Posted in Blog

Embracing my True Self… and Alex Strangelove

I have so much to write about, so much more pressing events, as I’ve been away and also been super busy with Uni. I’ve also started working, part- time! But more on that later.

I feel like this post has just been burning up inside of me.

Since I came out at a lesbian, everybody has had something to say about it, especially considering I was seemingly straight my entire life before coming out, and more so that my first girlfriend happens to be trans. Even my girlfriend doubts that I’m gay, because according to her I’ve “never tried it with a real girl before” (these are her words by the way, not mine. I see her as a real girl, which is why I’m still with her after coming out).

But here’s the thing, I know who I am. I’ve always known it. Having to pretend for so long drove me crazy. I went to a girls’ school, where I was attracted to my friends, but because everybody in a girls’ school takes the piss out of lesbians, I never admitted my feelings to anybody, not even my closest friends. I even remember masturbating in my secondary school best friend’s house, during a sleep over, while thinking about her. I felt so ashamed. It didn’t help that I was born into a Catholic home and had to endure a strict Pentecostal upbringing, where I was taught that relationships were created to be “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”.

So as soon as I went away to University, I lost my virginity to the first guy who showed interest in me and I didn’t stop trying to prove my straightness to the world after popping my cherry.

alex-strangelove-netflix-before-after

(Image source)

I’ve just finished watching Alex Strangelove, a new Netflix film, about a boy, Alex, who realises that he’s gay during his senior year in high school, while dating his best friend (a girl). He tries and fails epically to lose his virginity, because he’s fallen in love with a guy. He then breaks up with his girlfriend and because he’s still in denial about his sexuality, he goes to a frat party immediately after, to try and hook up with the first girl who shows interest in him. He also plans to sleep with as many girls as he possibly can once he goes away to college, in a bid to run away from his true identity – a gay man. This resonated so much with me, it was unreal. Many of my friends were so shocked when I came out, and are still in denial about my sexuality because of the simple fact that I used to go on about cock so much. I would talk about loving it and wanting it – especially when I first broke up with my ex-boyfriend two years ago. I even went on a shagging spree after our break up, hoping to leave behind my confusion. I actually find cocks repulsive and each time I had sex with a guy, afterwards I would feel soiled, but I buried the feelings deep inside of me, hoping that they wouldn’t resurface.

When my current partner and I first got together, the attraction for me was that I was falling in love with my best friend. I didn’t know that my partner was transgender when we first met, but I remember feeling like the attraction wasn’t like anything I had felt with any guy before. It felt feminine.

So when friends also say to me, oh perhaps you’re pansexual (attracted to a person regardless of their gender), again, I cannot agree.

What I love the most about the film, Alex Strangelove, is why critics have commented on how the film dismisses or erases bisexuality, I disagree. It targets the notion that people carry that if you’re struggling with your sexuality, or suddenly “appear to be gay” then you’re probably not, which is dismissive and hurtful to people like me, who are trying to come out to their loved ones and closest friends, only to be greeted with this retort instead of open mindedness. And no, embracing bisexuality or pansexuality is not a sign of “open mindedness” when you are deliberately dismissing homosexuality. When Alex tried to talk to his best friend about his feelings for another guy, his best friend also dismisses Alex’s feelings as “just a man crush”. The amount of times I tried to dismiss my feelings for other girls as “just girl crushes” I cannot even begin to count.

When my partner eventually told me that she was transgender, it was a huge relief. I’d guessed, but I was also relieved to discover that I had in fact fallen in love with a woman, who just happened to be living  as a guy when I met her.

I can only imagine how different my life would’ve been, if I’d been as brave as people like Alex who came out in their younger years. In the finale of the film, there is a montage of YouTubers, who like Alex, post a “coming out” video to the world. They are all young people – either in their late teens and some possibly early twenties – and they look so happy and liberated. I really wish I had been true to myself, not worried about what my mother would think of me (considering we’re no longer talking, it really wasn’t worth pretending to be straight to keep her love and approval) and saved myself a lifetime of heartache. It was awesome to see a young black girl in the montage too, which brings me to my next point. Loads of people claim that it’s patronising to say to somebody that they are brave for coming out. Bitch please. When you’re black and queer, you’re risking everything to be who you truly are. If that isn’t bravery, then fucking shoot me in the minge. 

