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.

 

Posted in Blog

Racial Segregation @Gigs

Tonight I went to see Sunflower Bean with my girlfriend at KOKO at Camden. I was apprehensive about it however, it turned out to be a pretty good gig!

Why the apprehension you ask? Because I’m a Black woman in a room full of white people, unprotected. The last gig I went to was to see Feeder at the O2 Brixton Academy, where I was attacked in the crowd and I definitely feel like it was racially provoked: I was in the mosh pit, the white people didn’t like seeing me there and attacked me. I’ve been in mosh pits before, most recently at a Wolf Alice gig at Alexandra Palace and I was fine. In fact, I had the time of my life. It always depends on the vibe of the crowd and this Feeder crowd was definitely aggressive. I ended up leaving the gig early, because I was too upset to stay and I was so anxious about being around white crowds I missed the next gig I was supposed to go to the following week.

Sometimes I wonder if there is an unwritten rule that as a Black woman, I’m supposed to be at the back at gigs, and then I’m safe. At Wolf Alice I was in the middle, so perhaps I was pushing my luck, but tonight I was at the back so everybody left me alone. In fact this was my view at one point:

Is that fair, just because of the colour of my skin? Even though I’ve paid the same amount as everybody else? And I noticed that the other Black people in the crowd were in the same position as me.

Is there an unwritten segregation law for gigs? I’m trying to think back to the gigs I went to when I was younger with my Indian friend and come to think of it, even then we were hassled quite aggressively because we were always at the front – at the time, we just joked that it was the white girls getting their knickers in a twist, because they wanted to be closer to the lead singer and we were in their path to daydreams of losing their virginities… but now I wonder if it was all racially motivated?

Sometimes I go to gigs and the only people of colour are the staff in the cloakroom, on security and on the bar, but just me in the crowd. Would you believe me if I said that it never even occurred to me until I became aware of my own Blackness?

But even as my culture changes and henceforth my taste in music, old influences still hold ties upon my heartstrings, even if they don’t give a shit about racism and Black lives.

Furthermore, racial microaggressions as well as racist aggressive culture itself, has only become more open and explicit in Britain over the years. Brexit was like a red flag for these racists; public spaces are no longer safe and a simple “please leave me alone” will now no longer suffice. The Feeder gig was proof of that.

I tagged Feeder in some tweets on a very active Twitter account, about what happened to me at their gig and they didn’t even respond. Rest assured, that relationship is over. And as much as I love live music, I’m starting to become weary about where I’m spending my Black pounds.


Posted in Blog

Besties

Before the end of brand beginning of 2018, I lost two close friends due to my new outspokenness.
The first was a friend from university, a white guy. I have to mention the colour of his skin because the reason we fell out was because of my wokeness. He labelled me a “social justice warrior” (which I’ve always been), but more so particularly because of my openness about racism. He wasn’t comfortable with it, decided we couldn’t be friends anymore and that was on December 31st.
I’d never come across the term “social justice warrior” before and actually found it hilarious that my fighting for social justice had only become a problem now that I had decided to direct my attentions towards the injustices of my people of colour. My girlfriend said that people who use the term “social justice warrior” are massive Nazis and white supremacists. I was shocked, because I’d known this guy for over ten years… and then it clicked. I’d never been Black to him, until now.
I never really talk about this friend, but believe me when I say it, this break-up broke my heart. Meeting at the age of eighteen at university we were pretty much kids and we were also both cancerians. We were both kindred spirits, we also lived together during the first two years of uni, both studied the same course, both came from incredibly fucked up families. Even when we fell out at the end of our second year, we got back in touch with each other after graduation and never stopped talking since.
Before I left London for uni, my sister and I were bullied by a group of black girls from church and I decided that I didn’t wanna fuck with black girls anymore and he heard all about it. (This wasn’t me generalising an entire group. I will do a separate post on this.) As my best friend at the time, I just thought that he was being a sympathetic ear, but wow how the slots are falling into place. His dad was also incredibly racist: the bull in me now would’ve gone raging for that red flag big time, but the naive girl at the time assumed that as he was friends with me, he clearly wasn’t racist.
Anyway, on 31st December 2017, he decided to terminate our friendship because I was woke.
After many tears I now of course know that I’m better off.

