Why put race into the picture?

A few weeks ago during the insanity of my 11,000 hit Barack church post, a new reader graced my little blog with his opinions. Over in the About area, he asked:

Haha this may pose as some clarification for the less-informed “so to say?”…

I have a direct question miss “ABW” and I’m not trying to “butt heads” with you, but why do you need to specify that you’re an “angry black woman”? I mean, I myself am an “angry guy”, but I don’t really feel the need to add race into it. So my question is, why is there a need to put race into the picture?

I promised him a reply, but it’s been a while. Still, I agree that it could help to clarify things for the uninformed.

Why I Put Race Into the Picture

The most obvious reason is that it’s hard for me to ‘escape’ my race, as it were. It’s obvious to most people in the world that I am a black person or, at least, not a white person. (I’ve been mistaken for Dominican, generic ‘Hispanic’, Native American, and ‘foreign’ before.) It’s not like I can hide. So, in most instances, I don’t need to put race into anything. It’s there.

However, this is the Internet. If I chose to, I could pretend to be not black. Or, I could choose not to mention my race at all. At which point people would assume whiteness because, as we all know, White is the Default. (ahem) What would the point be in doing such a thing? Well, for some people, knowing that the person they’re interacting with is the ‘other’ makes them defensive. They get nervous that they’ll say the wrong thing, or they see a criticism and automatically assume that they are being personally criticized. Plus, there are lots of assumptions people put on black people. Just knowing my race, some might be inclined to take a guess at my level of education, background, and current financial situation. If I didn’t specify my race, folks might not come here with all these assumptions and associations.

Some might think this is a good thing. I don’t.

I’m sure there are bloggers on the net who don’t identify their race, maybe not even their gender. I have no problem with that choice. But for me to not identify myself as black and as a woman just to make white folks feel ‘safe’ listening to my views would be dishonest and cowardly. I’m not afraid of people’s assumptions. And I’m obviously not afraid of their bad opinions and nasty words. I’m more afraid of my voice not being heard because I refuse to use it.

Another reason to bring race into the picture is to provide context for my anger. I’m not angry in general (well, not all the time…). I’m angry because of racism, sexism, homophobia, ignorance, and other crap in the world directed not only at other people but at myself. The question seems to imply that race is a non-issue. Obviously, I disagree. If you don’t know that I’m black, then you might not understand the depth of my anger when I rant about racism against other black people.

Of course non-black people can be angry about racism. But most people are not vastly empathetic. They can only understand, grok, or ‘get’ things that occur within their own personal headspace. For most white people, racism is what happens to people who are not them or their family or anyone truly close to them. Racism may still make them angry, but does it hurt?

Whenever I hear about shit like the beating of Billy Ray Johnson, my heart hurts. That man could have been my brother, my uncle, my cousin, my father. When I hear about stuff like this I know that it’s only due to coincidence, to luck, to the grace of higher powers that it didn’t happen to someone I know and love. Can a white person say the same?

Ultimately, though, I bring race into the picture because I’m proud to be what I am. Why wouldn’t I let the whole Internet know that I’m black? What real reason would I have to dissemble, to lie by omission? Being black is one part of the tapestry that makes up who I am. For the most part, I like who I am.

That is why I am not just The Angry Woman or even just The Angry Person. I’m Black, I’m Female, and I’m Pissed Off. There’s nothing more to it.

Hope this clears things up.

20 Responses

  1. :) funny, sad, strong, true. dead-on answer in my opinion.

  2. “And I’m obviously not afraid of their bad opinions and nasty words. I’m more afraid of my voice not being heard because I refuse to use it.”

    There once was a time when a black American spoke up in defiance of white people, that black person would be tortured and killed.

    Black people have more than earned the right to speak truth to power. Black people have more than earned the right to be heard and respected for the value we bring to the table of discussions, a table that white people have hoarded to themselves for far too long.

    Black people may have anger.

    But, it is righteous anger, born of the travails our race has endured in this country.

    We may not have the vicious mob of the lynch mob breaking into jails to tear us out and burn and tear us to pieces with the whole support of the anti-black community.

    We may not have the peonage of share-cropping. We may not have the socially sanctioned rapes of black women and girls.

    We may not have the Orval Faubuses standing in the schoolhouse door, barring entry to us for a better education.

