I'm An Angry Black Woman

A couple of weeks ago when I wrote about Oprah and her show about the deep, dark, vomitous secrets of moms, I got an anonymous email that said I was a 1) reverse racist and 2) an angry black woman. Oh, and, whoo hoo, 3) I'm militant, too! (Sah-weet! I got the trifecta!)

On the one hand, the whole militancy, anger and reverse racism accusation makes me laugh out loud. I mean, I freaking worship Depeche Mode and somebody thinks I'm militant? HA! Really?

Ever since then, I've been joking about my being militant and angry, to the point that I told a friend that next time I go shopping, I'm going to sign my name on the credit card slip as "Angry Black Woman" and see if the salesperson behind the counter notices.

I bet they won't notice. I'll bet any store these days would take my cash, even if I got a Sharpie and wrote "Reparations RIGHT NOW" across Ben Franklin's forehead.

On the other hand, there's a part of me that wants to put the person's email address into some sort of spam database. It makes me want to say, "Angry? I got your angry right here, heffa!!!"

But then that sort of juvenile, immature reaction dissipates and I begin to think about how if I'm militant and angry to this person, the email sender must not really know any black people. And in my book, knowing doesn't mean chit-chatting about American Idol or Barack Obama at the water cooler.

I mean, really knowing a person, intimately knowing them. To me, that means having the sort of close friendship where you know their stuff and they know yours, and there is mutual love and deep affection. No inherent sense of superiority on the one hand and no fear and mistrust on the other.

It reminds me of an incredibly honest moment I had with a white friend a few years ago. We were at someone's house and he admitted to me that he'd never been in a black person's home socially before moving to California. It was honest, it was real, and it was heartfelt. He began asking himself a lot of questions about the attitudes and beliefs he had, how he'd grown up with racist attitudes -- and the thing was, he wasn't doing some sort of fake white guilt kind of thing. It was a real self examination and he was coming up with definite, action-based ways he wanted to change his life.

So, am I racist? Well, racism implies power, and in the grand scheme of things, I don't have it like that. Prejudiced thought? Oh, I'm sure of it. I believe we all are to some extent if we've grown up in this country. And me? I have lived almost my whole entire life in the United States of America. How dumb and naive would I be if I believed that America's social and spiritual sickness of racism and prejudice just somehow skipped over me.

The thing is what you do once you realize that you have racist/prejudiced attitudes. Do you own it, or not? Do you decide to try to change your attitudes or not?

You will never hear me say, "I don't see color!" because you better believe I see everybody's color. The point is how you are choosing to see that color. Do I see it as a positive or a negative? Do I decide who someone is based on their color? Do I believe their intelligence, capacity, humanity or worthiness ultimately gets decided by their color?

It seems really convenient for some people to be able to just toss out the, "You're too militant and angry," thing whenever they want. It's a way of exercising that inherent sense of superiority, of dismissing what black people say as beneath you.

It's an attitude that says, "It's not racist till someone white decides that it is!"

It's an attitude that says, "Oh, don't listen to those dumb Negroes. They're just angry... and for what? They have a good life."

And why is there this expectation that black people are always supposed to be cool and normal when confronted with things that are racially questionable?

I grew up with a white father and a black mother, and I see and hear the, "Are you all together?" thing too frequently for me to not think racism isn't real. The thing is, my mom has always handled that crap gracefully. She has never ever snapped and said, "Yeah, you stupid cow, don't you see us getting our groceries out of the cart and putting them on the conveyor belt TOGETHER? "

I mean, that's what I wanted to say after several cashiers pulled that crap when I was out with my dad last summer.

Oh, wait, would that qualify as "angry"?

And would my mom fit the definition of an angry black woman if she called the cashier out on the racist body language and the question? And if it is, why are black women, black people, asked to just shut up and swallow the bitter pill? It makes me feel like someone's secretly whispering, "Just smile and be grateful you're not a slave anymore."

Yeah, I may not get it right all the time, and you don't have to either. What I'm looking for in my life is not some sort of false political correctness. I sincerely want to move forward on the right path, and sometimes that means I take a couple steps backward as a part of the process.

If speaking my mind on these things, if asking questions and calling it like I see it makes me angry, militant and a reverse racist, I guess I'll take that. I guess I just have to deal with the labels. I'm not going to stop writing about race in America and what I see. I'm not going to stop writing about the impact on me, or my family.


A-men! That is all I have to say.
1969 said…
Well said, as usual.

