I started writing a post on how black women are policed when it comes to our emotions. I pulled reference to Serena Williams’ public display at frustration over her recent US Open tennis final and how this was instantly characterized by the world media as brutish, aggressive and a host of other negative words I don’t care to revisit. The basic gist was the media were lazy and fell back on the overused ‘angry black woman’ stereotype. I worked on the post for over a week, yet no matter how many times I revisited it, I felt it wasn’t eloquent enough, so kept on parking it. In the end, I deleted all but one paragraph, which was left open on my overcrowded web browser.
Last night, my daughter asked to use my laptop for some homework and read my paragraph on the frustrations I felt on the angry black woman stereotype. She read about how angry and sad it made me feel to see arguably one of the world’s greatest tennis players reduced to a mocking, racist cartoon version of herself. Later, she came down to me and asked what that one paragraph was for. I explained I was trying to write an article for Saabirah but had failed to find the right words to portray the empathy I felt. My daughter urged me to finish writing it as she’d found it interesting and said that she’d really like to hear more. My daughter is ten. She looked at me with such conviction that it reminded me that my words are just as worthy as the next and they matter. They matter to her, and if they only worked to touch her and open a conversation in our own household, then that would make it worthwhile in itself.
As a woman, I feel that our emotions are policed as it is. We shouldn’t seem to be too happy or too sad. We should not talk of our successes or magic moments in case we come across boastful. Or share our bad ones in case we are seen to be overly emotional. Add being a black woman to the mix and we can be seen as aggressive if we are upset or angry, without empathy just eye rolling as a reaction to our God given right to be human.