To anybody reading this, who is afraid to live their true life, please know that I am here for you. Don’t break your own heart to please a world that doesn’t give a shit about you. Show yourself the love you deserve by living your true life.

xoxo

 

Posted in Blog

Speaking Out & Fighting Black

I always feel like I’m constantly crying because I’m constantly disappointed by life.

My girlfriend doesn’t do her share of the housework, so I cry as I obsessively glare at the dirty dishes piling up.

My mother proves once again that she cannot be the mother I deserve, so I cry.

I wake up to a new day and before I’ve even opened my eyes properly I have a seizure, so I cry.

I think about the possibility of returning to work but the thought of doing so fills me with immense fear. So I cry.

When I do work up the courage to apply for jobs, I hit a wall when it comes to the reference requests because my previous employer always find a way to refuse doing it even though they signed an non-disclosure agreement (NDA) promising to give me a reference for any future employment. So when they don’t I cry.

I’ve kept my end of the agreement for almost a year now. Even though I was forced to sign this document when I was mentally unstable. One of the terms of the agreement was to also keep quiet about the name of that Employer, but seeing as they’re breaking the rules there’s no reason for me to keep on playing. Especially when they are so intent on not only ruining my past career, but any future job prospects.

The employer was Finchley Catholic High School. And they fired me because I am Black and disabled.

When I called my mum weeks ago to tell her what Finchley were doing, she advised me to send an email to the new Head Teacher pleading for her to reconsider. When I asked my mum why I should have to grovel to these people, her response was:

That’s what Black people have to do in this country.

I hated the idea but I did it anyway. The Head Teacher ignored me. So when I got an email from the employment agency I was trying to register with to say that they had to reject my application, because Finchley were refusing to give me a reference and thus confirm that there were no Child Protection issues while I was an employee at the school, I decided to fight. I emailed the Head Teacher again, pointing out that she was breaking the terms of the NDA and I would be forced to take legal action against the school.

She emailed me back within a day to say that she had provided the reference to the agency.

My previous email may have helped my case because clearly this new Head Teacher, who wasn’t working at the school while I was there, had inherited the prejudice from her predecessor who had tortured me. This was clear from the way she spoke to me on the phone when I courageously called to speak to her personally. She spoke to me like I was a piece of dirt. Therefore a polite, grovelling email contradicts the Black, aggressive troublemaker she’s evidently heard about. Perhaps she saw my final email as a “last resort” and out of character if she compared me to the same person who had emailed so politely prior. But, as Black people in Britain it is not our legacy to plead with white people to get what we are entitled to. We are human beings and citizens.

But, as Black people in Britain it is not our legacy to plead with white people to get what we are entitled to. We are human beings and citizens.

So now, instead of crying I’m going to fight. I was forced to sign that NDA while I was mentally unstable, so I’m going to seek legal advice on my next steps. When I read it now in my right mind, I see it as worthless like the toilet paper I use to wipe my arse. It doesn’t protect me, it is just an oppressive weapon to shut me up.

My therapist also asked me why I expected them to be co-operative after what they did to me:

This is Finchley, why would you expect them to give you what you want?

As if that should excuse the continued torture.

Again, this isn’t about getting what I want. It’s about getting what I am entitled to as a fucking human being and a citizen of this country. It’s about being part of a new generation of Black British citizens fighting a long oppressive legacy of colonialism where white people think they can take from us and not have to pay reparations. It’s about fighting against structural racism.

After consciously making the decision to fight instead of cry, last night I dreamt about being in a school but for the first time in over a year, it wasn’t a nightmare and I didn’t wake up shouting and crying.

This time, I was in full control.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Saving Myself

I told my mum a few home truths on Monday over the phone and now I think that she is deliberately sabotaging a reunion between myself and my sister to spite me, or both of us. Not really sure.

I was going to call the house later that evening (because I don’t have my sister’s mobile number but she still lives at my mum’s house), and I asked my mum to let my sister pick up the phone, just so I could ask how she is. At first my mum didn’t want to help but I begged her so she finally agreed. Plus the reason why I was doing this is because she’d told me that my sister is hurting because she misses me so much. 

Then about half an hour before I was planning to call, my mum sent me a message saying that she had told my sister about our plan and my sister said that it wasn’t a good time to talk right now because she had too much on right now.

Giphy

My mum wasn’t supposed to tell my sister that I was going to call. And every single time that I try to reconnect with my sister, I’m told that it’s a bad time because she has too much to deal with right now.

