In my college days, I served as Black Student Association president. I also wrote for the campus newspaper, so I was often seen and heard. Back then, I was focused on social issues and took a strong stance against racism and sexism. As soon as I lifted my voice to express an opinion, I was given the Angry Black Woman label.
I began to question if I was ‘doing too much’ or ‘saying too much’. I knew that I wasn’t angry and couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see that. My outspokenness was perceived as anger but I learned how to keep my head up. And I learned that it was not my problem – it was theirs.
The Angry Black Woman label persists on television and in real life – some of the most influential black women we know have received the label including Michelle Obama and Shonda Rhimes.
But what about our mothers, sisters, aunties, and friends who have expressed the same issue? What about you - in your relationship? Is speaking up always assumed to be angry?
Black women shouldn’t have to apologize for having an opinion – just as we would never apologize for being black. But it is when the two become synonymous the stereotype spreads and becomes a battle to fight.
Oftentimes, black women are ashamed of our assertiveness and must defend ourselves in order to fight against the idea. Our culture, our opinions and our voices cannot continue to be reduced to ugly stereotypes. We are so much more than that.
From articles that negatively portray Black women in the media, to the reality shows and even movie roles that perpetuate bad behaviors, images of the strong black woman have been ingrained in our minds, making it almost impossible to look at black women in any other way.
The media plays a role in shaping our perceptions of what a strong black woman really is, but the fact that we continue to allow the media to do so puts us at fault.
Black women are strong, because many have to be. They are the backbones of their families and the ones who help others figure out life’s unanswered questions.
Women like Michelle Obama project a positive image as classy, respected, and powerful. She has allowed many of us to embrace the title “strong black woman” without apologizing for it.
We should all prepare for that moment and look forward to the day when we can all just be ourselves. At some point, every superwoman must take off the mask.