I’ve notice something. No one seems to seems to question whether the angry white men that swept Newt Gingrich and the Republican majority into power in 1994 were justified in their anger. It’ assumed that whatever they’re angry about they have a right to be angry about.
But not so for the so called “angry black women.” Their anger is somehow less “real” and less justified. Perhaps that that’s because being angry is a privilege in this culture. Anger, if you are a minority, is dangerous. If you are a woman, or a person of color, gay, etc., your movements must be calm, your voice must be modulated, and your anger must ever show.
Joy is permitted. You may sing, dance, and celebrate in your joy. It is a performance, sometimes a command performance, demanded of you even in the midst of despair. Suffering is permitted. It, too, is familiar and non-threatening. It can even be reaffirming to those looking upon it; reaffirming their power and privilege. Sadness is permitted. You are allowed to mourn, and to moan, keen, and cry in your mourning. Fear is permitted. Your fear — wide-eyed screaming of stunned silence — is familiar, and recognizable.
You are allowed all of the above, especially in response to another’s more “real” anger, but not your own anger. Anger implies entitlement — to material goods, to power and privilege, or a certain kind of treatment. Anger implies a right to expect something, and is a justifiable response to not receiving one’s due. And you aren’t due that which you’d have a right to be angry about having been denied.
That’s why someone like Cal Thomas can look at someone like Michelle Obama and ask “What’s she got to be angry about?” The “angry black woman” has far less of a claim to her anger than the angry white male has to his. After all, what has she been denied that she was ever due in the first place? And whatever she may have seen denied to others in her family or community, her anger is taken as a kind in ingratitude for any degree of success she’s enjoyed — no matter how hard she make have worked for it, and no matter against what odds.
In other words, be glad we let you get that far, girl.
I don’t know Michelle Obama, but I’ve known many Michelle Obamas — strong, smart, beautiful, formidable black women who have (as an old hymn says) often “made a way out of no way” for themselves, their families, and their communities. They are passionate about the injustices they’ve experienced, and those they’ve seen heaped upon people they love; passionate enough to do something about it. That passion can be taken as anger.
And taken thus, it can be frightening to some people. Perhaps because they worry that the passion they interpret as anger is justified. And because they worry that what Maya Angelou said may be true.
Sometimes people are at your feet, and as the winds of fortune change, they’ll be at your throat.
So, I ain’t mad at a sistah, but maybe some people worry that she’s got good reason to be mad at them.