A Seat at the Head of the Table

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively
conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
-James Baldwin

I certainly wasn’t born angry. I can’t specifically place my finger on a time or person that offended me to the point of being enraged. But if I had to guess, the day I was branded an Angry Black Woman was around the same day that I found my own voice.

Being proud of being black is a threat to white America. Being proud of being a woman is a threat to patriarchal America. Being proud of being a Black Woman makes you public enemy number one.

I spent much of my life being docile, naïve, balanced, and shy. My undergraduate major in college was in political science, and I seemed to be the least vocal on the majority of issues that I studied. Whether the discussion centered around human/civil rights, environmental rights, women’s rights, or even just the right time of day, I was so afraid of voicing my opinions for fear of sounding stupid, self-righteous, or even worse… angry.

I had opinions; I just didn’t have the courage to voice them.

Hiding in the back row of my lectures, I silently observed everyone else taking a seat at the table. I watched, in horror, people with no resemblance or understanding of me trade ideas that impacted me the most. Imagine hearing men talk about the reproductive rights of women, or seeing upper-class white people swap solutions for fixing issues in the minority working class.

Slowly, minority men took the seat at the table. Then white women took their seats. There was one seat left reserved for the quiet black girl, and nobody bothered to offer it. At some point, I must have snapped completely. And not only did I take my vacant seat at the table, but I took my chair to the head of the table and finally demanded some respect and attention.

And I became the Angry Black Woman.
Not the educated black woman.
Not the tired black woman.
Not the ignored black woman.
Not the political black woman.
Not the strong black woman.
The Angry Black Woman.

“When a black woman stands up for herself,
suddenly she has an attitude problem.”

Nobody wanted to talk about my issues as a black woman. The non-black people at the table didn’t want to talk about black issues. The non-female people at the table didn’t want to talk about female issues. And if I looked to the black men at the table for reinforcement on any topic other than police brutality or mass incarceration (both issues largely targeting black men) I was S.O.L.

Well, I decided if I was going to be an angry black woman, I was going to piss everybody else off as well. And to this day, every time a new issue is brought to the table without addressing mine, I figuratively use a political tactic known as the filibuster. Essentially, I rant about black women’s issues exclusively, no matter how irrelevant they may be to you, to deter whatever issue you may be trying to address.

If my issues as a human being are irrelevant, what makes yours relevant?

Why can’t little black girls who go missing receive a third of the media attention their white counterparts get? Is the life of my daughter worth less than yours? Medical issues like lupus and fibroids that largely affect black women don’t receive nearly enough attention or research funding. Is my health less valuable than yours?

Why is my dollar worth less than yours for doing the same work?
Why is my skin and story seldom represented in mainstream media?

And why am I considered angry because I’m finally asking for what everyone else has already been given?

“I’m not angry.
And I don’t like the thing of the ‘angry black woman’ either.
That’s not what this is about.
We feel passionate.
Feeling passionate about something doesn’t mean you have to be angry.”
-Naomi Campbell


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