Angry Black Woman
For a long time I was careful not to fall into that stereotype of the angry black woman – mad at her kids, mad at the world, mat at her man, mad at the white man more than anything else. Just mad, mad, mad.
This morning I realized that I am. Sometimes. And I’m okay with that. Because sometimes I have every right to be mad. But what makes me really upset is thinking about the times when I’ve curbed my anger because I didn’t want to come off as the angry black woman – the number of times I hesitated saying something out loud or on Facebook because I don’t want to make my white friends and family members “uncomfortable.”
This morning I went to the Walmart. Not just any Walmart, but the Walmart, the scene of the incident. The Walmart where a redneck, douchebag, asshole looked at the Obama ’08 bumper sticker on my car and said, “Nice nigger sticker you got there,” not caring that my child was standing right next to me.
Ever since then (12/31/08), I’ve always felt a sense of dread and disgust when going back there. And not just that store, but the whole area. I started wondering how many other white people were walking around with the word nigger on their tongues just waiting for a moment, a lost election, the loss of a parking spot, anything, to let it fly.
And I’m supposed to be the bigger person. I’m supposed to “let it go” and just brush it off as a rare, isolated, event. I thought that I had, for the most part, until this morning when I decided to go back there because it was the closest place selling a video game Donny and I both wanted. I couldn’t even park near the spot from that night because it made my stomach knot just looking in that direction. I put Jack in a shopping cart and headed for the store. One of the wheels made a clacking sound in a kind of one-two rhythm. And as I pushed it all I heard was:
clack-clack-nigger sticker-clack-clack-nigger sticker-clack-clack
I just wanted to be done and out of there. See, that man had tainted the whole area. He felt safe enough to spew his hate there. Was there a reason for that? Did he know something that I didn’t?
Driving home I thought about the book I’m reading, The Help, and why (at times) it bothers me so much. It’s set in 1960’s Mississippi and follows two black maids working for white families. At first, the dialect was a little hard to swallow. Friends told me, “Well, you know that women back then spoke that way.” No shit. I have a grandmother in her 80’s, born in the south, who cleaned a lot of white houses and helped raise white babies. I know that some black people spoke that way and still do. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. And I’m allowed to have an emotional reaction to it.
But it wasn’t until today that it hit me what’s really bothering me. The attitudes depicted in that book aren’t gone. They’re just more subtle… most times. In the past two years, do you know how many white friends have admitted to me that they have parents/siblings/in-laws/aunts/uncles, etc., that use the word nigger? More than I’d have imagined. And my response is always the same, “What do you do?” And the shuffle begins where they back step, side step, and pretty much just step in it. But I get it. These are their people. They have to share meals and holidays with these people. They may have to borrow money or ask these people to watch their kids. They’re not trying to rock the boat.
I get it. Doesn’t mean I like it because I understand it, though. It makes me feel like, “What does that say about how you feel about me? What does that say about how you feel about yourself?” I judge and I get angry. I picture them standing there with polite smiles, fitting in, standing by, while the word nigger floats around the room. Sometimes I think those people are worse. I assume that racists are idiots, so what does that say about the people that sit in the midst of the racism and sip from their cups, and pass the plate of string beans, and turn up the music, like it didn’t even happen?
I hate that people keep telling me, “Well, that was x number of years ago.” It wasn’t that fucking long ago! My Grandmother is 83. That means she was well into her life as an adult and couldn’t use the same bathroom as white people. That means she lived a long time with white folk not acting right. It would be nice to say that the true old school racists will die out soon, but Mr. Nigger Sticker was about my age. I remember glancing at his fat ass wife and later thinking how could she even tolerate that. But she probably feels the same exact way and for all I know they’re raising little mini-racists right now.
So, what the hell am I supposed to do with all that? I think I can be a little fucking angry, for one. It kills me when people want to compare struggles. Like, a white woman might say, “I know discrimination, I’m a woman!” Uh, I’m a black woman, doubly-fucked, what else you got? “I’m fat! People discriminate against me all the time.” Then lose some fucking weight! The last time I checked, this blackness ain’t washing off. You can’t even count ugly people because ugly is subjective. One man’s ugly is another man’s juuuust fine.
I think the only people that can come close to relating are mentally-handicapped people. To have something “wrong” with you, something that sets you apart, something you can’t hide when you go out in public, and then question the sincerity and motivations of everyone that deals with you while you’re out. That’s what it’s like to be black in America.
Make no mistake: being anything in America is infinitely better than being anything anywhere else. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. And sometimes, it’s harder. This wonderful free country where I gotta worry about a white person spitting in my food, or mistreating my child when they find out her mother is black, or being called a nigger just because.
And give me that, white people. Stop trying to sugar coat that shit. Stop telling me, “Well, you know, that was a long time ago,” or, “You have to let that go,” or, “Don’t think that way.” It’s kinda hard not to think that way when you’re getting nigger sticker thrown in your face. I don’t have the luxury of not wondering or worrying. Do you know how many interviews I’ve shown up to and seen the look of surprise on people’s faces when they see I’m black? And then I have to sit there the whole time wondering if it’s a bad thing.
So, yeah. Must be nice to not have those worries on top of all the other worries we all have like, paying bills, affording health care, making time for work, family, friends and ourselves, etc. So, cut me some damn slack.
A few weeks ago I brought up the Nigger Sticker incident while talking with some friends on Facebook and a white friend emailed me a day or so later and said that every time I talk about it, it makes her uncomfortable. And that I can’t continue to let it bother me because the racist wins.
First of all, I felt like this was her polite, white, way of saying, “Get over it.” Secondly, he already won by spewing his filth and not catching an ass whupping for his troubles. Finally, if it makes her (or you, for that matter) uncomfortable to hear about it, then take that discomfort, mix in some humiliation, a dash of fucked up history, a pinch of having relatives that remember what it’s like to fear talking to a white person wrong because they might get strung up, toss in side-eyes when you’re out with your white husband and mixed children and chew on that for a while. Then multiply it by one thousand and imagine how I feel.
Then politely wash it down with a frothy mug of shut the fuck up.