So what? Do I not have shit going on in my life too? Yet I was willing to put all grudges aside, forgive and forget and try to re-establish a relationship with my sister because I miss her and still care about her.

But once again, my mother couldn’t be a parent, she had to be the child that she is and sabotage that. The woman is a joke. 

So let us reflect on what it was I was willing to forgive and forget about, just to muster up the courage to make that phone call on Monday evening: Three years ago, my sister told me that I was faking my seizures for attention, and that I was too much of a burden and she couldn’t deal with me. She also lied about the fact that she hadn’t been returning my calls or messages for weeks. But then after saying all of that, she then expected me to turn the other cheek, she acted like nothing had happened, that she hadn’t broken my heart.

But I wasn’t going to be a doormat anymore; I’d always let my sister get away with treating me like shit because I was not only petrified of losing my best friend. I also didn’t want us to end up like my mum and her sister who don’t talk and hate each other’s guts. So every single time we’d had a fight, I would force myself to be the bigger person and reconcile. However this time I wasn’t going to take her shit, nor my mum’s, so I told them that I needed a “time out” to think about things. I never told them this, but I wanted to re-evaluate my place within a family I’d never felt part of. So I returned back to my home in London and didn’t make contact with either of them for a couple of weeks (which wouldn’t have made any difference to my sister, because as I said before, she hadn’t been returning my calls or messages anyway).

Now, when they retell this story to family friends – particularly my Aunt (my surrogate mum), they tell the story without mentioning that I was bullied out of the family and therefore needed time away. Instead, they tell anybody who will listen that I was getting too big for my boots now that I was living in London and no longer wanted to associate myself with them.

On the phone on Monday, my mum screamed to me that I was the one who left them, when I went to University in 2004 and that I was responsible for going away all those years ago and breaking the family apart. How manipulative must you be to be a mother who holds a grudge against her own daughter for going away to University? And to hold that grudge for 14 years? 

Giphy

She also doesn’t tell people that although she was fine with my sister being in a long-term relationship for so many years, while I was still living with her and my sister and I began dating my ex (which was my first serious relationship), she told me that she was jealous of me and wished it was her instead.

She even said that it wasn’t fair, when would it be her time? 

While I was living at home she used to charge me more rent than my sister, even though my sister earned more money than me, which was the final straw for me when I realised that all those years I’d been living at home to help my mum out, she was actually just using me as a cash cow to stop me from growing up and leaving the nest.

She doesn’t tell people that she told me I was too damaged to be loved; and she denies (even to this day) that she blamed my Epilepsy on me and told me that my love for horror films had opened the door to demon possession.

When I told her that I had started to remember what my dad had done to me and had to confess that I’d lied when I told her that nothing had happened to me, she refused to listen and told me that nothing had happened to me – the devil was playing tricks with my mind. In fact, when I then went to try and talk to my sister, instead of her showing empathy, her response was:

Why did he do it to you and not me? 

I also think that my mum actually blames me for the abuse, because she cannot fathom that the man that she loved could do such a thing, so instead of acknowledging that man she once loved was truly a monster (he abused her too), she seems to feel more comfortable with seeing her child as the devil instead.

In regards to my relationship with my sister, my mum denies that she ever used to play my sister and I against each other  just like her mother used to do with her and her little sister – and whenever we fell out, she would be the one in the middle playing Devil’s Advocate and stirring the pot, instead of being a mother and helping us to sort out our differences. She also constantly used to tell me that my sister was jealous of me.

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They think that I look down on them, because I’m more educated than them, when in actual fact even though they were my oppressors, up until three/four years ago, I used to worship them and would’ve taken a bullet for either of them, especially my sister.

My mum and I were actually supposed to finally meet up for the first time in three years tomorrow, but I cancelled after what happened on Monday because I don’t want to see her and I told her to not bother to call me until she can be a mother instead of a petulant child. I haven’t heard from her since, but I’m sure I’ll get a voicemail in a couple of weeks where she begs for forgiveness. Again.

This week I’ve had  all of this to deal with, while keeping on top of my module deadlines and thankfully, regardless of crying myself to sleep two nights in a row and barely actually getting any sleep, not only have I managed to make all of my deadlines to finish the module on time (#win), I’ve also managed to ensure that my anger and heartbreak hasn’t triggered any seizures, which I am particularly thankful for. I have yoga and mindfulness to thank for this – even after everything that happened on Monday, I still went to my yoga class, which gave me an opportunity to focus my energies on myself as opposed to people who constantly hurt me. Yoga is also a great opportunity to be kind to yourself and to be thankful to yourself for taking that time out for self-care, which was desperately needed this week. 

