The label "Angry Black Man" was once popularized among white racists out of fear and among Blacks out of admiration, referring to the pro-Black revolutionary man who spoke against oppression and stood defiantly against racism and injustice. Today, another angry icon is being ignominiously popularized among Black men (and women) out of repulsion, referring to the single Black woman with an obstinate attitude who appears angry at everything in general, but at the Black man in particular: The Angry Black Woman. The Angry Black Woman can be identified by her attitude, her conversation and sometimes, even her body language. Sometimes it's in the twist of the neck, or a dismissive roll of the eyes during normal conversation. Sometimes it's in the sharp tongue that lashes out with shrill, unsolicited criticism or advice, which is typically baseless and negative. The Angry Black Woman may refer to herself as a strong Black woman, or an independent woman, but may be called a bitch by men and women. This woman will refer to ALL Black men as weak, lazy and beneath her, while identifying them as the sole source of all of her woes, particularly her inability to find her desired mate. Her conversation with other women is rife with hopelessness and negativity. The Angry Black Woman may be otherwise desirable, but is unable to move beyond past pain and fear, which sits on her shoulders as bitterness and anger, driving most good things out of her life. Holding on to that bitterness can bring dire consequences. In her struggle for both the rights of Blacks and the rights of women, Maida S. Kemp, the former president of the National Council of Negro Women cautioned women against bitterness."Unless a woman learns not to be bitter about defeats and not to be arrogant about successes, each of them, both your success and your defeat can limit you," Kemp warned. Bitterness has shown up in dating more than any other arena. Each of us who dates has had bad experiences, no matter how lengthy or brief. If we take those experiences personally, then they become a part of who we are and we use them to judge all others. Thus, "all men" (or from a burned out man's perspective, "all women") are screwed up. Anger is also infectious. When someone comes at us with anger, it is easy to absorb it and become changed. I've been temporarily infected by the attacks of angry, negative people with nothing productive or positive to bring, who expect me to dialogue in a civil manner. I rebuke them and avoid further contact, leaving the bitterness in quarantine. I have literally listened to bitter women tell me horrible things about myself and after they finish, I have to ask them who they are talking about, because often, not even the situations are relevant to me--its all from their past or conjured up by their fear. As humans, we have choices, and we don't have to be bitter. I have been hurt by Black women, but I moved on, convinced that the ones who hurt me may have been weak, but that they were not representative of ALL Black women. I also considered my own choices, and that perhaps I was weak when dating them. The key for me is that after each of my painful experiences, I took a vacation from dating. The last vacation became a lengthy period of celibacy and healing, which kept my head and heart clear. Many otherwise decent and kind women become angry and bitter after spending too much time with men who disappoint them. Quite honestly, if you don't see what you want in someone, you have to ask YOURSELF why you are wasting yourself on them, allowing them to taint your perspective. If you play in the mud, you can't help but get dirty. Both men and women have to learn to just wait until something good comes along, instead of trying to see something good simply because waiting doesn't feel good. According to poet Nikki Giovanni, "most of us love from our need to love, not because we find someone deserving." In many cases, anger is simply a reaction to fear, but it can be used productively, as advised by noted author Zora Neale Hurston: "The thing to do is to grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear." The voices of those who embrace anger and negativity are loud and overabundant, raging in malignant magazine articles, on low brow television shows and in circles of negative friends. Those voices spread the propaganda that all Black men are out to hurt Black women, are beneath them and/or have no desire to marry them (A recent issue of Essence Magazine muses: "Do Black Men Still Love Us?" Yet another issue poses: "He cheated. Now What?"). Negativity, like the dark side of the force, is seductive and is a breeding ground for anger. When we hear negative things and we are already in pain, our hearts are prepped for anything that will mask the pain. Nothing masks pain the way anger does. In fact, anger feeds off of the pain and makes the host believe that there is actually no pain at all. The result of submission to negativity is a life filled with hopelessness and fear, which often shows up as anger. There is a deep-seated pathology involved when humans begin to embrace hopelessness. That pathology has manifest itself in a masked depression showing up in a great number of unmarried, thirty-something and forty-something Black women. According to LaVerne Porter Wheatley Perry, a clinical psychologist, "hopelessness is a Black female learned attitude. Black females appear chronically depressed"”what we call low-level depression in my field. That means you ain't depressed enough to really go crazy. You're working too hard to have time to think about killing yourself..." There can be happiness at the end of the rainbow, even if the struggle to be happy is an arduous one. But the Angry Black Woman must understand that there is no good result from anger. I submit that you take a break, take it easy and take inventory of your past disappointments, so that you do not allow them to cloud your present or future. You can use your experience to teach you what you should avoid, so that you can focus on what is good for you. For all of my sisters who are angry at men, I have a proposal: Let's begin to talk"”men and women"”to each other and not about each other. Let's remove the resentment as well as the fear that drives us apart. Let's focus on the promise of the future and not the mistakes of the past so that we can stand together again. Maybe these poetic hopes of mine are whimsical and maybe these silly dreams won't come true. But maybe, if you believe as I believe, perception can become reality. Maybe all of us won't get what we want, and maybe everyone is not destined for happiness. But more of us can be happy, and as a people, we can stand together again. And you won't have to be so angry.
Darryl James is the author of "Bridging The Black Gender Gap," which is
also the basis of his lectures and seminars. James was awarded the 2004
Non-fiction Award for his book on the Los Angeles Riots at the Seventh
Annual Black History Month Book Fair and Conference in Chicago. He can
be reached at djames@TheBlackGenderGap.com