 

The second was the bestie from Bumble.
I’m still trying to figure this one out. I was talking about a Kanye West song, which turned into a debate about institutional racism over WhatsApp, which turned into a one-sided argument about me having been a bad friend and screenshot evidence that she had been collecting throughout our friendship taken out of context to prove that I was a bitch, always had been, leading to me being blocked on WhatsApp. I say one-sided, because I don’t get dragged into arguments anymore. I actually took a week off of university last month, because of stress-triggered seizures which then led to the flu. I told her to take time out but girls love to argue, so I’m sitting in a lecture about Institutional Racism in Psychiatry and my phone is blowing up with messages from her about how I don’t understand institutional racism (irony!), how I’m a bitch, how I’m this, how I’m that… You know that wow gif from The Wire… that was my wow moment when I realised I’d been sharing my darkest secrets all of this time with a psycho. She’d taken everything I’d said and used it against me out of context and I knew it was coming. Because I disagreed with her and stood my ground.

 

I like interchanging between books, so one of the books I’m currently reading is A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James and this quote reminds me of Bumble Bestie:

 

Nina Burgess – “I could try to shut her up, but like Ras Trent, Kimmy’s not really talking to you. She only needs a witness, not an audience.” (A Brief History, p.157).

I also recently learnt that South Asian people have a serious issue when it comes to colourism (Bumble Bestie is of South Asian descent).
At times it did feel like she wanted to talk down to me and I thought this was because of her Oxford education, but now I’m also beginning to wonder if it was also a colourism issue to. Did she even know she was doing it?
It infuriated her even more when “darkie” here argued back 😂

 

The girl was a c*nt. She did NOT like being told a different opinion. About anything. She could say that the sky was blue and you could say “with clouds” and she would screw up her face/ question why you were “questioning” her.

I stayed friends with her for too long. 

All because we connected during a time (Finchley), when I was incredibly lonely and broken. On the other hand, I just also felt like I’d finally found a friend who understood my mental health and sympathised with my physical condition. However, in all of that screenshotting drama, there was no regard that I might be having a seizure just because she wanted to prove a point.

However, in all of that screenshotting drama, there was no regard that I might be having a seizure just because she wanted to prove a point.

🤷🏾‍♀️

C*nt.

Both of these people are unfortunately emotionally unstable people, therefore I am trying not to let it cloud my judgement. Furthermore, I won’t let it deter me from voicing my opinions. I spent years keeping my intelligent voice silent afraid of conflicts like this.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Are Mental health, epilepsy and race intersectional?

I guess some of you of might be wondering why I’ve chosen to take the direction of race of my blog, as well as epilepsy and mental health.

It’s because for me, as a woman of colour, I’ve learnt that it’s all intersectional.

I’ll give you an example: as you know I’m currently studying online. We have a WhatsApp group social group; We don’t always get along, however when we do it’s pretty fantastic. I’m not the only Black woman on the course, however I do seem to be the only vocal one. That could be because of the explicit racism I’ve experienced which has made me so, plus the fact that I’m the youngest on the course and we’re paying a hell of a lot for this course. Therefore, when people aren’t happy with the course, I’m always the “Katniss Everdeen” of the group, forcing everybody to fight for what we’re paying for. Sometimes I do take breaks for mental health reasons. Sometimes, I also like to just observe the group, and there is one white woman, originally from UK, now living in China, who has a superiority complex, talks down to a lot of the women especially, some just ignore her completely, some run to her in worship even though she is passive aggressively rude and rarely goes out of her way to help, unlike the rest of us in the group!

Over the weekend, she then tried to make me look like the “angry black woman stereotype” when she quite rudely told everybody to stop moaning, get over themselves and get on with it. We’re all frustrated with the disorganisation of the University, so the WhatsApp group is also where we come to vent and encourage. I never take kindly to people telling me what to do, especially when it’s some prissy white woman I don’t even like, let alone know. Clearly the message was rude, yet nobody else in the group said anything, so I stepped up. As the “angry black woman“.

Only after I sent my message, did somebody else message after, but it was very clear that they had waited.

The prissy white woman tried to retract by saying that she hadn’t meant to offend, however she failed to apologise – which I pointed out – therefore, failing to step off of her high horse. I reminded her that although this was a group for sharing information about the course, this was also a social group for venting and referring to it as “moaning” is demeaning and we will not be dictated to. She then only directly apologised to the other person – another white woman – and not to me; my only response was: “sorry you feel that way” as if my feelings were unwarranted, and I was being unreasonable, as”angry black woman“.

Later on, others felt like they couldn’t talk openly about their disappointment about their bad grades, as that would be “moaning” and I began to cry to my partner, as this was beginning to affect my mental health.

Then at 4.30am this morning, prissy white woman sends a message to let us all know that she is leaving the group. She did apologise for offending us, however it was nowhere near a sincere apology. She then left. The message woke me up and I haven’t slept since.