Because you address an incident or have an opinion on a topic that you disagree with...it doesn't make you racist, angry or militant.

Rush Limbaugh has an opinion. Don Imus has an opinion. Ann Coulter has an opinion. Why not you Liz? :)
KathyR said…
"Militant?" Seriously? What is this, 1971?
Liz Dwyer said…
NYC/CR,I think there are a lot of us that are saying amen, and for those who are not, that's ok, too. I hope the person who sent me that email comes back here to read this.

1969,Well hopefully my opinion isn't as divisive as those folks! LOL! But, yeah, it is an opinion, isn't it?

KathyR,Apparently it is! Haha!
NYCity Mama said…
Grrrr....thank you! I roll my eyes and laugh at the stupidity of a statement such as "I don't see color". I also see color and I believe my life to be enriched because of it. I may come off as an angry Black...or Latina woman as well...but it's only from the moment you actually share an opinion. The Oprah show on mom bloggers was horrid. HORRID. If that opinion makes me a militant, angry, racist, so be it...interesting that it is those people who "have tons of black friends" or "don't see color" or whatever else, that are quick to like women like us the minute we open our mouths on such issues. Great post!
Unknown said…
Please keep writing it as you see it. Love the trifecta! LOL
Jessalyn said…
I need Facebook's "Like" button for this post. :-)
Ingrid said…
angry + militant x (black) = opinionated = how dare you have one = ungrateful = a thinly veiled "how dare you speak of these things that make so many us people of white or european decent so uncomfortable?"

god, it's so crazy. i recently blogged about something kind of similar (in regards to perceptions, race and community relationships) and that makes me upset. i often get the "intimidating", "angry", "outspoken" and occasionally "militant" tags. and it makes me feel hurt and sometimes indignant. it makes me feel like my feelings and experiences as a woman of caribbean decent are not valid and in turn, invalidating me.

you have an amazingly strong voice and an ability to connect with so many people. i have no doubt you will keep writing. and i also hope the author of that accusatory email comes back to read this post and it's comments. hopefully, they'll realize that black women are entitled to be passionate and have opinions just like any other HUMAN BEING on this planet.
Unknown said…
You speak truth and keep the conversation going which is the only way we're all going to grow ~ Thank You!
Liz Dwyer said…
NYCity Mama,Absolutely, that Oprah show was just horrible and to think that articulating that the lack of diversity was problematic was seen as being militant or angry... wow.

Joan,Thanks for the encouragement. That trifecta is so fascinating to me, because I guess my response is supposed to be, let me not see what is right in front of me and suppress my truth, just so I don't come across as scary and angry.

Jessalyn,LOL, thank you! That is definitely one of the things I really like about the newest version of Facebook!

Ingrid,People are too used to seeing black women as either a mammy or a video ho, so when we actually speak up, it's a shock and it's not always welcome. Oh yeah, I've gotten the intimidating thing before... and dang, I hadn't even taken off my earrings and slathered vaseline on my cheeks (because that's how we do, right?)

House,No, thank you for putting in your two cents. I agree that the conversation is so crucial. It's no good when groups of people stop talking and start guessing what they think the other person is thinking/feeling. But I don't know how often that so-called conversation on race is really happening in people's individual lives. I wonder.
Sharifa said…
I hear (white) mothers from the UK and US who live in Sweden, saying that they never noticed the kind of racism back home that they see here, and I think of some of the stuff you write about. The next time that discussion comes up on a certain board, I will link to this post. It is like they were not at the receiving end so it didn't exist.
Daniel said…
Los Angelista,
Wow! I like WFO (old motorcycle racing term - WideFullOpen)!

But, I'd prefer "eyeball-to-eyeball" for this stuff, because that removes the nasty anonymity of the 'net. If you can say it face-to-face, then it's really real isn’t it?
Got my plane ticket …
LOL, just teasin’

I’m going to go sing and dream of that song from West Side Story, “Somewhere”.

There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us

There's a time for us,
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time to spare,
Time to look, time to care,
Some day!

We'll find a new way of living,

We'll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere . . .

There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we're halfway there.
Hold my hand and I'll take you there
Some day,

And that was an Interracial love story! The things we got in common, lol.
Anonymous said…
LosAngelista, ever since you got back from that hotbed of radical black nationalism known as the Depeche Mode concert, you have been on a tear.I LOVE IT.

Call it like you see it.
sippinwineman said…
NOTHING. (He just raises his fist).
pooneh said…
I've never found your voice to be unnecessarily angry - rightfully angry, yes, but not unnecessarily.