    We may have the protection of the 13TH, 14TH, and 15TH Amendments to include us as US citizens.

    But.

    We still know that our black skin still causes us untold harm pychologically, and debilitated health from living so long in a country that has tried for so long to wipe us off the face of the Earth for over 400 years.

    A country that never ceases to remind us that white is all so good, so benevolent, so right, and where black is so bad, so evil, so unalterably horrible.

    We live in a country that never lets us black people forget that for centuries and generations that white over black was considered the norm.

    And still is.

    We live in a country where black people can still not let their guard down.

    We live in a country that constantly reminds us that we are still alien in its eyes.

    Still the Other.

    Race remains in the picture.

    Race has never been acknowledged for all the harm and cruelty it as done to black Americans. Race is the amnesia, the denial, the running away from what America has done to her black citizens, and is still trying to do to her black citizens:

    Constantly negate the validity, the value, the worth of blackness.

    And ALL black people, in what happened to Mr. Johnson, both male and female, are reminded daily that black life is still held cheaply in this country.

    This home of the brave, this home of the free.

  3. That is why I am not just The Angry Woman or even just The Angry Person.

    Hey, why are you bringing your species into this? You should just be the Angry Entity. Or heck, the Entity With An Emotion.

  4. Hi there ABW, I’ve been meaning to come over and introduce myself, and say thanks.

    So Hi, I’m Cathy, and thanks, I appriciated your recent mention, it made a big deal to a new blog.

    I have to say I am often against all racial seperation. If the television news tells me that a Hispanic male robbed… etc etc. and shows me a picture of the man, I am constantly irritated. I can SEE him! Why does his race matter, they caught him! But your post did suade me a little to see some reasoning.

    However, I have a few comments, as writers generally do ;)

    “For most white people, racism is what happens to people who are not them or their family or anyone truly close to them. Racism may still make them angry, but does it hurt?”

    I’ve had plenty of expeirences with racism, both from my race, and from black people that I grew up with. The one that came to mind when I read your post, almost happened quite by accident.

    My little sister (9 at the time) my best friend (14) and myself (12) were walking to the store, much to late at night. A young kid (7-8?) in a laughing voice said “Ahhhh WHITE PEOPLE!” I’m pretty sure he was kidding. He didn’t mean to hurt our feelings, or start a fight, or anything, he was being silly.

    Before we hit the end of that block, there were about 6-8 people following us, I wasn’t supposed to have my little sister out, all I could think of was she’d never been hit before, please don’t let it be tonight!

    By the time we got three blocks away to a methodist church parking lot, we cut through, and about 20 people were following us. People I went to school with, people I considered my friends, people I’d known all my life.

    I took the first punch, I didn’t face them, one of them ran up beside me and blackened my eye. I fought back after that, but three girls don’t really fight real well against 20 or so angry people.

    We hadn’t done anything to make them angry, we just exsisted. We probably would have walked right by without much notice, if it hadn’t been for a little boy that probably didn’t mean a thing.

    My sister never got hit, my friend and I got pretty well beat up. A jacket was stolen, the bruises healed.

    The people that attacked us ran away, several people that lived in the neighborhood, both white and black stood outside and watched, and those same people, both black and white told us they didn’t want to be involved when we asked to borrow a telephone.

    So yeah, white people get hurt by racism too. Directly, indirectly, etc.

    And to Ann,

    “Black people have more than earned the right to speak truth to power. Black people have more than earned the right to be heard and respected for the value we bring to the table of discussions, a table that white people have hoarded to themselves for far too long.”

    Each person must earn their own place in this world, their own place at every table. There are many many strong black people, leaders, and speakers, great examples, but they cannot earn a place in this world for you, only you can do that. They can only set an example for you, and show you how to be strong, to stand up for what you believe, and earn your place in the world and at the table.

    “That is why I am not just The Angry Woman or even just The Angry Person. I’m Black, I’m Female, and I’m Pissed Off. There’s nothing more to it.”

    I love this statement, I love to see celebration of who we all are, whoever that may be. Strong women, that’s what we need to be. Yet I do wonder, and frankly the reason I did not come to thank you earlier, about the tag line of your blog … The quote from stopthepresses. Horrible, racism promoting quote.

    ~ The 30 year old (White)American Woman.

