it’s time to embrace our emotions.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day—as we reflect on the contributions and sacrifices of Dr. King, including his tragic death, this week’s story couldn’t be more fitting for how some of us have been feeling as of late.
As 2022 starts to take shape, many moving parts in our culture would ignite the ire of Black women. Jumping on social media or tuning into the television, we are reminded that we have to fight for the right to vote, fight for reparation, fight for protection, fight for our children, fight for our bodies, fight for our health, fight to be our authentic selves. This world is not kind to the voices, thoughts, emotions, and boundaries of Black women.
This week, writer and blogger Princess Avianne Charles’ piece, “Befriending My Anger” resonated with me and struck a deep chord. She explains how Black women have to carefully navigate the world based on social constructs meant to keep us boxed in, to our detriment. Black women are gaslighted and manipulated into silencing our voices through society and family structure. Most would prefer Black women to remain quiet than speak their truth.
However, Princess goes into the ways she will embrace and carve out a narrative that is all her own without seeking approval. In the words of MLK, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” Princess’ story allows us to look deep within ourselves and resolve that our emotions are legitimate and we don’t have to defend or hide them for anyone.
Associate Editor of Carefree Magazine
Befriending My Anger
by Princess Avianne Charles
The notion of anger placed on Black womanhood signifies irrational emotions—such as unreasonable hostility—that stereotype Black women’s demeanor. Society associates whiteness with fragility and innocence, and labels Black identities as aggressive. Even when we are justifiably angry, our emotions are stigmatized and invalidated to satisfy the apathy of others. Over time, I’ve learned that my emotions meant much more than how others defined them. They instead serve as an alarm: a signal for improvement, contentment, or even dissatisfaction. Most importantly, my emotions, particularly my anger, alert me when I deserve a better environment and encounters.
The process of grappling with this was not easy, nor did it occur in a linear sequence. Coming to terms with my anger led to several tribulations but reinforced values that I, at times, ignored. Recently, with the profound changes in social, environmental, and systemic settings, my anger has become more prevalent. My constant displeasure became a struggle for my emotional and mental well-being. Returning to the stereotypical values placed on my identity, I fell victim to believing them again and guiltily critiquing my emotions to make room for others.
Within recent years, amidst a global pandemic, continuous global crisis, capitalist exploitation, unjust personal experiences, and harm towards Black communities, these emotions increased. I began enhancing my awareness of how we’re impacted globally, which negatively affected my ability to function in my daily life. My anger became a constant force, creating interferences in my thoughts—even when it was of no relevance to the situation at hand. The apathy and selfishness of others constantly crossed the boundaries I enforced. Some of the boundaries crossed reflected activities I wasn’t comfortable with or disrupting my personal space. Crossing these boundaries shed light on how entitled they assumed they were, disregarding the susceptibility I’m often placed in due to my identity
In order to readjust my thought patterns, it became essential for me to understand the “angry Black woman” stereotype. Historically, Black women have been labeled as angry and irrational beings, incapable of expressing ourselves in the realm of joy, contempt, or anything outside of aggressive behavior. Our tone, mannerisms, and behaviors are policed based on the idea that our feelings are exaggerated and invalid. Amidst misogynoir, racism, sexism, and many other forms of harm and prejudices, there is the expectation that we maintain a calm and pleasant demeanor in response to such treatment. Harm towards us continues to be exponentially high, where we face a series of risks in every setting and are often held accountable for another person’s actions.
The occurrences of harm are exacerbated depending on our intersectional identities, such as our sexuality, size, complexion, class status, and much more. We have identities that can intersect, altering how we are perceived and treated. Classism, colorism, fatphobia, and anti-LGBTQIA sentiments, amongst other prejudices, create threats to our safety and well-being. We are left to endure, often without resolution or support, social, structural, and systemic issues that pose significant threats to us.
Becoming aware of the increased risks we are susceptible to create a level of distress that I was unfamiliar with before. Having my emotions policed restricted my ability to understand them thoroughly, as this was more determined by society than by myself. The “angry black woman” label sensationalized the humanness of anger or any similar emotion. It created barriers I couldn’t cross, altering how I express myself and respond to ongoing injustices. In turn, the skewed perspective of anger left me unable to handle situations effectively, poorly analyzing one’s actions.
Society places the concerns of Black womanhood as an afterthought—or ignores them entirely. I’ve become aware of insidious experiences that resonate with my interactions with former friends, colleagues, and even strangers, provoking warranted emotions that we should not have to face. The interpersonal experiences that met on and offline motivated me to suppress further, avoiding any means of dealing with my anger. Increased online exposure created further animosity towards black women with minimum spaces to voice ourselves without backlash. Social media platforms became less of a safe space for me but another avenue for my anger to take precedence.
My emotions guide me on behavioral changes and are important to creating healthier spaces for myself and others. I became incapable of confronting situations, allowing my anger to permeate my daily thoughts.
Eventually, I found clarity through my emotions. Although it was an unpleasant process, understanding how to utilize my anger allowed me to understand the multi-faceted essence of other people. The behavior of others has nothing to do with me and can stem from various factors—their cultural background, upbringing, socialization, and more—creating their values portrayed by their actions. Realizing this difference allowed me to take note of the importance of continuous growth and evaluation, shifting harmful cultural norms that affect susceptible groups significantly.
Personally, my realization reinforced my viewpoint that while I was unable to control the actions of others, I could be in control of my own. My response to each situation determines what matters, including establishing boundaries with others. I can grant myself the opportunity to unlearn what others define me as and create an identity of my own.
I’ve learned to befriend my anger, utilizing various outlets to express them healthily—such as writing and artistic expression. Understanding my emotions also meant I had to recognize outlets to release them. It’s essential to our survival to express and let go of emotions that no longer serve us. In a world that governs black women’s feelings, how can we be guided to discover healthy ways of expressing them? To find suitable mediums, we need the room to see our anger as a valid emotion, one that, like any other, will be followed by a change in our response, behavior, and treatment.
My anger is a layered, complex emotion, more than how society portrays it. My anger evokes a call for better, intolerance of the intolerable, and a natural response to negative actions. I’ve learned how to communicate and confront harmful behaviors, and reflect on what evoked the emotion in the first place. I have re-established boundaries and have a deeper awareness of the continuous experiences Black women face daily. Befriending my anger was also an opportunity for sensitization, which is necessary for social settings.
I came to terms with an emotion with negative connotations in the Black diaspora. As a Black woman, I am more than joy, contempt, disappointment, dissatisfaction, sadness, or anger. Even though these emotions can relate to wrongful behaviors I am responsible for, I am allowed the room for introspection to differentiate and alter them. This process should occur beyond a prejudiced lens but by an emotionally intelligent one, understanding that I, like anyone else, deserve to assert specific emotions to distinct situations on my terms.
Princess Avianne Charles is a Trinidadian writer and blogger. With experience in the field of Occupational Safety and Health, she promotes safer spaces and advocates for human rights both in and out of the workplace.
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