The “Angry Black Woman”

While we have talked a lot about race and Blackness this semester, one specific group of individuals within that discussion that we have not touched on is Black women. Just like Black men, Black women have faced many, even more, challenges to achieving racial and sexual equality and their stories and voices are just as important.

Audre Lorde was a key figure in the Black feminist movement that sought equality and liberation for Black women. In her essay “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism,” Lorde explains how during the Black feminist movement and the Civil Rights Movement, women responded to racism using anger. Lorde writes, “Women responding to racism means women responding to anger; anger of exclusion, of unquestioned privilege, of racial distortions, of silence…stereotyping, misnaming,” and more (Lorde, 1981). For Lorde and many other Black women at this time, anger was the only response that would be productive to their activism and their fight. Black women faced a unique set of struggles because they were disadvantaged by being Black and were disadvantaged by being females. Nevertheless, they were able to challenge the systemic inequalities and prejudice they faced, not only pushing the boundaries of the Civil Rights Movement but the Feminist Movement as well, advocating for their unique equality and justice as Black females. Through anger, Black women were able to defend their rights and demonstrate the seriousness of their struggles. Furthermore, because Black women were denied equality, rights, and justice even longer than Black men were, they had anger built up in them that would be strategically used when they would eventually advocate for their liberation. Black women “have lived with [their] anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, [and] learning how to use it,” and it was, in fact, used against “oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being” (Lorde, 1981).

When reading Audre Lorde’s essay, I could not help but think of the stereotype of the “angry Black woman” and how perhaps that stereotype was derived by instances like this where Black women were forced to use anger to elicit some sort of response and change that focused on their inclusion and equal rights. I find the stereotype of “the angry Black woman” to be quite demeaning. Even in the context of Lorde’s essay, using such a stereotype is done in an attempt to undermine Black women and the sacrifices they have had to make to fight for their rights and justice. It almost is like labeling a Black woman, when she tries to express her disdain for the challenges she faces in society and when she is trying to liberate herself, as an angry Black woman is a form of silencing her and many other women’s voices which is what the anger, the Black feminist movement, and more aimed specifically not to do.

It is sad to see that no matter how hard they try, Black women and their valid emotions are often dismissed and their experiences are not given the full recognition and empathy they deserve. Audre Lorde’s essay is incredibly insightful in seeing why anger is necessary for Black women to use as a response to the racism and sexism they confront. Unfortunately though, not many understand the role and significance of anger in the activism of Black women and how essential it is in their work towards fighting oppression, inclusivity, and more.

One thought on “The “Angry Black Woman””

  1. I enjoyed reading this passage. I find that there are even more stereotypes for black women, which is something I found throughout studying black history. I actually wrote a paper in my Intro to Africana Studies course about the three big stereotypes of African American women (Sapphire, Jezebel, and the Angry Black women). I found that Lorde was very insightful about this topic, in the sense that often the extreme emotion is unfortunately the best way to get a point across.

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