Why I’m An Angry Black Woman

For whatever the reason, a lot of white people seem to feel that since we elected a black man as our President, everything is A-OK on the race front. It appears that to them, the main goal of the civil rights movement was not to gain equal rights for people of color, or change hearts and minds, but to install a person of color in the highest office of the land. Anything else is gravy. So no one thinks twice about the level of rancor directed at our prized Black President or the fact that he gets 400% more death threats than Bush did, to the tune of 30 per day. Never mind that we have an almost entirely white movement calling for his head and hurling racial slurs at him and any other politician of color. None of that has anything to do with race, right? Because we’re past that! It’s just people, baby! White folks desperately want to believe this and for the most part they have blinded themselves to the actual truth.

So it’s unsurprising to me that people would act irrationally when confronted with an article about the danger of Obama becoming the “angry black man” stereotype in response to the oil spill crisis. Although, as the link says, most of the commenters on the article did not identify their race, I feel it’s safe to assume that the majority of the dissent comes from white people. I say that based on the comments themselves. For example:

“Why is CNN so race obsessed? Black in America part 27! Nobody cares about this stupid crap until they bring it up. The tiny slither of Americans that are racist against blacks are so small and insignificant it just isn’t worth mentioning.”

Somehow I doubt that any person of color would say “nobody cares” about race. The gall it takes to state that there’s only a tiny “slither” [sic] of Americans who are racist against black people could only have come from a white person. Contrary to what white people like the above commenter would like to believe, racism, both institutionalized and personal, is alive and well in the U.S. No need to retire those Klan robes just yet.

The level of ignorance regarding the significance of racial issues post-Obama is astonishing and somewhat frightening. What it reflects is white folks’ eagerness to not have to deal with the whole race thing anymore, without actually unpacking their privilege and doing the necessary internal reflection. Most white people have never wanted to work on their racism. They understand racism only as a personal thing, not a deeply entrenched part of our society. So now that we’ve made it to what white people consider the mountain top, it’s become offensive to call a white person racist because racism is over. Every time something happens that reminds us that racism ISN’T over, such as the Arizona immigration bill being passed or AZ outlawing ethnic studies classes, white people get defensive and angry at people of color who speak out against it for “playing the race card”. Sometimes, as a person of color, just EXISTING qualifies as playing the race card.

I become the Angry Black Woman when I think about how Obama has been treated by the white public. It’s hard for me to listen to criticism of him because so little of the criticism has substance other than just the underlying “he’s not in his place” sentiment. I’m not saying he’s perfect. But he does not deserve the level of vitriol expressed by so many towards him. Just like every other black person that succeeds in a white man’s world, he has to work twice as hard at the same job Bush half-assed for 8 years, and he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves. That makes me very angry. Maybe it’s because I identify with him; maybe it’s because I recognize injustice when I see it.

It’s hard to have a rational conversation about the pros and cons of Obama’s policy decisions in the midst of all the racist red herrings being tossed about by the likes of Glenn Beck and the Teabaggers. Mainly because most white people won’t accept the idea that he is being treated poorly because he is black. Being a black man and making it to the Presidency apparently means that racism no longer applies. I’ve spoken with people who are simply shocked that anyone would think that the hostile environment towards Obama is based on his race. When you look at what’s he’s done so far as President, he’s done nothing so egregious as to warrant an entire movement based on how he’s screwed up the country. But there they are, with signs that read “African Lion… Lyin’ African” next to a picture of a lion and a picture of Obama. Completely non racist, right?

So, I am an Angry Black Woman. I have to be angry to survive. I have to be angry to prevent myself from just giving up on social justice work period. I have to be angry to avoid the death spiral of depression that beckons to me every time I see a racist sign at one of those Teabagger rallies, or a man at an Obama rally with a semi-automatic weapon strapped to his back, or Bill Mahr on TV saying he wants a real black president — basically a thug with a gun.

Obama doesn’t have to be the Angry Black Man to rile white America. Just being a black man is enough.

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  • http://noceleryplease.wordpress.com NoCeleryPlease

    I think part (most) of the teabagger's anger about Obama being in office is that since we are in a "post-racial" society, they are not ALLOWED to just say… "I don't like having a black president, because I am a racist a$$hole".

    So they have to couch their hatred in other things, like decrying EVERYTHING he does. Because, let's face it – not everything he's done since coming to office has been super-liberal or anything. Surely there must be SOMETHING that he's done that they wouldn't find offensive. (Like his refusal to repeal DADT).

    But no – Every tiny move is vilified. I simply see no other reason for it than these people are angry that a non-white person would DARE to try and run THEIR country!

    This is why their rallying cry is basically "We want to go back to the 1950's when men were men and women were playthings and "colored people" understood their place"

    What other possible explanation for this desire could there be other than racism (and I'll toss in sexism as well).

