From The Grio — In a recent episode of the Oprah Winfrey Network drama series, The Haves and the Have Nots, the almost destitute maid Hanna Young (played by Crystal Fox) seemed to epitomize the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman when her adult son sets her up with a blind date.
I sat there rooting for her to find love and emotional support amid all the negativity in her life. On the surface, the fine black man from her church seemed like a perfect match. Notwithstanding, Hannah treated him with hostility from the moment she laid eyes on him. Then, from their ensuing private conversation, we learn the ugly back story. “Mr. Perfect” is in fact her son’s father and had never provided financial or emotional support for him!
Hanna’s hurt and disappointment could not be dismissed. But at first, it was all too easy to dismiss her behavior as stereotypical, and unwarranted. It was too easy to label her as something even first lady Michelle Obama has been called: an Angry Black Woman.
Encounters with the Angry Black Woman
No doubt you have encountered an Angry Black Woman: the unfriendly checker at the supermarket, the unhelpful postal worker, the surly retail clerk, the co-worker with the chip on her shoulder who finds racism under every rock, among many figures from daily life. While these sisters do not represent the general population of black women, they do perpetuate a myth that makes others paint us all with the same “angry brush.”
As I’ve researched and written on the subject of anger over the past year, I’ve come to fully embrace the concept that anger is indeed a secondary emotion. And, as I’ve learned the painful history of some of the bitter, intolerant, and demanding black women in my circle of observation, I have not found that a single one of them is inherently angry.
Many have experienced a myriad of primary emotions that often underlie their negative behavior. Such behavior has caused society to undeservingly label black females in general as angry. These primary emotions are the reality for far too many black women, and they stem from the type of initial slight that the character Hanna Young experienced. They include feeling disrespected, disappointed, denigrated, rejected, betrayed, taken for granted, abused, manipulated, discriminated against, unsupported, and numerous other painful events that lead to hurtful feelings.
Learning to cope positively with negativity
I recently chatted with two black women at the opposite ends of the socio-economic scale about the myth of the Angry Black Woman. “Shanell,” with limited education and waning motivation on the job, was struggling with her relationship with her supervisor. She related that she’d recently told him off and declared to him, “You can’t tell me anything because you are younger than I!” I cringed at her lack of professional savvy.
On the other hand, when I queried “Ruth,” a highly celebrated, award-winning, and nationally known physician, about the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman, she became highly animated as she rattled off the same litany of aforementioned primary emotions that black women have experienced due to what tends to be our collective treatment. However, she concluded by saying, “In spite of our history and our reality, we have to find a better way of coping.”