Taming Your Tongue

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.”

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

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  • Fifi-Gongon

    Some white women act bitchy on a daily basis without anyone feeling the need to write an analytical book on it. Not only they are not criticized but they are praised. Black women shoudn’t have to ask anyone the permission to express their discontent or worst, find a way to cope graciously so it doesn’t bother anyone.

    • Wong Chia Chi

      Thank you. And many of them don’t take any personal accountability for it when they make a mistake, they are forever blaming other people for their fuck ups.

  • Wong Chia Chi

    I appreciate the spirit of this article but the author undermines herself by saying:

    “Frankly, I don’t think we will ever eradicate the prevailing perception that we are angry. The battle to debunk this myth will have to be fought and won on an individual basis.”

    Right.And another person’s perception of your character, oftentimes has nothing to do with your personality or your actions. How others perceive you depends almost entirely on their personality and experiences, how that affects their outlook, and most importantly THEIR PREJUDICES.

    Most of the advice she gave is common sense. What makes you think the “Angry Woman” hasn’t done all that before? Maybe that’s why she’s angry now, because it didn’t work. Like duh, you think most black women don’t operate under the assumption that any expression of emotion will be held against us and be seen as a mark against out character because we’re viewed as stereotypes and not individuals? We know this. That doesn’t stop us from being human beings like everyone else, or having bad days like everyone else.

    “Smile… smile anyway. Don’t be the “skunk at the picnic” that pollutes the atmosphere with a stinking attitude. People like to work with and associate with pleasant folks. Further, some black women may have a facial bone structure (not an uncommon occurrence – forgive this language, but it makes a point!), that often makes it appear to others that we are unhappy or upset. A genuine smile will counter this.”

    I try my best to be pleasant, courteous and respectful to others but I’m nobody’s clown or entertainer. I prefer my smiles to be expressions of genuine emotion and not a mask I wear to make people feel less afraid of me.

    “Be proactive in joining others for social outings (lunch, company gatherings, etc.). The rewards often go to people that the benefactors know, like, and trust. Don’t wait to be asked.”

    If I’m not invited I don’t really want to go.

    She rest of that is common sense. She forgot the most important advice:

    “If this isn’t working for you, then make plans to leave the work and school situation you find yourself in.”

    • Wong Chia Chi

      And I will add to that “Always have an exit plan. Be aware of how much you can take and access it with what is going on in your life. Is it worth putting up with? Does the benefit outweigh the cost and MOST IMPORTANTLY: how will you be rewarded for your trouble?”

      I think many black women take too heavy a burden and the “Anger” people see is just a person cracking under the strain of all of it.

    • Wong Chia Chi

      Like for example: right now,I’m dealing with some personal issues one very front. On top of that this Trayvon Martin case has really hit me hard. I have very little support and as a result of that I’m not taking on more than I can handle. I know I’m a capable person but I’m not superwoman, at least right now.

      My mood is… dark and apathetic at best, I’m exhausted with being “angry” so I just stay quiet and keep to myself. I work out and do yoga and read/journal in my spare time so I’m not just sitting with the feeling. But there isn’t much I can do right now to change my situation so I’m just trying to cope without getting more upset or being a perceived as a “burden”.

      “Limit your “ain’t it awful” sessions to those who can change your situation. Complainers are frequently isolated from career enhancing opportunities and fun social situations.

      Remember that the rest of the world doesn’t know your painful history, so don’t take your anger out on customers, co-workers, friends, boyfriends, husbands, or others.”

      Right. That’s why when I’m dealing with my problems I need space and support. So either support me by giving me my space, or if you can’t support me, leave me alone. Please.

      One thing that annoys me is when you politely tell people you need a breather they still want you to be available to be a friend to them, when they can’t or won’t be a friend to you.

      So I’m not a “debbie downer” I’ve been withdrawn from my friends(except two who give me support and understand what I’m dealing with.) and immediate social circle. If they’re still there when I get back to living again they’re welcome to be in my life. I had to do the no show with a friend I met recently just because I don’t have any extra energy to deal with other people’s problems( especially when they’re relatively superficial compared to mine), when they can’t deal with mine. At least not at the moment.