I also have to thank my girlfriend, who let me sob on her on Monday evening and let me wallow in my silent moments of reflection yesterday evening, as I ponder what on earth I did in a past life to deserve such a family. 

I bet not once, did my sister and mother stop to think what impact this would have on my Epilepsy. Because they never do. And I share my story not only to vent about my family, but to also encourage other young women like me, who have struggled with psychologically abusive family members (especially mothers), to not be afraid of standing up for ourselves, and to protect what we have built for ourselves and not let toxic family members destroy our empires.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Eugenics

The US created Feeblemindedness – a medical diagnosis that meant mentally deficient, stupid or foolish (Laureate, 2016).

I’m going to say something extremely controversial here: but as much as I love my mother, I find her to be weak and incredibly feebleminded.

She’s not weak because she was in an abusive relationship, (big-up Kelis for saying this recently. I should’ve known Nas was a prick).

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Thanks to therapy, I also no longer think that my mother is weak for having not protected me as a child.

What I do see in her, is a lack of ability to think for herself. She’s incredibly naive and stupid, very easily misled too – particularly by Religion. If I think morbidly about it, had my parents had met during the 1920s in the US, or had we been governed by a totalitarian regime, my sister and I might never have been born, because both of my parents may have been deemed unfit to breed (my father was poorly educated also), and so would’ve been sterilised.

I’ve spoken before about how my mother’s opinions are often misinformed due to Religion – particularly when it comes to science and medicine. But now it gets worse: a couple of weeks ago I found out that she’s a Trump supporter, because her church are teaching that Trump has been sent from God to free Israel and restore it to its pride of place, fulfilling the prophecies of the book of Revelation. Thus as a leader appointed by God, Trump should be supported and tolerated.

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Thankfully, eugenics is illegal because clearly I prove that feeblemindedness isn’t a genetic trait, however I was shocked to hear that the person who created me could really be so stupid. In case you don’t know, Trump is also best pals with the Israeli Prime Minister, whose government ordered for Jewish Ethiopian immigrant women to be sterilised against their will (and consent). Trump is also a fascist, misogynistic prick who believes that white Americans are the ultimate superior race, and whose policies dehumanise every person of colour in his country.

I initially thought that I had misheard her when she said she liked Donald Trump and his “cheeky face” (yes she did say that about the President of the United States). Initially we had been bitching about Theresa May and discussing the latest on the Windrush scandal, when my mum said:

“and she’s supposed to be a Christian, shame on her”,

to which I snorted and replied: “well, so is Trump”. However, she very quickly defended him and wouldn’t hear a bad word said against him.

It was incredibly unsettling.

It’s still not sitting right in my stomach – in fact, I feel sick just thinking about the conversation again. And even though we’ve spoken about it since, she still won’t back down from the teachings from her Church, regardless of Trump’s actions as a Leader of “the Free World”.

I want to know what my sister thinks about this, because surely she cannot be as stupid?

My girlfriend said to me that I cannot judge my mother and cut ties with her, just because we have opposing political views, however this is way more than that.

So much more.

She also proves to be feebleminded when it comes to parenting. She’s never been capable of raising me, lacks initiative and drive, perceives having “stuck around for my sister and I while my dad was the one who abandoned us” as a fucking obligation as opposed to her job as a mother, and seeks constant approval (like a child) for having done such a poor job of raising me in particular, when I as the child (regardless of what age I am) am desperately seeking love and approval from a mother who is incapable to giving that – especially to me.
What irks me the most about this, is it’s the older generation (that includes you, Kanye – 300 years of slavery was a choice? Screw you) fucking up yet again, leaving us (the educated, younger generation) to clean up the fucking mess. Thankfully feeblemindedness isn’t genetic, and thus also thankfully eugenics is illegal, otherwise the race would’ve been euthanised and we wouldn’t have the fabulous, Black intelligent people of my generation and the next, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not mentally affected by the sins of our parents. 

 

References

University of Liverpool, Laureate Online Education. (2016). “Week 5: Abilities: Theories, Structure and Measurement of Intelligence” Lecture Notes, Personality, Individual Differences and Intelligence Module.

