“The Angry Black Woman…and Man”


The recent shooting of unarmed Black teenager Mike Brown and the subsequent unrest in the streets of Ferguson, MO have made me so angry and frustrated that I have had to step away from it before it totally consumes me. Thus, I’ve taken a few days to participate in the ubiquitous “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Having had a member of our community die from ALS there was a reason to help build awareness about the disease and donate to our local ALS chapter. I found an albeit temporary distraction for my anger. Although everyone grapples with anger at some point in their lives it seems that Black people–women and men–are characterized by anger. The phrase, “angry Black woman/man” is so over done  by media and Hollywood images that we come to expect all Black women and men to be angry–all the time. No one talks about the angry White man/woman. Black anger when enfolded into the personalities of women and men means that such anger is regarded as not legitimate. It signals that we need to go through attitude adjustments. It suggests that our anger has no basis in reality. Angry is just who we are, not what we become.

An example of the pervasive concept of the “angry Black woman” is the way the label has been assigned to First Lady Michelle Obama. Unfortunately, the use of “angry” as an adjective for Black people has been used to diffuse any justified anger expressed by either President or Mrs. Obama. I have seen anger expressed by George Bush, Bill Clinton (and Hillary), George Bush, Sr., Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon but no one has called them “angry.” Scholars in communication, like Thomas Kochman, point out that Blacks and Whites have very different communication style. When (some) Black people get upset about something they typically get louder to make their points. (Some) Whites on the other hand are more likely to express their anger by becoming silent and withdrawing from interactions. These different cultural styles leads to miscommunication and mis-identification of meaning.

But let’s look at what is happening in our country right now (and I am deliberate in saying “our country”). We have witnessed a series of shootings of unarmed Black men–particularly young Black men–over the past few years. The deaths of Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and now Mike Brown represent a long history of brutality against our people and yes, we are ANGRY! What other group of people is asked to sit by and remain even-tempered in the midst of all out assault? We do not expect Palestinians to be without anger. We do not expect Israeli’s to be without anger. We do not expect the Kurds to be without anger. We do not expect law abiding Iraqis, Afghanis, or people in the Ukraine to be without anger. Yet, somehow we want Black people to keep calm and trust the system to treat us in a just way.

Yes, I am angry…really angry…and I think if other people aren’t angry they aren’t paying attention! What do you think? Let us know!

Stay Black & Smart!

2 thoughts on ““The Angry Black Woman…and Man”

  1. I think it’s ridiculous and a reflection of many non-minorities still see the divisions of race, a man-made concept, while ignoring the gradual melding and increase of the population of people of color. How can you preacher American values that only value one specific type of American? How do you give your young kids “time out” and create shelters for homeless dogs to minimize the euthanization of former pets and hunting and killing unarmed Black boys and men?

    I’ve worked in correctional education for 10 years and know more than a few peace officers from parole, Sheriff’s department, police departments, marshals as well as probation officers. Some of these officers are glorified cowboys who see prey and go on the hunt with little or no regard for being objective, or humane. These types of peace officers think it’s dodge city and abuse the power and authority granted to them by the attainment of a gun and a badge. Though this mentality applies to numerous peace officers, it does not apply to all. Still, the population of dysfunctional peace officers has been growing or at least steady over the years as the nation focuses more on incarceration and less on rehabilitation. I’m amazed we’re cutting back on college courses, and conducting job furloughs while laying off tenured teachers, yet, we have no problem building more prisons. Like Marvin Gay used to say….”what’s going on?”

    Another reason that this type of peace officer is ever present is because the laws, policies and policies that exist in various cities, counties and states is still open to interpretation by the officers, judges and courts. If you are not punished for cruel and unjust behaviors that are not only a normal practice but are common and often rewarded, and if your moral compass is malfunctioning, then what’s the incentive to stop? How can we as a people channel legitimate anger into a safe and effective means of addressing the issues without risking our own mortality in urban war zones? What do parents tell their sons when they just want to go outside and play, or go to the store and ride bikes with friends. Must we also put our children on “lock down” just so they can make it too adulthood without catching a few “caps”?

    I agree…we should be angry. But how to we develop a process that allows us to effectively engage in a process that lessens violence, not increase it? There is something unsettling for me in having a Black president that is ostracized for trying to address racial unrest and being accused of being a racist in his attempt to eliminate racism when he himself is on “lock down” by congress for similar reasons.

    Between this, and jay-walking black college professors being assaulted, middle aged black grand-mothers being beaten by the highway patrol, and this collective inaction of a republican congress, Baghdad is starting to look a little more appealing these days.

    Something’s gotta give.


  2. While I didn’t get challenged (ice bucket) I too had to “step away”, and you are right NO PEOPLE any where in all of creation have been asked “wait’ on the system that is oppressing them for justice.


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