Lack of sleep of a trigger of seizures, as is stress.

And when my partner left for work this morning, the first thing I did was get out of bed to clean obsessively (I also have OCD).

And this is why, mental health, epilepsy and race are intersectional.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

When Racial Microaggressions Become Aggressive Racism

White people are funny.


One minute you’re having a conversation, which without your consent then becomes a debate. 

But that’s ok, because you can hold your own. But then there’s more of them than there are of you, so what do you do?



Well, you still hold your own because this is a debate, except they gang up against you, because you’re more intelligent than them and suddenly this is an argument and now they’re overstepping the mark.

Now you decide to respectfully leave.

Some are blocking your exits; some chase you down alleyways; some follow you down the staircase.


But this isn’t real life. This is social media.  


I took myself out of a situation on Facebook and now I’m being stalked on Twitter, and there’s nothing that Twitter can do because they’re not saying anything nasty to me. They just weren’t friends with me on Facebook, and I fell out with a mutual friend of ours, who didn’t like the way things ended, plus they also happen to be the bullies I mentioned, who were part of the “debate” and have somehow tracked me down on Twitter to ask me “what my problem is?” with unbelievably poor spelling, punctuation and grammar 🤪


These women were implicitly and aggressively racist.

They were aggressive in their methods, yet did not realise that they were being racist and this is the problem with white people today in Britain. They allowed their insecurities about themselves to get the better of them, which controlled their emotions and turned them into bullies; perhaps my friend has always been racist or perhaps she lost herself in this moment amongst her schema (social environment)… who knows? 


As for her mother… well… we all know what Freud says about mothers, so there isn’t much left to say is there really?! The fact that she would have to fabricate stories, on behalf of her daughter about my disability to try and alienate my Twitter followers says it all really doesn’t it?

These are the sort of women who will say:

But her nephew is mixed raced, how is she racist?

I have five Black friends, how am I a racist?

Mate, my partner is white, and most of my friends used to be too, however l have no problem in declaring my issues with White people, because of their problems with me.


I’ve experienced ontological insecurity before: always in breakdowns of relationships with white women, and therefore, I know the warning signals. Another reason why these women came to find me on Twitter was clearly to gaslight me, which just proves really that they really are racists. So if that’s the kind of person my friend was, based on her behaviour, plus her mother’s and friend’s too, then I’ve had a fucking lucky escape. 

You have a right to protect your mental health 💜

Posted in Blog

Inspirational U – Natural Care: Hair, Mind and Body

Hey! 

My second beauty blog post of the week! Well, it’s also a natural health post too.

Yesterday I went to a Natural Hair Talk, run by Inspirational U:

The panel was made of all beautiful black ladies (and one man) with natural hair, including the Editor from Natural Hair Weekly

I was so inspired (haha see what I did there) that I went out and bought some stuff online straight away. The main message was what you put into your hair should be as natural and healthy as what you put into your body. 

I’ve been really bad at looking after myself lately, but particularly with looking after my hair. I once was into healthy eating and healthy living, but only because I thought that it would help my seizures and when it didn’t I just gave up. It never occurred to me that 

(a) healthy eating can do wonders for my hair! And 

(b) I am more than my Epilepsy. Why does everything have to be about Epilepsy? Why can’t I just eat healthily because I enjoy it? 

I used to drink tonnes of water, so much so that I would dry up like a raisin if I didn’t get any and one of the women on the panel actually said that yesterday and I thought, why don’t I do that anymore? I just couldn’t be bothered to look after myself. It just became a chore.

I did used to straighten my hair obsessively when I was younger. As Black women we are told that have to look a certain way to conform, otherwise we won’t get a man, get a job. This is especially so when you grow up around white people. White boys didn’t like me with plaits, so I had to straighten my hair every day. Then at the beginning of the year I started going to the hair salon to have Keratin treatment which has done wonders to my hair’s health, however I very rarely use products in my hair. 

Another message I took away from yesterday’s talk was what you put in your hair affects your mind. What chemicals are we putting in our hair? 

Most of the products with the most harmful chemicals are directed towards the black community.

 The ladies on the panel advised us to buy things for our hair that we would either eat or use on our skin. Therefore, I bought avocado butter, castor oil and a blend of plant oils (almond, argan, macadamia, sesame, lavender, rose and ylang-ylang). All of these products I bought on Amazon 🤘🏾 

I applied the avocado butter immediately to my hair and my hands! 

My hair and hands feel lush already! (I have eczema so anything natural that I can apply to my skin too is a bonus.)