Retrieved from: https://elearning.uol.ohecampus.com/bbcswebdav/institution/UKL1/201840MAR/MS_LPSY/LPSY_316/readings/UKL1_LPSY_316_Week05_LectureNotes.pdf

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Exhausted

I am exhausted.

Being an introvert, although I do love to socialise, I find interaction with the outside world exhausting, which is a big part of the reason why I chose to do an MSc online as opposed to in a University with a building, where I would be forced to engage with people in real life. For me, there is nothing more indulgent than putting off my morning shower for as long as possible, so that I can sit in my PJs while I read a chapter for my latest assignment.

And I do love socialising, especially with the people I love, but it does drain me. Last night for instance, I went to Kent to visit my surrogate family – my Auntie (my mum’s best friend who is like a second mother to me), her husband, their daughter and nieces. I brought my girlfriend with me too and this was the first time they’d met her and it was also the first time I’d seen them all in almost a year. I love spending time with them – especially my Aunt. She and I have a very similar sense of humour and although she’s known me since I was 14, I think we’ve actually only really gotten to know each other properly over the last two or three years, when I moved to London and stopped talking to my mother and sister. Even though she was still my mum’s best friend and she loved my sister just as much as me, she never turned her back on me and I love her so much more for that. As a teenager she was also the only person who I could truly be myself with: withdrawn and broken, and it’s only recently that I found out that she’d been advocating on my behalf to my mother to renegotiate a proper relationship with me over the years, because she could see how burdened I was by the unhealthy and unbalanced relationship my mother and I had.

So seeing them wasn’t the exhausting part; It was the catching up, and filling in on the latest on my new relationship with my mother and the still broken relationship with my sister who still refuses to speak to me for so many unknown reasons, and trying to decipher why my mother is the way that she is… that was exhausting. I spoke to my mother just yesterday afternoon actually, because I was upset about something and needed my mum, but then I told her that I was going to see my Aunt in the evening and let slip that the last time I’d seen my Aunt was at her daughter’s birthday party last year, so I was really excited to catch up with her. Awkward silence, then my mum said:

Oh. You were there? 

I’d completely forgotten that my mother probably wasn’t invited because at the time we still weren’t talking and my Aunt wanted to see me so invited me over my mum. Plus we were meeting up without her again last night. Then I ended up leaving a conversation I’d initially started to make myself feel better by coming away feeling almost just as shitty, because my mum was clearly upset and I’d probably gotten my Aunt in the doghouse with her.

I told my Aunt about the conversation and she reassured me that it was fine, that it was just one of those things that my mum will have to get over. Plus my mum doesn’t hold claim over my Aunt. In fact, I probably have a closer relationship with her than I do with my mum, but I know my mum and I think she’ll hold this against me. In her mind, I forced her best friend to choose between her and me and and her best friend chose me.

My mum and I are meeting up next Thursday… it will be the first time we’ve seen each other in almost three years. It was a meeting I had to initiate because my mother lacks initiative even when it comes to her own children. This is what exhausts me the most and having to constantly explain this bizarre relationship that we have, where I’m now coaching my own mother on how to actually be a mother. When I asked her why she hadn’t yet suggested to meet up, considering we’ve been talking for a couple of months now, her response was:

Well I was waiting on you. 

I need my mum to prove herself to me, which she knows, but she’s sitting pretty waiting on ME to initiate our first meeting.

Thanks mum. Way to prove yourself there.

So my point of this story is that as an introvert, socialising is exhausting enough, without having to constantly drag around the baggage of my family.

My cousin and I now have a rule that when we call each other to catch up, we will no longer speak about our fucked up extended family and I think it’s brilliant, because we can focus on not only catching up but strengthening our sisterly relationship and getting to know each other deeper as well as having fun. I think this might have to be a rule that I bring in to other relationships too, because as much fin as I did have last night, where on the car ride home I was so happy I was singing at the top of my voice with my girlfriend sitting in the driver’s seat next to me (I never sing properly in front of people, I have intense stage fright), this morning I woke up feeling emotionally like I’d gone ten rounds in a boxing ring while having multiple seizures at the same time.

Sometimes it is good talk, but I’m now starting to realise that you don’t necessarily need to talk about all things, all of the time.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Getting Myself Into Twitter Trouble (again!)

