The Black Diamond: Let us be angry

Black women are unfairly stereotyped for being angry, and it needs to stop

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Nick Archambault/Daily Collegian (2022)

By Christmaelle Vernet, Collegian Correspondent

Following the controversial arrest of a 21-year-old University of Massachusetts student earlier this month, another incident quickly gained attention around campus. A video clip featuring two UMass students responding to a police officer was posted on TikTok and subsequently went viral.

The driver of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus told one of the students to throw away a cup of lemonade, a direction to which the student complied. Shortly after this, an older male passenger began arguing with the two students. The situation continued to escalate and the authorities were called soon after to intervene. Upon seeing this video on my feed, my immediate thoughts included major questions: why are Black women not allowed to be angry? Why are Black women almost always painted out to be the aggressor?

In my personal experience, anger is the emotion I found myself repressing the most. Even in situations where expressing anger is completely valid, I always avoided showing any signs of frustration out of fear of being stereotyped. The “angry Black woman” stereotype is prominent in so many aspects of my life; whether that’s being told you have “an attitude” just for standing up for yourself, or even in media where Black women are often portrayed as being too “sassy” or “mean.”

Feminine rage and how it is viewed by society is severely flawed, often being positioned as a response to the patriarchy. This is often seen in cinema in characters portrayed by women of other races. In most instances, female rage is portrayed as a product of a woman being pushed to her limit. It is almost always shown as justifiable. When it comes to Black women, our rage is seen as a character flaw. Even when we are not angry, we still face the notion of being called too “confrontational.” There are so many misconceptions about whether a Black woman is truly mad or just asserting herself.

For Black women, our pain and anger are automatically deemed as aggression. There are so many things we should be angry about. We are the least likely to be offered proper medical care, the most likely to die in childbirth and the least likely to be given treatment and support for our traumas. Anger would be the most normal response to our circumstances. But we are expected to be the “strong Black woman” and just deal with it all.

The “angry Black woman” stereotype is harmful in a multitude of ways, but it is specifically harmful because it disvalues our individuality. Black women are not a monolith; just like everyone else, we are multifaceted. Yet we are reduced to so few qualities and the majority are listed as negative. Categorizing all of us as angry leads others into viewing us as one-dimensional.

All in all, anger isn’t entirely a negative emotion. Everyone experiences it from time to time and it is a vital part of being human. Being told we aren’t allowed to express anger or being feared for doing so forces us to suppress our emotions, which is a severe burden to us. Black women have every right to be angry.

Christmaelle Vernet can be reached at [email protected]