« In other words, because their passion and righteous indignation is often misread as irrational anger, this image can be used to silence and shame Black women who dare to challenge social inequalities, complain about their circumstances, or demand fair treatment. »
Lectures on the Psychology of Women: Fifth Edition, Joan C. Chrisler, Carla Golden
As we can see from this caricature of tennis champion Serena Wiliams pictured angry after an injust arbitration, as a black woman, the stereotype of the savage black woman, who gets angry for everything, often sticks to us. Why? I think that this prejudice can simply be summed up as the ostrich approach. It is much easier to associate black women’s claims with a simple unexplained temporary state of anger than to face reality and really wonder why these women would be angry, to wonder what might be the reason for their grievances.
Because it would mean recognizing black women as equal and full-fledged beings in society. Indeed, when we take the time to listen to what a person has to say, it means that we recognize this person as a human being with thoughts, feelings, doubts, fears… By reducing black women to humans beings in permanent anger, we dehumanize them, we reduce them to a single feeling. The most unpleasant feeling of human sentiments: Anger.
This prejudice has long governed the way I addressed others. I had difficulty younger and even today sometimes, to assume completely when I don’t agree with something. To stand up for myself and exercise my right to be angry because I am afraid that the people that I talk to will think « Another angry black woman, as usual » and not listen to what I have to say.
Maybe that is why I had such a hard time writing this article because once again I was afraid of not being listened to and that my words would be belittled to « She’s still complaining ». Except this time I decided not to give in to that fear. I’m black. I’m angry and I have every reason to be. I am taking the floor without waiting for anyone to leave it to me. And so be it for those who mind.
In France, we often talk about feminism, about fighting for women’s rights. This term is based on the assumption that the struggle for feminism encompasses all women, that all women are on an equal footing in their situation of inequality against men. But by doing this, we forget the reality of black women who live with two swords of Damocles above their heads. Just like other women who are victims of racism, by the way. Our sex and skin colour are two discriminating factors that we cannot forget, that we are not allowed to forget.
This double discrimination is completely invisible in the public debate. Just type « difference in salary between white and black women » on Google to see it. All the results mention only the wage differences between men and women, and not between white and black women.
There is only in the United States where this issue is a little more discussed. On the occasion of the American Equal Pay Day, tennis champion Serena Williams reported that according to a study by the American association « National Women’s Law Center », the pay gap is 17% for a white American woman and an African American woman in equal positions. This type of study does not exist in France, simply because it is not considered a problem. I fully agree that gender equality is a major issue. But so is equality between women. Black people are already discriminated against in access to employment as shown by the latest study of the French Direction of research animation, studies and statistics. On top of that, when we find a job we receive a lower salary than our male colleagues but also female colleagues? No wonder I am angry, right?
I agree with the principle of unity to be stronger, to go faster, further. Feminism, gender equality is a struggle for which we must all fight together in order to achieve it. However, we must not forget our differences along the way. We all have different life experiences and recognizing this is in my opinion, what will allow us to win our fight for equality and equity.
Take care of yourself.