So I got myself into a feud on Twitter earlier today, because I was defending a thread about abuse in Black households and the majority hated the tweeter and the thread because not only did they perceive it to be anti-Black; they didn’t believe that there are Black abusive households because they never experienced it.

To say such a thing is so stupid, that I likened it to white people saying that racism doesn’t exist because they don’t experience it. I fight with white people online every day, I don’t expect to be fighting with brothers and sisters too. But when it comes to speaking openly about childhood abuse (sexual, physical and psychological), I will fight to the death because of the impacts this has upon mental health.

Domestic abuse and sexual abuse happens in all homes, regardless of colour, but the issue with Black families is that we refuse to let victims/ survivers speak about it. Black women in DV relationships are called anti-Black and seen as betraying the culture if they go to the “White police” to report crimes against their partners; Black girls are also very often sexualised from very young ages and victim-blamed when they are abused. Many adult women – including myself – are forced to continue to suffer sexual abuse in silence, which has detrimental impacts upon our mental health and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.

So when I see Black people denying my experiences, just because they (a) never experienced it themselves and (b) call people like me anti-Black for openly talking about my abusive childhood, it pisses me off.

So some people were not only trolling the girl who created the thread, they were also gloating about their unblemished childhoods to compare to ours in order to prove that our experiences never happened. Now I’m all for celebrating good parenting, especially within our community, however there is a time and a place for this… and this fucking wasn’t it. Plus the fact that she also made clear that this wasn’t relevant to all Black households, was completely ignored because apparently she added that part a day later. But so what? Any intelligent person reading the thread knew that it was implied.

There were a few supporters, however I confronted one person I follow, because she came across particularly as antagonist and antipathetic.

She then not only refused to see the issue from my perspective, she also tried to antagonise me, before eventually blocking me when she realised that I wasn’t going to rise to the bait.

As I said, instead of engaging in conversation, she tried to antagonise me. This woman is Mikki Kendall and I once followed her because she claims to be a Black feminist. But denying Black women the right to speak openly about the abuse they have suffered is anti-feminist as well as anti-Black. It is not anti-Black to say that our community is flawed, particularly when survivors like me are actually actively working to change those flaws by sharing our experiences and changing mindsets. And to block me just for disagreeing with your point of view is childish and ignorant:

I would imagine these are the same women who tell R Kelly’s victims to keep their mouths shut, because speaking badly about Black men in open spaces is anti-Black which is absolute bollocks.

Telling victims to shut up is also provoking further trauma to victims, which makes you just as bad as the perpetrators.

I can’t find the original thread now – unfortunately I forgot to retweet it while I was too busy defending the creator of the thread against the trolls, but to the girl who spoke up, WELL DONE, you’re a fucking legend and I stand by you 🖤 I hope you find healing as you continue on your journey and keep speaking up baby girl!

To the haters, keep your ignorant mouths shut until you educate yourself.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

The “Aggressive” Black Woman Label (Essay)

 

When we focus our discussions on sexism and racism, targets of sexism tend to focus on white women, and targets of racism tend to focus on Black men, while women of colour get forgotten about.

 

As a Black woman having grown up around white-centric environments, growing up, I was always described as shy, soft-spoken, reserved and quiet but then in my late twenties, when I began to embrace my Black culture, I was subjected to negative stereotyping in many different areas of my life.

It wasn’t until my negative Teacher Training experience last year, that I was ever described by anybody as “aggressive” for the first time. This was also the first time that I was seen as a Black woman. I was shocked. My Black friends were bewildered because I was the quietest in the group. However, as only one of two Black teachers in the very white comprehensive school, this was not just about the colour of my skin. This was also about my actions: speaking up for myself and for my Black pupils who were being unfairly targeted. However, my employers thought otherwise and quickly labelled me as “aggressive” for speaking “out of turn”.

 

The second time I was called “aggressive” was shortly afterwards, in a mental health Facebook group, when somebody referred to the Grenfell fire as “just a fire”. The initial complaint came from one white woman who was asking for sympathy, because the media coverage a month after the tragedy was still too overwhelming. In response another white woman said: “remember it was just a fire”. As a Black woman from London, I was shocked that people from outside London could refer to such a tragedy in my hometown so carelessly and flippantly. While a community was (and still is) grieving and my city was raging you’re asking for sympathy, because you’re incapable of basic empathy? I remember my words explicitly: “I implore of you, please don’t refer to it as ‘just a fire’”, before I was ganged up against by the entire group and labelled as “aggressive” for daring to so insensitively call out the person who had made the comment.