  5. ABW you have said everything!!! Just to reinforce what you have said to the ‘less-informed/uniformed’.

    I liken black people’s experience to chickens that have been kept in one of those controversial factory farms; where they are reared purely to be killed in months to come. But meanwhile, day in and day out the chickens remain contained in the farm. Whenever they are released or if the chickens ever get the opportunity to escape, the chickens are clueless as to what to do. They are so conditioned to been kept, waiting to die that they stand around waiting to be caught.

    May not be such a good analogy but there are those of us who do hide behind not mentioning their race because some of us still feel as though we have been kept in a chicken farm for so long, that now we have been released that it is difficult to articulate your hurt. What words do you use? How should it sound? In the UK here, hurt can be stated, but it should never be direct! So what do we do? When there are criticisms about us in the press, very few of us would bother to respond for fear of being ridiculed. (Much more dignified to suffer in silence than to make a fool of yourself)
    ABW is brave enough for saying it like it is.

  6. Well I have stopped by here traveling the blogasphere and I am intrigued by what I have read.

    But to be honest “black” describes a person. ABW is absolutely right about the default.

    But as said “black” discribes ABW. But by no means defines her.

    I tried in vain to explain this to one of those people that “don’t see color”, you know the types. I wonder now looking at it differently if they even try.

    Sadly in this nation all too often color defines us. Could white define me here. Maybe, but my intentions are true.

    Onca again take care. One of the better blogs I have seen today.

    -=topper=-

  7. American Woman.

    “Each person must earn their own place in this world, their own place at every table. There are many many strong black people, leaders, and speakers, great examples, but they cannot earn a place in this world for you, only you can do that. They can only set an example for you, and show you how to be strong, to stand up for what you believe, and earn your place in the world and at the table.”

    And I have earned my place at the table, as a woman who was blessed to be born black.

    And I continue daily to live my life as a testament to all those black people who came before me, who paved a way for me, to always live my life abundantly.

    And I am strong.

    And I do stand up for myself and my beliefs, daily.

    And, I have more than earned my place at the table.

    Always have.

    Always will.

  8. plaintain1.

    “(Much more dignified to suffer in silence than to make a fool of yourself)
    ABW is brave enough for saying it like it is.”

    No.

    It’s your life, your sanity. Silence never stopped slavery, segregation, beatings, starvation, nor lynchings of black Americans.

    Only in raising our voices against these atrocities committed against us by white America did we begin to bring down that which sought for so many centuries to destroy us.

    So, no, it takes a strong person to stand against that which seeks their destruction.

    And that which does not destroy us, definately makes us stronger.

    With each voice a person speaks out against wrongs, the moreso does that voice give that person more strentgh, more fortitude to prevail more.

    Until they make their stand and back down to no one.

    When you’ve got nothing to lose but your life, you either stand, or you fold.

    When you’ve had dignity after dignity, integrity after integrity, piece after piece taken from you, you will realize that enough is enough.

    No more.

    You only live twice.

    Once when you are born.

    And once when you look death in the face.

    Better to die standing on your feet.

    Than to die penned against the wall, like a dog.

  9. [...] by Jack Stephens on March 7th, 2007 angry black woman responds to a question of why she calles herself an angry black woman instead of just an angry woman: If I [...]

  10. My Women’s Studies professor once said something that has really stuck with me. She explained to the class what her problem was with terms like “color blind.” Our race and gender effects us everyday, and to ignore that and to ignore someone’s culture is to erase or ignore a huge part of that person. Just walking to the car, for instance, can be a profoundly different experience depending on race and/or gender. Not only is the term “color blind” usually bs, but it does people a huge disservice in understanding one another as well.

  11. [...] by a man – presumably white, since he didn’t say, and we all know what that means – why she feels the need to identify herself with race, in addition to “angry” and “woman&#8…?  He says, I mean, I myself am an “angry guy”, but I don’t really feel the need to add race [...]

  12. This is such a great post.

    I think his very question was “othering”. I realize I never feel the need to identify myself as white unless there’s a specific context (talking about audience demographics, for example), because I know people will assume I’m white unless I tell them otherwise. That’s a privilege I’m aware I have. He doesn’t seem to get that he has it.