    Every time I see these people on TV, I want to punch them in the face. Grr.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      I really am angry a lot when I read the news so I try to limit it to certain times — mainly when I'm writing blog posts.

  • http://www.wordsole.com Beth

    Sometimes, as a person of color, just EXISTING qualifies as playing the race card. This. We are so not even close to being post-racial, and we never will be. To me, it's a nonsensical statement at best and a dismissive statement at worst. And yes, 100% yes to him not getting any of the effing slack that Bush got for YEARS. Even in the face of corruption and blatant incompetence, Bush got 8 years of shrugs and oh wells, and this president gets blatant racism no matter what he does. It's gross. I know that word seems weird in this context, but that's how it feels. Just…gross.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      Gross is the perfect word because it totally is. I mean, he's disappointed me in a lot of ways, but I can tell rational criticism of his policies from vague criticism of "what he's done to this country" with racist undertones. It's fine to criticize what he's actually done, but most of these white people just want to talk about how he's the next Hitler or how he should go "back" to Kenya (never lived there).

  • http://angrygrayrainbows.wordpress.com angrygrayrainbows

    To preface my comment, I am mostly white but also native american… I think part of what white folks don't understand is that racism is a very tricky and subtle thing sometimes. I've spent all my life working on my own attitudes and learning to challenge my own racist inclinations and sometimes I STILL catch myself having the most unhelpful and scary (to me anyway) thoughts about people who are different – including black people. In my experience, racism is something that has to be challenged regularly – even by those who have the best intentions in regards to all people – disabled, of difference cultures, difference religions, different races, etc. It takes work, it takes self-awareness and willingness to admit ones own flaws… and I've notice this is a lot more than most people are willing to do on any subject – not just racism… though a lot of this unwillingness manifests as racism, for sure.

    When people like teapartiers (like nocelery brings up) wants to claim that racism doesn't exist simply because racism is not tolerated in everywhere, it smacks of the whining of bullies to me. It is an extreme kind of thinking that concludes that a decrease in racism means that there is no racism at all. I remember as a teen seeing things in such all or nothing terms… and it makes me wonder about the psychological maturity of teapartiers and the like…

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      I'd like to see some psychological profiles on some of these Teabaggers.

  • http://www.wicked-whimsy.com Michelle

    I certainly don't agree with everything Obama has done as a president, but he is walking a really f'n thin line, since his actions are going to be used to justify why everyone should never vote for a POC again, no matter WHAT he does. Also, I think NoCelery is right on.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      he is walking a really f’n thin line, since his actions are going to be used to justify why everyone should never vote for a POC again, no matter WHAT he does.

      That point keeps me up at night sometimes. Because I know how precarious his position is and he has just really inherited some awful problems. I just hope he gets re-elected. A one term black president is like a death sentence for any other PoC presidential hopefuls.

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  • Jerome

    Great post. Question: is there somewhere on your page (that I'm missing) where I can link to your posts on Facebook? This is one that I'd really like to share.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      I just added a plugin that lets you "like" the posts, so try that out. It's at the bottom of each post.

  • maggie

    Fuck yeah. I'm a white girl watching from Canada, and I wish white people had a better understanding of race (not like I'm awesome, but I try and I'll own up when I fuck something up). I used to think it was a poor understanding of history, but suppose I guess it's just that people don't want to have to admit there could still be a problem. And, being white, they can ignore it. Often willfully.

    That and people really have no concept of the whole structure underpinning society. They can say "oh, it's bad that women make less money than men" or "oh, it's bad that X overtly racist thing happened", but don't see any of the little things that contribute to the bigger stuff.

    Sorry, I know you know that.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      The way our society and media works is to make it OK to have superficial opinions about important issues. You just listen to the commentators and don't do any of your own research. That's the problem with the Teabaggers, so many of their "beliefs" are skin deep. Ask them to explain why they take the position they do and you get some ignorant answers.

  • http://landanimal.wordpress.com Jo

    I agree with you 1000%. When Obama was elected I actually heard someone say, “Are they going to stop complaining now?” I was like you have GOT to be kidding me. Even if you can forget how rude this question is and then put aside all of the discrimination that happens daily in this country and the racism that persists in people hearts and minds aside, how is one African-American President evening the playing field? President Obama is the 44th President of the US. He has taken office after a line of 43 Caucasian-Americans. How is this magically evening everything out?

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      When Obama was elected I actually heard someone say, “Are they going to stop complaining now?

      OMG really? I'm glad it was just me and my SO on inauguration night. I cried actually, because I didn't believe I'd see a black president in my lifetime.

      But seriously, yeah. One out of 44 is not instant equality.

