So many people get scared and uncomfortable at the stereotype of the “angry, black woman.” I have to wonder sometimes if the reason so many get scared of the stereotype is that they know – perhaps subconsciously – that there are damned good reasons why women of color (not just African-Americans, but Latinas, Asian women, and so many others) are angry.
And not just at white men.
Now, I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of Rihanna’s music. But then again, I’m not a huge fan of Madonna’s music either. But both women are forces of nature when it comes to making statements about our society.
Life was “so much easier” when we could think of the stereotype of the “motherly black woman” or the “exotic temptress.” Well, the sad thing about the whole “exotic temptress” stereotype, of which someone like Eartha Kitt was the epitome, it relied on us not actually LISTENING to the women who typified it. Madam Kitt was an activist in her day. She took no crap, and told it like it is. Now, she was far more subtle about it than someone like Rihanna is, but some of that comes from the era she lived in, and some comes simply from the fact that far too few people actually LISTENED to her.
Why shouldn’t women of color be angry? Far too often they are marginalized by not just white men, but also by white feminists. Their own needs are not always the same as the needs of a white feminist. Just like not all men of color have the same needs or power than white men do.
I’ve lived poor for the majority of my life. And for much of it, I lived in areas of the urban sprawl that are considered “ghetto.” Unlike the rest of my family, I had interactions with gangs. I had to find ways to develop as myself, and not become subsumed into a gang mentality. I had to find ways to prove myself to be strong enough to convince the gangs to leave me alone.
But even with all of that, I don’t delude myself into thinking I know what your average “angry, black woman” feels. I perhaps have a miniscule understanding of the least part of it, the attitude of men of color towards women of color. But even poor, even living in those areas, I had privilege. And most of it was granted to me by those same “angry, black women.” Almost every time I moved into a ghetto neighborhood, I was visited by some of the older black ladies, or I made sure that I spent time talking to them. And more often than not, these women would look at me, as a “young, innocent, naive, white woman” and feel that I needed to be protected from the worst of the neighborhood. They often went out of their way to make sure that the “problems” of the neighborhood knew that I had their protection. I never asked for it, but after a while – I did start to realize that was what was happening.
You can NEVER assume you know what someone else has lived through, or what problems they may be struggling with. I have learned so much from sitting and listening to so many women, and not just white ones. Learning to understand not just the world as you see it, but seeing it through the eyes of others can truly work to make you a better person.
Rihanna makes a very strong statement with this video. The easy to understand statement is that she will NOT be victimized by some jerk who thinks that because she’s a black woman that she won’t recognized she’s being cheated.
The more subtle commentary – to me at least – is that the intent was to take something he loved to make him return the money he stole. But the reality is, he loved nothing more than his own pleasure and his own desires. The only way to take what he loved was to take his life. Women, including his own wife, were just to be used.
Is it harsh? You damned betcha it’s harsh. Is it scary? Of course, it is.
But it is ALSO taking a stand. It’s saying, “Look, I know what you think of me. Get it into your thick skull that I am NOT going to take it anymore.”