    I do know what it’s like to be mistake for a default: if I don’t identify my gender in a forum, it’s “dude” this and “oh, man” that. I’m male until I say otherwise. Sometimes I used to play with that, just to spring it on them later after they’ve worshipped me for knowing a lot about computers or whatever “boy topic” we’re talking about. “Oh, by the way, I’m a woman.” But now I’m up front about it because my gender has a need for people to “be a credit to” it. White men don’t know what that’s like.

  13. I am more angry with the filthy animal who mugged and savagely beat a 101 year old lady in her apartment lobby and has been terrorizing elderly women in NYC over the last month.

    No mention of that here!

  14. Elder Advocate, go to the post right before this to read my response to your comment.

  15. This is my first time seeing your blog. I appreciate your perspective. I’m glad to see powerful nubian sisters out here doing their blog thang!

    I plan to visit again in the future. I invite you to check out the Electronic Village if you have time or inclination.

    peace,
    Villager

  16. [...] Why put race into the picture? – The Angry Black Woman Great, great post. “For most white people, racism is what happens to people who are not them or their family or anyone truly close to them. Racism may still make them angry, but does it hurt?” (tags: racism race anti-racism) [...]

  17. i feel ur pain! im asian, an angry asian man! we are angry at the same things, but lets not just dwell in it. lets change things!

  18. Angry.Black.Woman. three words that put fear into the hearts of the dominant majority everywhere. Why? because they’re more comfortable with us be silent.negro.girls. HUMPH! I say we definitely need to keep race in the equation especially in a world where a nationally known radio personality can freely refer to a group of talented.black.women.athletes as “Nappy headed hos”…then there is still the need to be ANGRY and let them know it! So you keep on keepin’ on as they said in the 70s. That’s part of change :)

  19. ABW, I am white – and lower-middle class. I live in a racially diverse neighborhood. What you describe does hit the nail on the head. I learned recently that one of my most loyal and best auto insurance customers has been wrongfully arrested for a robbery he didn’t commit, or even participate in as an accomplice. Yet, because he is black and poor, he sists in jail awaiting trial. In this country, innocent until proven guilty is a fallacy. In reality, it is innocent until proven poor or black. I cannot begin to express my outrage that this young man, struggling to climb out of poverty, out of the projects, by working a minimum wage fast-food job while trying to be a good role model for his children, has been unjustly scapegoated. Had I enjoyed class privilege (remember, I am white but from poverty myself), my dream was to be a lawyer – so I could champion the causes for justice such as in the case of this young man who deserves a seat in college and chance for a good job as opposed to a cell in a state prison for a crime he did not commit.

  20. My comments are in response to post#4 – The 30 year old White American Woman.

    I definitely empathize with your experience and feel horrible that you had to go through that. But truly how many white Americans have had a negative racial experience? Generally it is understood that a group of blacks can get together to discuss their past issues with race in their lifetimes and almost every single person will have something to share. I have been attacked physically, verbally and non-verbally by a vast array of whites in America during my lifetime. My siblings and I mainly grew up in white neighborhoods. I have had dogs let out on me, rocks and racial slurs yelled from cars, and people lock their doors if I got a little too close to their car. And as one poster responded about just being black in the wrong place at the wrong time, our family was one of the truly unlucky one’s because my older brother was killed by police officer’s after calling an ambulance but somehow the police showed up. My brothers heart stopped after being shocked with a tazor gun.

    As you can see we are not only talking about the history of abuse that blacks have been subject to but the ongoing racism that is just as strong but much more silent because people want to “leave race out of it” or say they are “politically correct” but continue to keep it in the fore front of their minds and active in all their decisions and actions. A previous post mentioned that just walking to the car could be a different experience depending on race and gender. This is so true. Most of the white people I know try not to attend black events or go where there will be many blacks at one time. Being a minority 99% of the time for blacks is not a choice and is not easy.

    As far as earning our place at the table, no one is looking for an easy way out or to blame others for their misfortune and hope we get something out of it. I am a strong professional black woman who works hard, gives back to my community, supports my family (extended…I don’t have children), and politically active. I care about the environment, violence, world issues and other concerns of average Americans but I know that race is always the most important struggle for me because it is an experience I have everyday…not just one dreadful experience from childhood. We realize that there are many great black leaders and speakers but many are from our neighborhoods and communities that you will never hear or see and not most of the clowns portrayed in the national media as our representatives.

    Signed another ABW who has more than earned her right to sit at the table and still be mad as hell.

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