I have Epilepsy and would talk openly about the negative side-effects of anti-epileptic drugs, as well as what it’s like to live life as a Black woman with Epilepsy. However, the more I’ve been reading into Epilepsy research, the more it has become apparent just how racist empirical research is — in fact, most of the medical studies do not contain any people of colour whatsoever. And now that I am making this racism known as part of my campaigning, other campaigners are labelling me as “aggressive”.

 

Wendy Ashley explains the stereotype of the “angry Black woman” as a characterisation of “ignorant without provocation” (Ashley, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/19371918.2011.619449). However, in all of my examples you can be assured that I was never ignorant, and I was definitely provoked. One thing my Teacher Training experience opened my eyes to was to explore the question: why are Black women never permitted the freedom to display anger as a valid expression of emotion? We are constantly forced to police our emotions, for fear of not slipping into that “angry Black woman stereotype”. Even Serena Williams throughout her career, has been consistently labelled as aggressive, even though she is retaliating (with class I must add) to constant racial macrogressions and aggressive provocations.

 

If you’ve been hurt, and somebody has caused you pain, you have every right to be angry! Just like any other woman of any other colour, girl!

 

So where does this stereotype even come from?

 

In light of not so recent events where Serena Williams was also labelled as aggressive by the media, Black women are suffering this every day where they are subjected to negative stereotyping, while juxtaposed with invisibility – particularly in the workplace.

Unfortunately, as Black women we struggle to be heard and struggle to be visible, due to being “intersectionally disabled” (Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008, DOI/10.1177/1368430216663017). Research also describes “angry Black women” typically being “aggressive, unfeminine, undesirable, overbearing, attitudinal, bitter, mean, and hell raising” (Malveaux, 1989; Morgan & Bennett, 2006, DOI/10.1080/19371918.2011.619449). This is of course in direct comparison to our white cis female counterparts, who are perceived socially as fair, more feminine, less-aggressive and therefore more desirable.

 

Having a strong sense of self is equally perceived as aggressive and threatening: So many women struggle with their self-image and self-constructs, that Black women who are perceived to have a handle on theirs (even when we don’t!) may be misunderstood by their peers to be aggressive. However, the concept of the confident Black woman is a phenomenon that has become more widespread — particularly in UK, mostly thanks to social media, which millenial Black women are wholeheartedly embracing: the Slumflower instigated the #saggyboobsmatter movement and is also empowering women to embrace their gut feelings. Unfortunately, people still perceive these drives towards positive mindsets as aggressive.

 

I have just finished reading Americanah (2014) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In it, Aunty Uju says: “These [white] people make you aggressive just to hold your dignity”, which is always my response when provoked. I feel like I’m being put onto a stage against my will and the audience are hurling abusive insults at me, just waiting for my reaction.

This relates to Personality Theory: there, behavioral tendency refers to the way an individual prefers to act, heavily influenced by the individual’s preferred thought process, the current situation, the current available resources, and the authority the person currently has. Using this, we are constantly proven not to be aggressive in many situations we are forced into:

Black women reported that, like me, they were forced to encounter negative race-based stereotypes in the workplace on a regular basis (Catalyst, 2004, DOI 10.1177/0894845308325645). Another study was able to make correlations between experiences of negative race-based stereotypes for Black women in employment and historical misogynoir:

Thus, Black women are forced to contend with many negative racial stereotypes, which can obstruct their professional lives and connections with others in the workplace. Historical stereotypical images—such as the caretaker Mammy, the loud-talking Sapphire, and the seductive Jezebel—in addition to emerging images, such as the unstable Crazy Black Bitch (CBB) and the constant overachieving Superwoman, may affect Black women’s professional goals, work relationships, and overall organizational experiences” (Reynolds-Dobbs et al, 2008, p.130-131, DOI, 10.1177/0894845308325645).

 

So, sometimes it simply doesn’t matter how much of a “workface” we put on, how much overtime we put in—due to the overpowering negative history of the “angry Black woman” stereotype, for us the glass ceiling is still significantly lower.

 

Social theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw reminds us that the law does not recognise intersectionality and therefore, as Black women we cannot look to the law as our saviour.

 

Unfortunately as a Black woman, you just have to be your own.