As professional Black women, we have historically been expected to be present, but not heard.
We are sometimes invited into rooms, but not given a seat at the table. Our opinions have been asked, but our truth has been muted. Our voices have been vilified to keep us silent and out of important conversations that affect us and our aspirations. By labeling us as “angry,” it’s easier to disregard the value and validity of our stance, information, concerns, contributions, and lived experiences.
It’s easier to write us off as unreasonable, unstable, and unworthy.
You see, it may not be your emotions that are the problem. It may be other people’s resistance to hearing, receiving, and wanting to understand your truth. It may be that other people want comfort more than they want to change. They want familiarity, more than they want the richness of diverse thought. They want talk, but not the action fueled by Black anger. If that is the case, the only way to speak and be received well is to keep it basic, unemotional, and palatable for others.
Is that realistic for you? It’s not for me.
Being authentically who I am, involves my emotions, thoughts, and my voice. It requires that I show up and represent the fullness of who I am, while still keeping it professional.
My emotions are a part of what makes me beautiful, powerful, outspoken, and in tune with the people around me. They make me a better employee and business owner. Those emotions are a guiding force for my purpose and my passion. They give me the fuel to live up to the fullness of who I am, even when it makes other people uncomfortable. The sad part is, most of the time, I’m not even angry. I’m just not walking around portraying some fake smile or persona of being happy when I’m not.
I get tired of having to smile to make other people comfortable in my presence while everyone else can just be themselves.
Do you know how exhausting that is? Most of you reading this blog will get it. But, for those who don’t, it’s tiring to flip and flop your emotions to avoid the stereotypical label of “the angry Black woman.” It weighs on your mental and emotional health to feel as if you don’t have the right to feel the way you feel, no matter how respectfully you express it. And, it’s annoying as hell to see White women being complimented and labeled courageous for speaking up, while Black women are forced into silent submission through reprimands, write-ups, complaints, and lower rates of promotions in the work-place.
But let’s get one thing clear. There are times when I am legitimately, unapologetically, and wholeheartedly an angry WOMAN…and that is because I have ALL EMOTIONS. Not just the ones that make others comfortable.
Here are a few appropriate times to acknowledge, respect, and validate my anger, frustration, and emotional exhaustion related to my lived experiences.
When I witness the lives of Black men, women, and children portrayed, believed to be, and treated as less valuable and worthy of protection.
When Black people are told to “get over” a history of violence, trauma, and injustice, even though the violence, trauma, and injustice still exist.
When I have to worry about the well-being of my husband, children, family, and friends because the color of our skin is seen as threatening or unwelcome in the spaces we live and work.
It makes me uncomfortable when I’m expected to make other people feel comfortable.
For some, my skin is an automatic reason for them to feel offended or intimidated by my voice, choices, truth, and decision to defend what I know is right. My emotions, which sometimes include anger, are perceived as an attack instead of a reasonable response to valid issues or concerns.
To them, I say…
My emotions are not intimidating, but you may be intimidated by my courage to embrace them.
My assertiveness is not offensive, but you may choose to be offended by my comfort in that zone.
My voice is clear, rich, and worthy of being heard, but you may decide to tune me out.
My lived experience is not up for debate, but you may choose to dispute it.
My thoughts and emotions bring value to the conversation, even if you choose not to listen.
If you interact with or see an angry woman who happens to be Black, try listening to understand the feelings rather than trying to suppress or distort them for your emotional comfort. She may not even be angry, but your issues with her valid emotions may keep you from realizing it.
Until next week, keep embracing your emotions, speaking your truth, and being you.
The Me Myself and HER Podcast version of this conversation will add some additional insights about my experience being a Black woman that embraces HER anger. Subscribe on your favorite podcast streaming platform to be alerted when it’s released later today.