In the summer of 2020, I decided to take a storytelling class. The pressure and overwhelm of covid-19, police brutality, and systemic oppression had me in a tailspin. Most days I wanted to cry, scream, and laugh all at the same time. During the madness, my aunt sent me encouraging words about my talent and gift to write. I chose to let her words be a divine sign to use the power of the written word against the hatred and injustice swirling around me.
Angry black woman tripping
The topic of the class was privilege. On some level, we all experience privilege. It could be race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, education level, career status, or geographic location. As students we were vulnerable about our lives. During one class, I shared my struggle to express my thoughts without depicting the angry black woman (ABW) stereotype or Sapphire trope. Through that discussion, I saw how trying to avoid the ABW stereotype had silenced me.
“Whenever someone weaponizes anger against black women, it is designed to silence them,” Brittney Cooper, professor and author of the book Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower says. “It is designed to discredit them and to say that they are overreacting, that they are being hypersensitive, that their reaction is outsized.”
Angry black woman arising
How unfair! In a country where white men can get results by shouting during Supreme Court hearings and white women can cry in Central Park when they don’t follow rules, the word unfair barely scratches the surface of how dehumanizing it is to weaponize a black woman’s rage. How dare society diminish my feelings just because they don’t like the tone and mannerisms by which I express them! Instead, ask yourself what and why. What has happened that has triggered this response? Why did that trauma happen? Sit with it, instead of dismissing it.
Because like Dr. Brittney Cooper has made clear—my rage is my superpower. And I am not shrinking from it. Instead, I choose to empower it.
“Rage for me becomes the ground zero for the reclamation of black women’s full emotional lives,” Cooper said. “The biggest superheroes we’ve ever have, have been black women who have looked at a set of conditions that are designed for them to fail and designed to kill them and said, we’re going to live anyway. And not only are we going to live—we’re going to thrive.”
While writing and performing in the storytelling class, I gave myself permission to feel anger AND sadness AND joy AND fear AND hope. My voice strengthened and amplified. There is no going back. I am fully black. I am fully woman. I have a damn good reason to be angry. All of that means I am fully human.