The consequence of slavery and the resulting social, economical and political effects have led to Black women becoming victims of negative stereotyping in main stream British Culture. Such stereotypes include the myth of the angry Black woman that characterizes women as aggressive, ill tempered, illogical, hostile, overbearing and ignorant without provocation.
Comprehension of the treatment of Black women within the working environments should be influenced by cultural norms and socio-political dynamics affecting these employees. Successful working environments require a team with cultural competency and employers who are well prepared and qualified to navigate the intrinsic complexities of culture with employees. Awareness of the angry Black woman mythology, including its origin, manifestations and the unique experiences of Black women, may raise the standards of cultural competence for employers and provide transformative outcomes within an organisation/ company.
Recently, at work I was told by a colleague to ‘stop coming off as the angry Black woman’. As this unfolded, I could tell that this was not going end well as I have studied racial stereotyping and I am aware of how it plays into the lives of Black women. Black women are not supposed to stand up for themselves because if they do, they are deemed as aggressive, hostile and domineering. The purpose of this brief commentary is to raise awareness so that we can look at how to transform a system that Black women say is riddled with unfairness and bias.
At work, I experienced bullying from a white colleague who received a promotion whilst I was told that I needed to ‘stop coming off as an angry woman’. In this case, the label of the angry black woman has become an enduring stereotype. Black women executives who voice disapproval at company policies run the risk of being seen as angry Black women a sapphire, the sapphire name is a slur, insult and a label designed to silent dissent and critique.
The myth of the angry Black woman continues, black women in Britain see these depictions translate in real life. Black women are often faced with people responding to their emotions from a place of perceived fear. Black women are forced to go above and beyond to make people feel comfortable around them. Considerately, no one is allowed to make others shrink into being the version that they are comfortable with. Robin Boylorn, an intercultural communications professor at the University of Alabama states that ‘it seems impossible to be a black woman and not be angry, after generations of oppression, discrimination and erasure Black women should be celebrated for not being completely consumed by anger’ (Prasad, 2018).
What can be done in order to move forward?
Give credit, Black women tend to feel invisible at work of which this is understandable. Several studies have shown that Black women are less likely to voice their opinions in comparison to their white peers. Managers should be aware of this bias and fairly highlight contributions of these women formally or informally. Checks for bias, most companies tend to assess and review gender bias, however very little is done when it comes to evaluating the heightened bias of race and gender. Taking initiative, being the only Black woman in an office, company, organisation or a team can be tremendously demanding, and Black women are often torn between authenticity and conforming to what is expected of them by their white peers.
The solution for this is for managers to make the effort to get to know their colleagues better and create a safe environment where Black women are able to be open. Ultimately, employers should possess cultural competence in order to provide transformative outcomes within an organisation/ company.
Consequently, the narrative has to be changed especially during this time of progression in emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion. There needs to be an open dialogue on race and racism within organisations, companies and between employees and employers. Black women should be at the heart as well as forefront of these discussions, structuring the course of action to tackle challenges that they experience. Some organisations and companies have made slight developments with equality and diversity policies by creating BAME initiatives to tackle discrimination. However, these interventions fail to challenge the frontline pressures and dis-advantages that Black women routinely face.
In order to have transparent instruments for reporting racist incidents and BAME faculties, staffs charged with responsibility for investigating complaints of racial harassment must understand or recognise the complexities of racism. Organisations have to address institutionalised racism in order to be just and fair, because right now Black women are not provided this decency and unfortunately remain as marginalised. Although the oppression of the Black woman has improved since slavery, the dehumanisation is still prevalent today mainly because of ‘fear of Black women gaining self-confidence and self-respect’ (Hooks, 1990).
Black women are a gifted, motivated, and we are an engaged group of high- potential future leaders. Organisations and companies who want to create more diverse and ultimately more successful teams need to do more to ensure that diverse female talent is not ignored and left behind. Lastly, I am not an angry black woman, I was a victim of bullying and micro-aggression and I should be able to openly ask for help. In order to extend the dialogue, the Black women’s experiences must be told and their voices must be heard.
References and Further Reading
Ashley, W. (2013). The Angry Black Woman: The Impact of Pejorative Stereotypes on Psychotherapy with Black Women. Social Work in Public Health, 29(1), pp.27-34.
Prasad, R. (2018). Serena Williams and ‘angry black women’. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-45476500 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].
Hooks, B. (1990) Ain’t I A Woman. 1st ed. Pluto Press.
Information about writer
Wadzanai Theresa Hatitye , Instagram @wadzanaii_
I’ve been writing since the age of 10 when I first moved to the UK from Zimbabwe. Writing became a form of therapy because I struggled with expressing myself. As I grew older, I became interested in confronting the inequality within our society . At the moment, I write about race, sexism and gender. I also read poetry out loud so please check out my Instagram page.