Guest Blog by Cordilia Acree, MSW intern
Marsha P. Johnson, pictured above was the quintessential angry black transwoman who threw the brick that started the riot outside of the Stonewall Inn. She held her anger at police harassment, discrimination, and trans- and homophobia in until she finally could no longer do so without losing her sense of self. Then she strategically unleashed her rage to effect change, and never backed down from a fight from that moment on.
If you turn on the news or log on to social media, you are guaranteed to see one or two things: the new COVID-19 case count or something about racism in America. No matter how you identify, the current events in the world have affected you in some way.
This post was supposed to be about something different, but yesterday I was asked by someone who I considered a friend for the past fifteen years that cut deep. The question was,
"Why are Black women always so angry?"
After taking a day to gather my thoughts, this was my response, “I am a Black woman, and Black women are not always angry. Most Black women strategically think about the tone they are using before speaking so that we are not seen as angry. We hold our pain in and keep a smile on our face in public because we do not want to be seen as the angry Black woman. Imagine if every time you spoke, you had to represent everyone that looked like you, and one passionately voiced opinion makes you the angry black woman. I know that many will think this sounds crazy, but it is my reality and the reality of women that look like me.
Imagine if every time you spoke, you had to represent everyone that looked like you.
I remember being the only black nurse in my office, and one day, a patient just flat-out informed me that they did not want me to start their IV because I was only hired because of Affirmative Action. I was upset; however, I politely said “OK, sure let me locate another nurse.” As I walked out of that patient's room, another nurse must have said hello, but I did not see her. I was focused and needed to find the nurse in charge of that shift. At the end of that shift, I was pulled aside by the nurse who said hello and my supervisor because I had an attitude, and they wanted to know why.
I was confused because, after that incident, the other nurse and I took our lunch break together. Once I was informed that this encounter was based on me walking past the other nurse and not saying hello back, I explained the situation and that I honestly did not see or hear her.
Did I have an attitude? No! Was I upset? Yes!
This was not the only experience I've had like this, but one of many. So no, all Black women are not angry; we are just like any other woman; we have emotions, and sometimes we can get angry. If you find yourself in a conversation with a Black woman and the dialogue makes you uncomfortable, do not assume she is angry. Turn it around and ask yourself, “Why am I uncomfortable?” Say excuse me and ask for clarification if you need to. The only way things will change is if we start having the conversations that make us a little uncomfortable.