to know black women who aren't angry. I'm happy for them and even happier to be around them.

shani-o said...

Joy, I'm not walking around seething at all the injustices in the world, or anything (it's rare for me to get heated about anything) but I just had to put it out there... black women have reasons to be angry.

LH, what's wrong with being angry? That's what I don't get about this whole brouhaha. Why should women (or anyone) who are marginalized, stereotyped, forced into square holes NOT be angry? I'm not saying they should always be bursting with rage or ready to fight someone, but the reasons I posted make anger understandable and justifiable. And no, anger doesn't solve problems, but the unfairness doesn't go away if we ignore it.

jameil1922 said...

mostly the fact that whole women and black folk thing. I'M BOTH!! ugh. but you know i rep for rocky!! i was just thinking i should write abt michelle the so-called angry black women and the "i don't get them" they're either not black enough or too black. i'm feeling so stereotypical, can't they just be people!?!? and imperfect? it's getting on my nerves. like what are you doing?? foolishness.

The Breaking Point said...

I think when anger is managed well and channeled correctly, it works.

But too few people who are angry manage to do either. Anger wears on everyone involved after a while, yanno?

glory said...

just wanted to say that point #3 really resonated with me. i've found the election coverage and all this talk about race and gender very telling. i hate the often unspoken, but very present idea that i am expected to choose between my gender and my race. and now that i think about it, i probably WAS socialized in a way that chose race for me. not that i mind, but... it's food for thought. and i'm sick of the whole mess. (is that anger?) :-)

shani-o said...

Jameil- yeah, the stereotypes are disheartening.

LH- I agree. Not saying it's right, just saying it's entirely understandable.

Glory- I honestly always thought I'd picked blackness first. My dad is very afrocentric, and maybe he encouraged that because he knew the choice would be made for me someday, whether I liked it or not. But the primary season, oh man, has that been edifying, or what?