An ‘Angry’ Black Girl Manifesto

Black women are allowed to have emotions, including anger

Photo: DjelicS/Getty Images

“Bitter Black bitch!”

In a heated discussion about something I can’t even remember now, the three words pierced through my ears as they slipped from my Uncle Ron’s lips.

I realized this wasn’t the first time someone tried to silence me while I was simply trying to express myself. It was a gut punch that many women, especially Black women, have felt. It’s almost like the word bitch is a package deal with womanhood.

But this time was different; it was more personal.

Bitterness is often attributed to anger or resentment — an emotion not usually extended to women — particularly Black women.

For us, it’s a definite “no-no.”

It’s a way to not only silence us but also downplay our perspective, all the while gaslighting us into thinking we’re in the wrong. Stepping out of line can literally lead to a laundry list of phrases being hurled at you.

The big three:

“You’re so aggressive!”

“You’re bitter!”

“Why are you so angry?”

Misogynoir is where the intersection of race and gender meet for Black women. The term was coined by queer Black feminist Moya Bailey, who created the term to address misogyny directed toward Black women in American visual and popular culture.

For generations, our anger or emotion has been weaponized against us. Media and entertainment have a long history of perpetuating this narrative by continually characterizing Black women as “sassy” or angry. The trope is not only extremely limiting, but it has strong roots in slavery.

In response, Black women are being held to an unnecessary standard of perfection and any slight deviation leads to you being stereotyped. This internalized pressure to uphold this faux sense of “Black excellence” is another learned response from generations of White, sexist establishments that position Black femininity as inferior.

Aggression is applauded in men while softness is usually only reserved for White femininity.

I can remember being in many rooms having to make sure that I don’t get too “emotional” and be careful of my tone.

Black women aren’t allowed to be angry.

Black women aren’t allowed to be sensitive.

Black women aren’t allowed to be triggered.

Black women aren’t allowed to react without it being a “problem.”

I am no longer choosing to contort myself to match up to some unrealistic ideal.

I enjoy seeing Black women having room to express themselves fully. Oftentimes we are meant to sit on the sidelines of our own feelings.

Removing the White gaze will allow the world to take in Black women’s emotions for what they are and nothing more. For all we go through on a daily basis, we should be allowed to lose our shit every once in a while.

I hope to live in a world one day where it isn’t remarkable for a Black woman to have feelings; it would be lovely if it were just normal.

Digital Storyteller + Journalist • IG @iamlex

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