Years ago, my visiting sister and I were teasing each other about one of those random topics siblings joke about. My roommate overheard us as she climbed the stairs in our apartment and gently admonished us:
“Now girls, don’t fight.”
My sister and I turned to each other with the same puzzled expression. We weren’t fighting. We were joking around, having a good time. What was she talking about?
I considered my roommate’s perspective: she saw two sisters in conversation with raised voices, using animated gestures.
I studied the situation from a different angle: my not-black roommate, saw two black women being loud and assumed we were fighting. This is the same roommate whom I once heard describe me to a white friend who’d asked about her new roommate, as “African-American from a middle class family,” and I wondered what my race or socioeconomic class had to do with anything.
That situation stuck with me all these years later and led me to review past and future encounters with different lenses.
America (specifically, the USA) thinks black women are loud. America finds a black woman with a raised voice angry and potentially threatening. Don’t believe me? Google: “loud black women” or “angry black woman.”
A few days ago, rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted out her frustration that her big booty-full, controversy-generating Anaconda video was overlooked for a Video of the Year Award by MTV. Soon after, media darling and America’s archetypal sweetheart, singer Taylor Swift, inserted herself into the situation, which was NOT ABOUT HER, tweeting Minaj with her hurt feelings and ivory tears.
TAYLOR SWIFT replies back at NICKI MINAJ and shots have been fired 👀 pic.twitter.com/vUQnYtkV0O
— CelebMix (@thecelebmix) July 21, 2015
A flurry of comments followed from Minaj, Swift, their loyal fanbases (the “Barbz” and the “Swifties”) and the media. On Air with/Ryan Seacrest got in the fray, framing the events in Swift’s favor:
The tweet has since been deleted since they were called out by the many who saw what actually happened. I took a screenshot because I knew their hot racist bullshit would be retracted. Nicki did not “jab” Taylor Swift. She addressed the erasure of black women in music and the double standards in societal standards of beauty.
Black women whom, as she said, “influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it.” Think about how many of your favorite songs are sung, written or produced by black women. Now include the women who sing background for some of your beloved artists. Never receiving proper credit for their contribution to songs which, without them, wouldn’t be the hits they are.
Perhaps Nicki was angry. Is she not entitled to feel anger? Frustration? Just being a black woman in the United States is reason is enough to be angry sometimes. She got angry and tweeted her discontent – likely to start a discussion. She used her words to vent. Dylann Roof, a white male, got angry and killed 9 black people after they welcomed him into their church.
Yesterday, I watched as Access Hollywood continued the portrayal of Nicki Minaj as an angry black woman, even going so far as to list all the times she dissed the show.
Meanwhile, Taylor was let of the hook for being oblivious and distracting from a racial discussion with her self-involvement. “Poor innocent Taylor”, attacked by that vicious, “angry black woman”. They ignored the opportunity to elevate a real world, important issue – tied to pop culture, therefore relevant – to center a white woman and her feelings. Racism? Yeah, that sucks, but what about Taylor’s feelings about how that mean ol’ black woman treated her?!
Sandra Bland, the young black woman from Texas (an “African-American from a middle class family”) who was arrested for “switching lanes” and somehow ended up hanged in her jail cell three days later, has been accused of being “combative” with the arresting officer – as though that would excuse murdering her!
You’re a black woman minding your business, happily driving to your new job, where you’ll be helping others, when you notice you’re being trailed by a cop. No person with dark skin in the United States wants to be followed by a police officer. So you switch lanes, hoping he’s not, in fact, following you. You’re not doing anything wrong, as far as you know, but you’re pulled over.
The officer speaks to you like you’re beneath him and becomes increasingly agitated during what should have been a routine stop. When you ask, at least 14 times, why you’re being arrested, you don’t get an answer and are physically abused. I don’t know about you, but I’d be angry as hell. I am angry just writing about it.
I am angry.
— John [John] (@CoolestMofunka) July 23, 2015
Black women are being diminished, degraded and dehumanized in the media and in our real lives because racist people find our righteous anger scary. That makes me angry.
It makes me VERY FUCKING ANGRY.
I can come back from losing a job. I’ll survive being mocked. But please, tell me how I am allowed to behave that won’t get me killed?