“Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives.”
“But anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification, for it is in this painful process of this translation that we identify who are our allies with whom we have grave differences and who are our genuine enemies.
Anger is loaded with information and energy.”
“Women of Color in america have grown up within a symphony of anger, at being silenced, at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say SYMPHONY rather than CACAPHONY because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so they do not tear us apart. We have had to lean to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.”
I’m not so much an angry black woman as a livid one. I live in a state of perpetual rage, only ever one news story away from flying off the handle. I start most mornings shouting “racists” at the radio, and end many of my days shouting “sexists” at the TV. When I’m not bawling at inanimate objects, I’m applying cocoa butter to my skin, which is incredibly dry, or trying to manage my “unruly” hair. If I’m not the wrong gender for a position of power, I’m the wrong colour: invariably my face doesn’t fit for both reasons.
When racism and sexism collide, feminists call it the theory of intersectionality – where multiple identities combine to increase oppression – but for black women it’s just known as reality. I collect statistical evidence of injustice against black women in the same way others collect football facts: in 2002, minority women made up less than 8% of the total female population, but 29% of the female prison population; despite often high academic achievements, we are twice as likely to be unemployed as white women; we make up over 1% of the population, but under 0.5% of MPs (just three black women). If parliament were representative there’d be 55-60 BME MPs. Let’s assume half of those were women, and if just half of those were black, we’d still have more than three times the black women MPs we currently have. Why does this matter? Because decisions are taken in the corridors of power that affect all our lives, so why shouldn’t we be represented at the table?
And then there’s the seemingly frivolous stuff: told by mad scientists that we are less attractive, and by the rest of the world that we are highly sexed exotic creatures is it any wonder we’re miffed? The fashion world really should get some sort of award for its dedication to constantly letting us know that it finds our hair type, skin colour and bodies to be the least desirable.
Despite all this, I’ve spent my life fighting the label angry black woman because it’s a handy way to put a black woman down, modern-day shorthand for telling her not to have ideas above her station. The truth is, black women are no angrier than white women; if anything we could do with being a lot angrier. But we get labelled because deep down everyone knows we’ve got a right to be mad as hell.