Disclaimer: I know. I know. I’ve been ghost for a minute. Just give me the “just got her PhD” pass and let’s forget this happened. I’m back, and that’s what’s important!!
By now, many of you have likely heard about MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry being uhh very REAL with one of her show’s panelists (Melissa Mehta). The discussion at the time centered around welfare, and this notion of class mobility. Mehta insisted class mobility was enabled by “taking risks,” to which MHP emphatically declared – while slamming her hand on the table, “What is riskier than living poor in America?! Seriously, what in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America?! …I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No! There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you and catch you and catch you. Being poor is what is risky.” MHP later apologized on air for her outburst. But the damage had been done – she got your girl Gemmie FIRED UP!! I thought, Melissa girl speak on it!!!! Don’t apologize for being passionate and enraged by the bullsh*t! EXCLAMATION POINT!
Now, this post isn’t about what MHP said so much as it is about how she said it.
A friend of mine wrote a post on her blog about this very situation. The following excerpt really stuck out to me:
After I posted the clip to my FB page, a former student of mine, simply commented that this was an example of “eloquent rage.” She knew I would get the reference, because the first time she ever used it was in reference to me, and my impassioned style of teaching students about the politics of race, class, and gender. My first reaction to being characterized in this way was denial. “I’m not angry,” I told her. “I’m passionate.” And then she looked at me with a tell-tale knowing honesty and said simply, “You know you’re angry, Brittney.” (Sometimes in some places, I let my students call me by name.)
It was one of the most transformative moments in my teaching because I realized a.) that it was anger, and not merely passion b.) that I was bringing it with me into the classroom c.) that I had a right to be angry about the injustices that I teach about and live daily and d.) I could resist and deny my anger or use it to make me better at what I do. I chose the latter.
After reading this, I was inspired me to write this post. So often I think black women (especially) are made to believe that being angry about something is a problem. There is this stigma of “the angry black girl/woman” that many of us educated black women try to avoid. (Maybe all the single black women who angrily claim there are no good single black men started it? But I digress…) We don’t want to “go off” or express our true angry/disgruntled/upset feelings for fear of being labeled in a negative way. I notice that white people often get really offended or uncomfortable when a person of color speaks out in a passionate or enraged way about an issue that is of particular importance to them.
And in all fairness, maybe it is scary when some one gets noticeably upset at something you say but aren’t aware would warrant such a response – elevated voice volume, tensed neck muscles, flared nostrils, waving hands. But if this isn’t their default demeanor or communication style, it’s probably an isolated event and no need to panic.
That said, sometimes that’s needed. I, for one, am so sick and tired of having to tip toe around the fact that certain issues that are being improperly addressed, or not addressed at all, in this society are ENRAGING. So you’re damn skipping I’m angry, and I may just have to let you know in a not so subtle way that it pisses me off! I’m not always going to cloak my discontented feelings about certain hateful/ignorant/dismissive attitudes and policies because it makes some one uncomfortable.
I have a right to be angry and to show my anger. My outward expression of said anger isn’t usually intentional or calculated, and certainly not meant to demean or bully anyone. For me, it just happens, when I can’t hold on to those feelings anymore. And I combust.
Being angry (in certain contexts) doesn’t make me bitter or hateful or unreasonable. It just makes me angry. And I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I’m comfortable with possessing that emotion and expressing it. It just beez like that sometimes. Being angry isn’t who I am, just how I feel. So I LOVED that MHP said what she said the way she said it – because it was TRUE (even if just to her), and it needed to be said at that very moment.
Can anyone else (male or female) feel me on being angry sometimes? Have you been told you’re angry because of your position on certain things?
A black woman who can be angry,
For the video of the entire segment, you can see it here.