Angry black woman. It’s a phrase black women and girls know too well. Most times we aren’t even angry, just disappointed. After a racist political cartoon was made after Serena Williams was accused of cheating at the U.S. Open, black women and girls felt disappointed.
“My reaction was immediate frustration,” Kalyn White, senior, said. “In the media it is so easy to portray black women as ‘the angry black girl.’ [Serena Williams] was portrayed as the one in the wrong and made a big deal out of it, but she was accused of something that wasn’t right.”
One major impact was that many young black girls noticed these negative stereotypes surrounding Williams, which can be detrimental to their self esteem. Several Nipher middle schoolers agreed.
“They try and make [black girls] act real ghetto,” Kadyn Hamilton, seventh grader, said. “Like smacking gum, big hoops. [When I think] of a black girl, I wouldn’t think of them that way.”
The only time black girls see themselves is usually in a negative light. The issue is that black girls are not being represented appropriately. Not only is this impacting black girls, but other races as well.
“People won’t admit it, but they don’t see me as equal,” Kayse White, senior, said. “They underestimate me.”
Being seen as less than equal can be attributed to ignorance about what a black girl looks like, sounds like and acts like. The stereotypes like black girls being loud, bitter, ghetto or having an attitude is often taken as fact.
“[Black girls] are known to speak [their] minds,” Hamilton said. “I get in trouble a lot for speaking my mind, being ‘loud.’ People will call it being ‘loud’ and ‘ghetto.’”
Being called “loud” and “ghetto” for simply speaking your mind can be damaging. Black women and girls often find themselves either not talking, or adjusting the way they say things, to avoid being stereotyped.
“Outside of the classroom, maybe to other colleagues or to parents, I have to tone myself down,” Fariga Drayton-Conway, KHS symphonic orchestra teacher, said.
These stereotypes go beyond the way black girls carry themselves. It can also impact their views on their appearance. Hamilton, Genesis Dixon, eighth grader, and Madisen Butler, seventh grader, each said they felt insecure about being a black girl.
“I like being [dark-skinned], but sometimes I don’t wanna be [dark-skinned] anymore,” Hamilton said. “Then I think, what’s wrong with being dark skin?”
I was heartbroken to hear about how these girls felt about being a black girl, but not surprised. Growing up, I was insecure about my lips and about having darker skin. I knew what they experienced all too well. Ignorance doesn’t just impact how girls will feel about their overall attitude toward things, it impacts how they view their outer appearance
“If I walk into school with my hair like [an afro], the white girls will look at me and be like ‘What’s the matter with your hair? Why don’t you comb it out and make it straight?” Dixon said. “It makes me feel uncomfortable because I’ll want my hair straight and not as poofy.”
Unfortunately, many black girls go through a stage of wanting to change themselves. As they get older, they may gain confidence, but this isn’t something they should have to deal with.
“I am now realizing that the skin color you are doesn’t matter,” Butler said. “I kinda [felt] weird when I was younger [and] I was the only mixed or black girl with this white family. Now I don’t really care anymore. It is what it is.”
There are positive changes happening to add more representation of black girls, like with shows like ‘Grownish.’ These positive changes will help a next generation of black girls to feel confident seeing realistic black girls.
“In movies and cartoons, [both] back then and right now, there is not a lot of black girls in them,” Butler said.“They are kinda getting better with including more black people. In sports, they are also trying to include more black girls.”
But the little steps aren’t enough. Black girls need more. There is no reason that in 2018, with many black women and girls defying stereotypes every day, these damaging images should not even be
According to Naki Steward, senior, “A black woman in power is a threat in a white community or a white society.”
Maybe this is the reason why this all happens. Black women and girls shouldn’t have to tone themselves down to cater toward those who can’t handle them. Our valid angers and frustrations needs to stop being written off as an “angry black girl” or an “angry black woman.” We deserve to be as carefree, represented, confident and outspoken as we want to be.
What is being done:
“HBCUS [historical black college or university] promotes a culture for positive self esteem and positive self identity for African Americans,” Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at Harris Stowe State University, said. “Being at an HBCU for black girls, it helps them to be able to connect with young ladies who are much like them and come from some of the same backgrounds and have some of the same experiences.”