Thursday, October 11, 2012

In defense of the title, An Angry-Ass Black Woman

Why would I title my autobiographical An Angry-Ass Black Woman?

I know that's going to be one of the first questions I'll be asked in interviews.

  I think the term Angry Black Woman got a bad rap a few years ago. I’m not sure when the phrase was first used, but I know people started using it to describe certain African-American women. The term was used for women who were loud, abrasive, moody, and always ready to tell someone off -- for basically no reason.Then when the term was used to describe Michelle Obama, my question was . . . why? Not every woman is an Angry Black Woman. Why did they decide to attach that term to her? Personally, I found it insulting. Insulting in light of what the media has put forth as a definition of an Angry Black Woman.

    I think An Angry-Ass Black Woman is a woman who gets so fed up with a situation surrounding social justice – or other matters – that she stands up and does something about it, and in a very public and in-your-face way. Harriet Tubman was An Angry-Ass Black Woman. She got beat with that whip one too many times and she said, “To Hell with this. Why am I being chained, worked to death, and beaten? Because I’m a slave? Well, I’ll be a slave no longer.” And not only did she “free” herself, she made trips back and forth from the South to North to free hundreds of other slaves. She was An Angry Ass Black Woman.

And how about Rosa Parks. She got on the city bus, she was tired after a hard days work, and all she wants to do is give her feet a break as she traveled home. But then the bus driver tells her to get up so a white woman can sit down. Ms. Parks said, “No. I have every right to this seat as anyone else paying their fare. I will not get up.” She let her anger at the situation move her to make a stand. A stand, mind you, that helped start the Civil Rights Movement. At that moment, she became An Angry Ass-Black Woman.

Then there’s Sojourner Truth. Ida B. Wells, and many others. All of these were women who were being wronged and got angry about it, and instead of just slinking away muttering curses under their breath, they did something about it.

These were all Angry-Ass Black Women, and I am proud to count myself amongst them.
Got a problem with that? I thought not! <smile>