  • http://quantumacceptance.wordpress.com AcceptanceWoman

    I don't know what to say other than — I agree with you.

    I do my best to stand up to racism when I see it, and I've made decisions in my life that have me walking away from some of my white, middle-class privilege. That doesn't mean I can't still have racist thoughts (I do) or say stupid things (I do). I don't feel as though just because I'm a woman who faces sexism, a Jewish person who faces anti-Jewish sentiments, or, most often, a fat person who faces fat hatred, that I'm innocent of doing wrong to others.

    I think the best I can hope for are friends who call me on my errors, and the grace to not jump into the defensive stance when I get called out.

    Obama is a fantastic president. Not perfect, but as far as presidents go, he's exceeded my expectations. I saw a sign on the back of a humongous pick-up truck that said "How's that Obama Change Thing Goin' For Ya?" with a frowny face — and I wanted to leave a note that said "It's going really well, thanks for asking! I'm feeling more hopeful, free and glad that my society is moving in a more equitable direction overall, thanks!"

  • sRa

    word up :)

    one thing i can say about the current political atmosphere is that I have definitely found out who some acquaintances and relations really are…….they some ugly mofos. :(

    what is currently really frustrating me is when people expect me to accept others racism like its' just a different political viewpoint….no no no no no! argh! When it's racism/sexism/handicap-ism it gets personal, I can't be friends with you and respect you if you are a bigot. The frustration of it is endless though.

  • http://www.icedteaandlemoncake.wordpress.com icedteaandlemoncake.

    sooo i decided to go over your post again, not remembering where you made blanket statements about white people, re:criticism from later post.

    White folks desperately want to believe this and for the most part they have blinded themselves to the actual truth.
    It's true, though. We'd all like to be in a post-racial society. we have to do the work though to get there, confronting racism in our own lives and such.

    which is why…

    , it’s become offensive to call a white person racist because racism is over.

    not exactly because it's over. it's not over. it's just an ugly, scary thing and until we own up to the fact that racism is ingrained if you're white, it'll continue to be an insult.

    . I'm from a southern family, and even though no one in the family is overtly racist, there's stil the instutionalized racism, the othering of black people, black neighborhoods being automatically BAD BAD and scary places to go on simple account of black people living there, and the newness of a society where black people are just as human as white people. that's uncomfortable for someone in their 60s and 70s who grew up thinking racist attitudes were just okay.

  • http://anthrokeight.livejournal.com AnthroK8

    So, a while back, that cartoon with the reactionary duck (is it Mallard Fillmore? It took a second to recall the name…) had a thing about Obama 1) being a fan of basketball 2) while not doing his job right. Or something. It was during NCAA finals, I think. The image of Obama was of him spinning a ball, I know that much.

    Anyway, I can't remember how the joke worked, as you can see, but I can remember thinking "this is just bad." I was talking about it with a friend of mine about how, yeah, okay, criticize the President, whatever. But using basketball fandom as a way to contextualize a critique, and images of athletes we all recognize and that aren't always flattering and pretty much stereotypical… just don't.

    He pointed out the reason that particular comic was so bad was because it was… kind of off… in a whole two years of Mallard Fillmore never SAYING anything really terrible, just semi-half couching things in indirect ways that everyone knows are racist. But if you're just a comics reading white person (and really… who is Mallard Fillmore for if not CRWP?), you wouldn't nesc. have the right language to articulate all this. No matter your position on post-racial America, I think.

    I doubt I could have taken that strip to class where I teach and had all the white college students in freshman comp decode the layers of messaging there, for example.

    So I spent a good five minutes ranting, and another 3 hours mad at how so obviously racist anti-Obama discourse is and how much we could use a change from it, society-wide. And I am looking forward to the day a Black president can fall on his own merits rather than on the sharp weaponry that is racist rhetoric.

    So. Thank you, for this excellent post.

  • MoniqueR

    Good post, I agree with some but not all. Black people are so fast to talk about white people being racist, when most black people put all white people in the same stereotyped categories. Fact is everyone is racist in one way or another its up to the individual whether to act on it or not…I voted for Obama not because he was black but because he is better suited to lead a nation. Every president is talked about and judged throughout history, but because Obama is black people want to call it a race issue…who forgot that Obama is also half white….??? The race issues will never die completely because its a part of human nature and everyone has the right to believe and live in the way they choose. Its our rights as a Americans. By the way I am a dark Black Women, who attends a black college. I noticed that white people have actually helped and treated me better than black people in my adult years; Its sad really. We will never raise as a culture till we are united and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

    Signed Young Black & Blessed.

  • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

    It's a shame, too. We could get so much more done as a society if people would just own up to their privilege and work to subvert it. And stop judging each other all the damn time.