Law in Contemporary Society
Black women are never supposed to be angry. Sassy? Absolutely. Funny? But of course. Shady? Maybe just a touch, but no more than that otherwise people start to get their feelings hurt. But we are never supposed to be angry. In predominantly white institutions where safe spaces are prime, Black women are often forced to fold themselves (ourselves?) into nearly impossible positions so we are never perceived as threats, even as we ourselves are placed in positions where we feel threatened. We are constantly toeing the line, walking carefully between the shores of rage and respectability.

Anger, which is by no means unique to Black women oft has to be suppressed by us , buried and built upon until it explodes. And then we are dismissed. It happens in many ways. We are discounted, shut out, shut down. And always asked that age-old question: “why are you so angry?” But Black women don’t get angry. We become enraged. The difference between the two lies in the level of control we are able exercise over both emotional states. We believe anger is the more transient of the two states and one we don’t allow ourselves to indulge in too often. We wrongly assume that if we ignore it or push it down or “rise above it” (as we are often told to do which is coded language for do not engage because “nothing is more dangerous than playing into a stereotype” and by having feelings we “let them win”), our anger will pass. The reality is that our anger must pass. The world has little patience for us. There is no room for the angry Black woman. In every historically steeped sense of the phrase, we are given a very short leash. In a world where we are so easily othered, the leash—like the limit—does not exist. This of course has consequences.

As our anger collects, it is no longer so easily pushed aside. It simmers, flexing and expanding with each and every unwanted advance, every micro-aggression, every ignorant comment, every run in with hoteps who champion Blackness at the expense of Black womanhood, every question about the origins of our hair, every insecurity that turns into anger because anger doubles as a poor substitute for security, every “could you say that again but maybe with a little less aggression”, with every “you’re pretty for a…”. To be a Black woman in predominantly white spaces--and almost everywhere else-- is to be constantly and continually besieged with bullshit. All the while putting on a brave face. But remember not too brave.

Black women don’t get angry, we become enraged.

Unlike anger, which may be wrestled with, rage is much more difficult to control. Anger is prompted. Rage is triggered. And when it is, it is something else. In the space we are forced to fit, there is no room for that. There's barely room for us as it is. When Black women even approach anything that looks like anger, red flags go up (internally and externally), and we are forced to find shelter in the trappings of respectability: we must go along to get along, as the saying goes. This became evident during a conversation I had with a friend from law school last month. As another woman of color who had been through the job search, she wanted to make sure I knew as much as she did about Big Law. I listened attentively while she schooled me on everything from practice areas to the kinds of things I would “have to deal with” in the office. I pushed her on the latter and paused when she told me about how one of her co-workers had referred to one of her friends in the office as a “fucking nigger.” I bit back my immediate response--as my training dictated—and asked her what her response had been. Essentially, she had reported the woman to human resources, while declining to give HR the woman’s name.

“I didn’t want to rock the boat.”

As she said this, I could feel the corners of my mouth turn down. I immediately flashed back to my time abroad—as the only Black woman in a 12 person house--when one of my flatmates made a joke about me being a nigger. I remembered jumping over the small living room table that separated us. I remembered slamming my fist into the wall by his head. Screaming. “How fucking dare you?!” I remembered telling him that if he ever did anything like that I would kill him. I remembered seeing the shocked faces of my flatmates who had never seen anything like me before. I remembered walking calmly back to my room and locking the door before falling to the floor. I remembered crying so hard my shoulders shook. But if I'm honest with myself, the thing I remembered most was the relief. I remembered that and tried to imagine myself in the office scenario. Outwardly, I shuddered at the idea of being in that situation. Inwardly, I relished the chance to once again be enraged and unafraid.


Webs Webs

r3 - 17 Jun 2016 - 05:21:16 - JinduObiofuma
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