Writing Off More Than That 47 Percent

So, Romney is (was? Ha!) not concerned with 47 percent of the voters in the U. S. because they are not his people. He all but called them deadbeats, people who did not federal income tax, and were willing to live on handouts, and liked being dependent.
How insulting!
I'm not part of that 47 percent that Romney described, AT THE MOMENT, but I've been in that grouping more than once in my life, and I know -- save the Grace of God -- I may one day be there again. And no matter what my economic/social/political status . . . I should still be counted. My President should still care about me, and care about what I think.
Yes, I knew even before that videotape surfaced a few weeks ago that I was voting for Obama, and I can't even say that the tape cemented the deal. My decision was already concretized.
But hearing his words brought such fury to my heart!!!!!
How could this man, running to be President of the United States, say that he had already discounted 47 percent of the voters because they were comfortable being victims, and living on handouts!
And what kind of people made up his audience, that none challenged him on the statement?
But then people wonder why I identify myself as An Angry-Ass Black Woman.
Hearing and listening the tape brought to mind another event that happened more than 20 years prior, though . . . and by someone whom I felt very different about.
In 1991 I was one of eight students picked from around the country for the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism, and one of the caveats of the program was that we would have nationally known figures in politics and journalism talk to us each week.
One week we had a columnist from Time Magazine. I was psyched, because my mother loved Time Magazine and I’d grown up on it, and this columnist was– hands down – my favorite writer. 
So he comes into the conference room where we were all waiting to hear his words of wisdom and encouragement, and I all but leap up and applaud his arrival. So we settle it down (meaning me, I settle down. I mean, I was the only one really hyped in the first place), and the columnist begins to talk about the noble occupation known as journalism; applauding us for our choice of careers, and reminding us of our obligation to look out for those who had no one else looking out for them; the socially, economically, and politically oppressed.
I was pysched!
But then he cautions us, that while it might be sad, he had to warn us not to spend time – not to waste time – trying to defend a certain class of people, because to do so would water down our efforts to defend the classes above them. These weren’t what people called the lower class, this columnist said, but the class in even below that. You know, he explained with a smile, the family who lives in the projects, the father not around, the mother on welfare, and herself having been raised by a welfare mom, none of the kids finishing school, and at least two in the immediate family on hard drugs.
Yeah! You go, Man! Tell it like it is, Man. . . . – wait!
What did he just say?
A family with at least two members on hard drugs. Well, that would be my sister, Kitty, who was on crack, and my brother, David, who was on heroin, and my father, Joe-Joe – when he was alive – on any drug he could find.
None of the kids finishing school? Well, me and Kitty dropped out in the eight grade. David dropped out in the seventh grade.My little brother, Joe T., almost made it through high school, but dropped out in the eleventh grade.
Mother on welfare and raised by a mother also on welfare. Well, um, yeah, Mommy was on welfare, but it wasn’t because she wanted to be. But, yeah, okay she was on welfare. And Nana – my grandmother – also went on welfare after her husband died when my mother was only 13-years-old and she couldn’t find a job.
Father not around. Yeah, I guess you could say Joe-Joe wasn’t around. Even when he wasn’t in the crazy house he wasn’t living with us.
And living in the projects? Well, the only time we actually lived in the projects was when we lived for that short time in the Bronx, but yeah, I kinda figured the Harlem tenement that we were always getting kicked out of for not paying rent would kinda qualify.
So . . . hold up! Was . . . my hero . . . actually be talking about my family? Saying that no one should even bother worrying about us because we were – for all intents and purposes – beyond being helped?
I sat there, my hands pressing hard into the wooden conference table, trying not to hyperventilate. WHAT THE FUCK?
I blinked my eyes rapidly, trying to blink away the red cape I felt being waved in front of my face, daring me to charge.
The next thing I knew I was on my feet, everyone was looking at me, and I was picking up my chair and throwing it across the room. I moved toward the columnist, at the same time pulling myself back so that I actually got no closer to them then a few feet, but the whole time yelling at the top of my lungs, “You’re telling them to just discount me? To forget about me? That I’m so pathetic that I’m beyond help? Who the hell do you think you are?”
My fellow interns, the facilitator, and the columnist were all shocked, and the columnist started trying to explain himself -- saying that he was not talking about me, not talking about my family. How could he be when he didn't know them, he explained.
"My mother and her mother were on welfare! My mom had to raise us on her own because my father wasn’t around. We lived in the projects. My father was in and out of the nut house before he finally died from a heroin overdose. My older brother has been hooked on dope since he was twelve. My twin sister is a crack addict. And, oh, yeah, none of us kids finished high school. In fact, I didn’t even make it into high school, I dropped out in junior high. So, what, Mr. Columnist? Just forget about me? I’m beyond help? How could you, man? I looked up to you! And this is how you think? Man, what the hell is wrong with you?" Tears were in my eyes, as I struggled to continue to speak.
"Yeah, I dropped out, but I’m in college now, and I’m on the dean’s list, I’ve already written articles that have made it into the Associated Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and other prestigious papers. And I even made it into the very competitive journalism program that allows me to now listen to you lecture that people like me are beyond help. What are you talking about???!!!!”
I was about to tell him just what the fuck I thought about him when I saw the look on his face.
 Dude no longer looked shocked, he looked really sad . . . and I could tell he regretted his previous statements. And I knew he  meant no harm, Mr. Columnist was -- and is still -- known as one of the left-wing liberals who does care about people. I guess, though, me and my family was not just in his category of "people."
 That just depressed the hell out of me. I not only felt insulted, worse, I felt betrayed. And I suddenly felt drained. Deflated.  Not knowing what else to do I just shook my head, went over and picked up my chair, and sat back down at the conference table.
There were a couple of minutes of silence, then Mr. Columnist very humbly said that maybe he needed to rethink his philosophy.
My fellow interns had been mostly silent, but a few of them started speaking up, saying they felt bad about what I was going through at the moment, then added that if it made a difference, they’d never just write anyone off. And it was at the point that I had to really fight back tears.
I guess what happened that afternoon, the shame and anger I felt, was at least worth it. I just hope that they really meant it.
One day I’m going to contact Mr. Columnist to see if he remembers the event. I know I never forgot. 
I don't dislike Mr. Columnist. Didn't right after he made his statement, and don't now. I do believe he's a good guy . . . who felt he had to make some hard decisions, and then shared his decision-making process with those interns who would be soon enter the world of  professional journalism.
I think he was wrong, but I don't believe he's cold-hearted.