Archive for the ‘Audre Lorde’ Category

Musings of an Angry Black Woman

Friday, April 18th, 2008

I will attempt to do something today I’ve never been able to do before which is to compose a blog article in thirty minutes. I have a flight in a few hours. There’s not enough time to think a thought all the way through this morning, smooth out its edges, and tuck in the corners. I must content myself with a journal entry. Stalking a thought and seeing where it takes me.

Reading Ruby Sale’s piece earlier in the week on grief and the comments of everyone got me to thinking.

Or is it the fact that I reached for  Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde before heading out the door and started re-reading it on the plane yesterday?

Or is it because I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would do over in my life if I could do portions of it over?

Regardless of what did it, I wake up this morning feeling myself in that suspended space artists know only too well. Where you feel yourself dangling somewhere between intuition and insight.

Thinking about black women’s grief sent me connecting a dot to black women’s anger.

Every Black woman in America lives her life somewhere along a wide curve of ancient and unexpressed angers.

My Black woman’s anger is a molten pond at the core of me, my most fiercely guarded secret. I know how much of my life as powerful feeling woman is laced through the net of rage. It is an electric thread woven into every emotional tapestry upon which I set the essentials of my life—a boiling hot spring likely to erupt at any point, leaping out of my consciousness like a fire on the landscape. How to train that anger with accuracy rather than deny it has been one of the major tasks of my life.

(Lord, I need more than thirty minutes to stalk this topic.)

Why do these words feel like a punch in the gut this morning? Surely I’ve read them lots of times over the years when I’ve returned to Audre Lorde’s essays.

I know the anger that lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be angry than it is to be hurt. Anger is what I do best. It is easier to be furious that it is to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe.

Every black woman I know has had to battle with the stereotype of her as the angry black woman. The stereotype hinges on the notion that black women are outspoken, unreasonable, uncontrollable, and quick to raise hell. Almost every television show that has ever featured a black woman has had at least one Omarosa character on the show, the angry, outspoken, and all but unhinged black woman railing against everyone and everything. The stereotype takes no account whatsoever of the possibility that our anger might be justified. We are expected to metabolize the daily insult of being overlooked, demoralized, hypersexualized, and loathed— with grace and calm. Anger in women is supposedly unbecoming. I’ve known black women who have risked their sanity and health to hide their anger. They’d risk a nervous breakdown rather than say “back off, and I mean it!”

I am willing to admit now that I wasted a lot of time and energy in the past being angry.

The white flight attendant managed to take everyone’s drink order on the plane yesterday, except mine. She didn’t see me. Ten years ago I would have fumed, seen it as part of a larger plot in the world, and allowed my day to be ruined.  I would have been justified, in part. But ten years later, let it go. What’s at stake? A bag of pretzels and a can of flat soda. I barely noticed I’d been overlooked. I was too absorbed in reading Sister Outsider to care.

I try to preserve my anger these days.

I am ashamed to say that I have not always aimed my anger at the right target in the past. I didn’t have to pull out the blow torch every time something got in my way or someone said something stupid. Blood didn’t always have to spill. There were times I should have taken the time to let myself feel the grief instead of lashing out so quickly. I should have wept first instead of rushing to plot how to get even. Like Job’s friends I should have sat quietly and in solidarity with the afflicted for some time before launching into a passionate tirade against the injustices and the evils of the world.

Mental note to myself of yet another lesson to pass along to my daughter and other young women. (God knows, it’s a lesson I’m still learning.) How to train your anger and let it bring you the clarity you need to fight and survive the fight and come out stronger and wiser than you were before the fight.

It takes time to figure out that anger is a gift from God. Anger helps you set boundaries for yourself. Anger helps you speak up and say when enough is enough. Anger is supposed to make you want to do something about the wrong all around you.

It’s taken years for me to accept the fact that I’m one of those women who feels deeply. Which is both a blessing and a curse. It takes time to learn how to train one’s anger, to aim it at the right target, and to keep the collateral damage to a minimum. Perhaps that’s what the Bible means when it says, “Be angry, but sin not.” Aim with precision.

(Just as I thought, it took longer than thirty minutes to write this blog article. LOL)