As for my body and mind, I’ll be hydrating myself too. I’m not shallow, but my looks are important to me, therefore keeping healthy and losing weight is important. Not being able to be as active as I used to be, is having an extremely negative impact upon my mental health, which is why things like looking after my hair, mind and body in little ways that I can are empowering. 

Posted in Blog

I’m Black, I’m Not Stupid

I wasn’t going to write about this, however I feel like I’ve been backed into a corner and the more I think about it, the more angrier I become and if I don’t get it down “on paper”, then I’ll probably have a seizure.

Last week, I posted a picture of myself with my new glasses, and alluded to the racial microaggressions I’d suffered in my previous employment, to the point where comments were made and I was forced to alter the way I looked, in order to fit in. When the post was shared, one of my white friends responded with:

“are you sure that’s what they meant?”

Eye Roll

Why do white people do that?

 

I’m not going to apologise if that comment upsets you, because I suffered for EIGHT MONTHS.

Every single time I went to one of my University tutors with my concerns, who were both white, their response every single time would be:

“are you sure that’s how you heard it?”

or

“I’m sure that’s not what they meant”

or

“I think you heard what you were feeling, not what was actually said”

 

My concerns were about comments made about my epilepsy, as well as my race.

I may be black, but I’m not fucking stupid.

 

I’m currently reading “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Racism” by Reni Eddo- Lodge:

Reni Eddo-Lodge

When people say that this book was begging to be written, even after everything I had been through this year, as well as the hype on social media, I still thought that it was all hype. I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away. I remember struggling to get through the first chapter, because it was so hard-hitting. I actually had to take a break from reading it and now, I can’t put it down. I remember thinking: “why the fuck don’t they teach us this in school????” (Speaking of school, did you know there were black Tudors??? Because I didn’t! I used to teach about the Tudors as a Learning Support Assistant to young, disillusioned black girls and I had no idea, that there were black Tudors – that’s not in the book by the way, I just happened to stumble upon this book: Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England, Their Presence, Status and Origins by Onyeka, which is on my Amazon wishlist.)

Reni’s book and this year, has made me realise how much of an immigrant I am.

It doesn’t matter that I was born here in Britain, or that I have a British passport; it doesn’t matter that I have a white partner; it doesn’t matter that I’m highly educated; it doesn’t even matter that I have more white friends than Black friends. White people will question my intelligence, my identity, my authority to abode all the fucking time.

This week I went on my first racial protest, following the murder of Rashan Charles, on Saturday 22nd July 2017, at the hands of a white policeman. He was a young Black boy of twenty years old. I’m not denying that he lived a straight life, but I’m definitively and loudly crying out that he did not deserve to die. The people on social media who were saying that he did, were all white – they said he was scum. Thankfully, the white people who were on the protest with us, were not narrow minded, right-wing, heartless, awful people, but brothers and sisters, standing with people of colour, who are tired of being murdered by the state and by white people in authority. I overheard one black man say to the man with the megaphone, that instead of shouting “Black Lives Matter”, we should be saying “all lives matter”, to include everybody who had joined us on the march. Rightfully, the man with the megaphone said no, and I say thankfully because we do have to keep on shouting “Black Lives Matter” until somebody fucking listens.

 

Before the march, we stood outside Stoke Newington Police Station in protest and I was so proud to hear young people of colour, bravely speaking up about their stories of persecution, at the hands of the police, and at the hands of others in authority (especially teachers). As a teacher, I’ve seen young Black people ruthlessly persecuted for “attitude problems”, for the way they stand, the way they wear their hair, etc, etc.

And then get told it’s all in their head. 

Crazy Eyes

When the Government are cutting funds and closing down community centres and youth projects, where else are young people going to go but onto the streets? Which are run by older men and gangs, who bully young people into doing things either they don’t want to do, or make them believe they need to do, in order to survive on these streets they’ve grown up in, with their families?

The role models they need aren’t around, because everything is being gentrified: their towns, even their schools. My school didn’t even want their one of two token black teachers, because I was fucking defective. My kids looked up to me – they told me every day, how awesome it was to finally have a Black English teacher in the school.

The reason why I went on that march on Monday, was not just for Rashan, but for the kids who I used to teach, who I still miss every day. Because what happened to Rashan and SO many others before him, could happen to them.

We need justice.

I’m going to stop now, because I feel I’m ranting.

But for now, I’m going to keep talking about race, because this year I’ve finally woken up thirty-one years too late.

RIP Rashan and love and peace to your family, especially your daughter.

XOXO