You tell the truth, in a clear voice. I can imagine it would be frightening to some, but I hope that never stops you. I also hope their fear doesn't shape your perception.

militant? huh? - how can a true Depeche fan be militant? it seems...well...oxymoronic, at best. ;)
Lotus Flower said…
And that's why I love your blog, Liz. :-)

Anyone who says "I don't see color" is lying. How can anyone NOT see color, especially now? It's just a way to evade the issue and claim that if you don't talk about it, it'll go away.

I felt that way for many years.
Jameil said…
PREACH!! It makes me feel like someone's secretly whispering, "Just smile and be grateful you're not a slave anymore." OMG I have kept my mouth shut about things since I've been here b/c I don't feel like fighting against people who don't care to expand their minds AND b/c i've gotten that exact attitude from some people. ridiculous.
nick said…
I think accusing people of being angry and militant is just a way of shutting them out and ignoring what they have to say. It's done all the time to feminists, trade unionists, green protesters and anyone who's being a bit too vociferous and strident about demanding radical changes. We should all be a bit more angry and militant when the occasion calls for it.

And I'm sure there's nothing more guaranteed to make you angry than all those entrenched racist attitudes that people deny the existence of....
Shiona said…
You are so right on as usual. Being dismissed is always a great way to avoid talking about, thinking about(or taking action) when it comes to dealing with this whole situation.

You always hear that we have come a long way (and I know we actually have in some instances) but sometimes I have to stop and wonder, have we really?
Liz Dwyer said…
Sometimes I hate blogger! I replied to all your comments, hit "publish" and POOF! They disappeared! Let me try to recall what I said!

Sharifa,I think you are dead-on about them not being aware because they're not on the receiving end, or else they don't associate with any non-white people in a real way. Because if I'm white, and you're my black friend, I'm gonna KNOW and notice when you're being interacted with in a less than just manner.

Daniel,LOL, you went and busted out the West Side Story. I'm sure it feels that way at times, doesn't it? Maybe by the time my grandkids are grown up, "interracial" love will neither be odd or fetishized. Yes, people are inclined to say nasty stuff online that they wouldn't otherwise say. I'm sure I do it sometimes, too.

Cynematic,It must've been their rendition of "Never Let Me Down" that really did it for me. You won't see it on any footage but they changed the lyrics into a black power anthem! Hehehe!

Sippinwineman,First raised in a return salute!

Pooneh,It's quite oxymoronic... good way to put it. You know, I never like to feel "angry", because I always think that's sort of unproductive. I just feel injustice very deeply and I don't like the effect of it on others, particularly children.

Mimi,Aww, thank you for saying so! I think there are people who grow up with lots of diversity and are maybe raised to just see people as people, but that is not how the world works so you learn, whether you want to or not, to see color in the historically based, racial manner our nation operates with.

Jameil,Oh I'll bet you have definitely had to zip it, otherwise, you'll be giving yourself migraines and ulcers.

Nick,I think you are right, it is a way of shutting people down. Classic tactic, actually, to say to the person who sees a problem, "No, YOU are the problem."
Liz Dwyer said…
I think we have come a long way but it is not far enough. I don't know if any of us can really envision what a world of full equality, without racism, would look like. Sure, we think it means not having your resume looked at weird because of your name sounding too ethnic, we think it means our kids not automatically being perceived as badly behaved or less intelligent... but what it will REALLY look like? Gosh, that's an overwhelmingly wonderful picture that I don't know if I can even fully envision.
Daniel said…
Los Angelista,
No, I don't think you do that. I always get the real feeling you'd say what you write. Because it's heartfelt. And not hurtful.
Because that's you.
Lisa..... said…
White people say I don't see color, because color is not an issue for them. That's the way it is. They live a life where color doesn't affect them the way it affects the rest of the world. They do not on a regular basis, if ever, really think about what it means to be white or white priveledge. They don't have to. They are the norm, the standard. I am not saying they are the norm because it's right...but they have most of the money, the power and the media. And they are so entrenched in it, they can't see around it.

Instead of raising our kids to 'not see color', us white folks should be raising our kids to SEE CLEARLY the (man made) differences and ask why they exist in our society. As long as white pople keep pretending there is no problem, how will racism be eliminated?

That's my opinion. I say go ahead, keep talking about it. Make us unomfortable.
Cyndee said…
POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!!! I mean bloggers!!! I see your natural hair has made you a little Angela Davis!!! :)

Popular Posts