You ever have those shower thoughts in which you revisit a memory out of nowhere and re-frame and rephrase? So now the memory is awkwardly mixed with what actually happened and what you wish you had said and realized at the time...I had that moment today, in the shower.
Out of seemingly nowhere I revisited a memory from 2ish years ago when I was living in Concord with four other women and was in a really bad head space and heart space and literal space. I had been doing a lot of soul-searching and self-realization and was acting on it; my roommates didn't like it. I was transforming from the always smiling, (secretly) self-depricating, self-scapgoating, and exorbitantly self-sacrificing person that was so easy for everyone to doormat and 'love' to a woke, self-realized, self-loving, strong woman. I started speaking up for myself and asking for what I needed and addressing issues when they arose to the people who were part of the issues. In short, I stopped letting myself get shat on. My roommates didn't like it and made that clear, so I decided that cutting down on my interaction with them would be the healthiest for me. One night I was downstairs watching TV when one of my roommates comes and sits down with me. She asked me if I was angry, I replied in truth "No, I'm not angry." She seemed confused but satisfied with that answer and the conversation ended there. Subsequently, all these feelings of frustration boiled up and came out in a tweet that read something like 'I hate when people think the only emotion I'm capable of is anger.' Well this tweet lead to an aggressive Facebook message from that roommate saying that she'd appreciate it if I didn't compose passive aggressive social media posts about her. She said she asked me if I was angry, I said 'no', so why did I leave that angry tweet. In truth, that tweet wasn't angry, it was a pivotal moment.
I am a Black woman. And with that fact comes an assortment of presumptions about my character and about what makes me tick. Countless times in TV and film the Black women characters are portrayed in such a way that detracts from the well of emotions a person is capable of experiencing. It's maddening and disgusting. Yes, sometimes I'm angry, but that's just the tip of the emotional iceberg living in me. Just like most every human being, I am capable of an astounding array of emotions. But I am a Black woman, so I must be angry. I joke that I feel all the emotions all the time, and some peak more than others depending on the circumstance. But I am a Black woman, so I must be angry. Really anger is such a basic emotion that I rarely feel in response to something. But I am a Black woman, so I must be angry. When people thrust that 'Angry Black Woman' trope on me, or on any other Black woman, they are minimizing the humanity of that person. PERSON. Black women, regardless of their emotions, are PEOPLE. And that is too oft forgotten.
Black women, and Black men, are often used as a device (rather than a character) in media. They are used as comic relief, like Winston (Lamorne Morris) in New Girl; they are used to teach/improve/support the main character, like Sam Fuller (Regina King) in Miss Congeniality 2; they are used to nurture and mammy the white protagonist, like in The Help or The Secret life of Bees; they are used as an object of sex and sexually fetishized; like in Miley Cyrus' live performances; they are used as a means to absolve white guilt, like Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington) in Django Unchained; they are used as bait/marketing tools, like that annoying lady from the Popeye's Chicken commercial. They are used. They are used. We are used.
But people are people and are not meant to be used. People are not tools, they are not objects, they are not here to please others. Black women are people. Just like every person deserves the same basic human rights and the right to an autonomous existence full of emotional depth, every Black woman (person) deserves the same basic human rights and the right to an autonomous existence full of emotional depth. Black women are dynamic individuals, don't flatten us into a two-dimensional canon that catalyzes the ever-changing nature of another character. Next time ask her how she feels and...
wait for it...