Is it an insult to be considered the “angry black girl?” Yes. In history, black women have become the target for negative stereotyping in America. We have learned to silence ourselves because we do not want to be outcasts. This forces us to suppress our cultural norms when in public for the dual benefit of black women and nonblack people. Black women do not want to be labeled when they’re expressing certain aspects of their culture, and they are constantly fighting to avoid that. This internal suppression benefits both parties because it makes it easier for black women to simply live without aggressive labels, thus creating a comfortable atmosphere for non-blacks. Therefore, they bend over backward to impress and keep up with other people. You feel as if you constantly have to please them and it’s a constant battle between loving your culture and doing what’s best for you. Here, in this predominantly white town, I tell myself, “don’t act out; don’t give them a stereotype to talk about,” but I also tell myself “the way they react to my culture is not my problem.” I wish it were easier to follow the latter.
This stereotype is not only prevalent in our real lives, but in the media as well. TV shows are obsessed with the role of the angry black girl. We have normalized the idea of black women always being angry. For example, “Empire’s” infamous Cookie, played by the actress Taraji P. Henson. With this character, the sass, attitude and unnecessary anger are apparent. After spending years in jail for taking a fall for a crime she did not commit, she comes home to her family and beats her son with a broom. Rightfully upset that her boyfriend had moved on and stole her idea to build a musical empire, she is very loud and aggressive.
It is very easy to laugh at these, but to black women, it is depicted a different way. It does not just stop at Cookie; multiple black women are depicted as angry in the media. Take Pam from the TV show “Martin” for example. Martin was always rude to Pam, yet every time she reacted, she was viewed as angry and sassy.
In sports, an extremely degrading cartoon was made of Serena Williams while playing tennis, depicting her as angry. Serena wrongfully received a coaching violation when her coach was giving her a thumbs up, but the chair umpire thought her coach was giving her hand motions, which coaches aren’t allowed to do during games. Not only was her justifiable outrage immediately tied to her race, but she also was not taken seriously. In response to the outrage at the cartoon, the cartoonist replied, ”I’m upset that people are offended, but I’m not going to take the cartoon down…It was a cartoon based on her tantrum on the day and that’s all it was.” This stereotype discredits anything we say when we call out wrongdoings. The media continuously portrays black women as rude and aggressive, and black women in the real world, unfortunately, have the hard work of trying to prove this stereotype wrong. The idea that black women are always angry has made us feel we have to make everyone around us comfortable, leading us to dampen any feelings we have.
Due to this stereotype, we are not taken seriously. Our feelings are constantly dismissed because people claim we’re acting “crazy.” Why is our rage considered irrational? Black women are taught to be strong and confident, but we will never learn how to speak up for ourselves in a country that silences us. We hide how we feel to make life easier, but it does hurt.
By Liela Marrett and Chevelle Williams
Contributing writer & photo editor