The image of the stern, strong-willed, intimidating black woman is one that’s ingrained into society. The damaging cliché of the angry black woman has been used to sweep the voices of this minority group to the perimeter of all rooms, silencing them, ignoring what they have to say, and invalidating black females. Underrepresented minorities often find themselves having to overcome widely believed harmful stereotypes, and black women are no exception.
Black women know what it means to create space for themselves in a society that deems them unworthy, they know what it means to do a lot with very little. Overcoming the angry black female stereotype, which characterises black woman as bitter, hostile, and bad-tempered, is just another barrier for black women overcome. This stereotype can function as a dangerous trap, as once you get written off as angry and emotional, it can cause more of those same feelings. Negative personality traits are frequently pinned on black women, even when they are justifiably angry. Look no further than headlines regarding Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, and Shonda Rhimes. Black women who have an informed opinion and dare to stand up for what they believe in are reduced to having an unwarranted attitude problem, even when they have a right to voice their fury. Being female, black, and strong translates to ‘angry’, and is a way to beat down and undermine black women and all of their emotions and capabilities.
The origin of the angry black female cliché is believed to have derived from the 1930s, and was cemented in the 1950’s show Amos 'n Andy. Unfortunately this is a stereotype that still persists decades later. Black women are constantly portrayed in the media as cantankerous, unappealing, and unlovable - all characteristics that are negative. Characteristics that are shameful and unfeminine. Black women not only face being discriminated against for their race, but also their gender, so have to endure double the amount of criticism and negativity. We lightly joke about our no-nonsense black mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts, but society has taken these loveable anecdotes and twisted them into something that’s far from the truth. Black women have been boxed into narrow roles for as long as I can remember, and the fact that they are portrayed this way says a lot about societies treatment and respect for black people - or lack of. Unfavourable images of black femininity are constantly force-fed to us through the media, and it’s time we began questioning why.
Black women are not immune from hurting, from struggling, and from getting their dreams crushed. When black women feel down, they brush things off, all whilst groaning under the burden of it all. Angry black women are seen as emotional and irrational troublesome citizens, and it’s about time society rectified the damaging cliché its created. Part of the problem, and one of the reasons why this stereotype still exists, is the lack of understanding of black women’s experiences. Black women have valid and complex emotions they are entitled to feel and express, just like anyone else. If black women come across as having an attitude, is this a valid excuse to dismiss their opinions? Absolutely not. If black women seem angry, is this a credible reason to silence them? Not at all. Sadly, it doesn’t look as if the biases pertaining to black women are going to disappear anytime soon. The plight of the ‘angry black female’ continues.
Written by J'Nae Phillips