How labeling a Black woman aggressive can be offensive

In 2015, actress Amandla Sternberg tweeted “End the “angry black girl” narrative. It's just another attempt to undermine certain perspectives. I have strong opinions. I am not angry" in reference to her thoughts of Kim Kardashian appropriating Black culture. While Sternberg isn’t afraid to stand up and speak on what she believes in, many other Black women become hesitant to do that same. Black women like Sternberg are attacked on a daily basis for stating their opinions, especially when it comes to challenging another. It isn’t uncommon for women to be disregarded when working in male dominated spaces. However, when a Black woman does the same, she is not only disregarded but also viewed as angry or aggressive. Also known as being the “Angry Black Woman”.

I know the struggle of not being authentically me in the workplace or the feeling of anxiety when I decided to voice my opinion.

For so long, I was the woman trying to avoid the angry Black woman label. I would even ask other people’s opinion on certain situations for some sort of validation so that I would not be misinterpreted. I would keep my mouth shut and even code-switch to conform to my environments. I know the struggle of not being authentically me in the workplace or the feeling of anxiety when I decided to voice my opinion. I would worry that if I said anything that offended anyone, even when I was the one initially offended that I would lose my job. If I wasn’t in fear of losing my job, I would worry that if I spoke up on certain matters that I would forever been known as the angry Black woman and not taken seriously. However, I realized that no matter how hard I try, I will always be looked at as someone I am not simply because of how society views Black women.

So many emotions built inside of me as I was told I was wrong for being direct, but what hurt me the most was hearing the word aggressive.

I once encountered a situation that resulted in writing this piece. I remember receiving an email from a team member that didn’t sit well with me. I felt my team member was being condescending and unprofessional while being addressed by the wrong name. At that moment, I was tired of holding my tongue. What I initially typed, I will admit was a bit much and definitely would have be taken the wrong way. Therefore, I condensed my response to a couple sentences. Unfortunately, I was later called aggressive by my supervisor. So many emotions built inside of me as I was told I was wrong for being direct, but what hurt me the most was hearing the word aggressive. Sadly, my supervisor did not realize how detrimental and irresponsible it was for calling me aggressive.

This narrative has conditioned Black women to hold their tongues to avert being generalized. The constant self battle on when we should speak up, if we should speak up, and how we should say it. We over analyze certain situations so we are not viewed as aggressive or ill tempered. However, what I have learned about working in white-dominated spaces is that no matter how you say it, you will still be intentionally or unintentionally labeled as such! So why compromise our piece of mind on something we have no control over?

***Disclaimer: These views do not represent any views of any company other than BeLeigh Inspired, LLC***