The Angry Black Woman: Why I have a Right to Defend Myself

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEFEND MYSELF

We’ve all heard about the “angry black woman” stereotype, but last week I unexpectedly found myself perpetuating it for the first time (at least professionally).

Let me give you some background:

A businessman approached me to do freelance work for his firm. He contributes to my employer’s website; so I’ve worked with him on occasion.


Needing the extra money and credentials for my freelancing career, I accepted his proposal. We drew up a contract and I got to work.

The assignment was for a guaranteed four weeks, with possible work thereafter. The first two weeks were fine as he reminded me that I was a talented writer and deserved to be paid well for that.

The second two weeks came and went, and all was fine… or so I thought.

You see, my job was to “re-write” articles for him. Basically, I find his already published articles online and make them sound better. Over the course of two weeks I had to rewrite six articles (600+ words each). You can imagine that on top of my already 8-hour full-time job where I have to write my own two articles each day (plus other duties), this was a lot of work. And although each story took a good chunk of my time, I bit the bullet and worked hard to produce quality content.

After I sent him rewrite #3, he called me to specifically praise my work, saying it was the best he’s read and how happy he was with the content. Understand why, in my eyes, all was going well (as stated above).

Yet, last week after sending him rewrite #6 (and after spending the last two hours on this story), this businessman calls me… and ladies… this time his words weren’t so nice.

“Shala, I am unhappy with your work. I know you can write better. I am unsatisfied and I don’t want to pay you the full amount.”

Can you imagine my shock? Talk about a curve ball.

The week before my writing is phenomenal and one week later it’s below average? I was totally confused.

So, as he continued to talk, I tried to speak my peace. Yet, each time I attempted to talk, he cut me off. He would not allow me to talk, as if I were a child who needed to listen to an adult.

Y’all know this was beginning to irk my nerves, right?

So, when I tried yet again to speak, he says, “Shala, I am not going to argue with you. We are adults and I’m not going to argue with you. We can discuss this or I’m getting off the phone.”

Okay, the “irk” is quickly turning into frustration at this point. I say, “How can we discuss anything if you don’t allow me to speak? You get to say how you feel and why you’re not paying me yet when I try to talk I’m cut off with ‘I don’t want to argue.”’

Then, ladies, he raised his voice.

Okay, that “frustration” has now kicked into defense mode. So, I elevate my tone a little as well, making sure my statements are direct and confident.

Needless to say, the convo did not end well. And to be honest, I hung up the phone feeling bad.

I am a young business professional, and as someone who doesn’t want to establish their brand as the “angry black woman,” I wasn’t too pleased with how I handled the conversation.

So, taking the humble, high road, I sent him an email apologizing for raising my voice and for his lack of satisfaction with my work. As I did on the phone, I thanked him for the opportunity.

And do you all know what he emailed me back? Thanks Shala.

That’s it. Thanks Shala. As if I was the only person who raised their voice or had any reason to accept all the blame. As if he was justified in his actions, and I had come to my senses that I was not.

This upset me all over again. And it was not because of his response, but because of mine.

Why did I question my feelings toward the matter? Why did I question my expressions of frustration and disappointment? He surely didn’t. He did not feel bad whatsoever with his response to his unhappiness with my work and how he approached me about it… so why did I?

Then it hit me: I was afraid of the angry black woman image.

I was too busy thinking that I didn’t want this businessman, a white businessman at that, to view me as unprofessional and an “angry black woman” who doesn’t know how to control her emotions in business.

Yet, my focus on his views overshadowed the truth: I had the right to feel how I felt. Whether that was anger, disappointment and/or frustration, I had the right to feel this way, especially when someone places me in a position to do so.

He raised his voice at me. He kept cutting me off. He would not allow me to speak as two adults do when truly discussing a matter.

I am a grown woman; I am a businesswoman and I deserve to be respected just as much as anyone else. If anyone violates this, you’re darn skippy I can get angry. And it just so happens that I’m black and a woman. Black people get angry, but so do Whites, Latinos and Asians. Women get angry, and so do men.

I had to learn from this unfortunate incident that it’s okay to feel how I feel, especially when my feelings are justified. No, a black woman doesn’t have to go off cursing or yelling to get her point across when she’s upset, but there’s nothing wrong with elevating the tone of your voice and speaking directly and firmly to get your point across.

There is NOTHING wrong with demanding the respect you so rightfully deserve.

I did not deserve for my opportunity to speak and defend myself (or even ask a question about his views) to be continuously taken away. I did not deserve for him to raise his voice at me. I did not deserve to be treated like a child instead of the client, businesswoman and professional that he hired.

Ladies, we are not less than. Not in business, not at home, not in society. And if anyone tries to treat us as such, we most assuredly deserve to defend ourselves without fear of being labeled “angry,” “black,” or “woman,” as if all three are things to be ashamed of.

Besides, I wasn’t even angry; I was taken back and frustrated by his approach. But, a few hours later when I discovered he had in fact published one of my re-written stories that he was just “so unhappy with” ONE WEEK PRIOR to our conversation… oh please believe I was angry.

But that’s another story…

Have you ever felt conflicted about expressing your emotions for fear of the “angry black woman” label? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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BIO

Service is her passion, writing is her platform, uplifting women and the Black Community is her purpose. Shala Marks is a writer, editor and soon-to-be published author. Through her work, Marks aspires to demonstrate “The Craft of Writing, and the Art of Efficacy.” She has a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University. Connect with her at: http://shalamarks.com/ and stay up-to-date by following @shala_marks.

12 Comments

  1. Hi Shala,

    Sista listen, you were well within your right to confront this situation in the manner that you described here. The “businessman” has an obligation (as do you) of professionalism since the two of you engaged in a business transaction together. However, because he saw you as a target to “get over on”, he came at you extremely unprofessionally in the end because he didn’t want to pay you (or at least that’s what I gather from the article).

    We as black women get this ridiculous stigma put on us quite a bit and for the sistas out there who are unsure, insecure, or just plain ole don’t know who and what they are and what powers we hold, allow foolishness like this to go on. You have to understand that society wants this inferiority complex to continue to infiltrate and pollute our minds, so that they can continue to exact control over us. You did EXACTLY what you were supposed too. Professional or not, two adults are supposed to be able to engage in a conversation with one another without another person treating someone like a child (and in this case, that’s what this guy did). The fact that he wasn’t open to hearing you, let alone having to own his part in the situation, lets you know who and what you were dealing with. I venture to say that he was hoping that you would be one of those passive women who just took his verbal assassination and went back on doing his work. Good for you for standing up for yourself. Standing up for yourself and stating your position (and protecting it) does NOT make you an “angry black woman”!

    Last point-I’ve learned in my travels in life that we as black women, don’t usually get the respect we deserve UNTIL we turn our “angry black woman” switch on. I’ve experienced this too many times. We can smile, speak in a passive tone, be in agreement with everything and STILL get walked all over. BULL!!!!! Let them know who and what they’re dealing with and shut down all the buffoonery before it begins. This is NOT the same as being mad or angry all the time; this is about respect.

    *Steps off soapbox, throws down mic, flips (imaginary) weave, and walks off* 🙂

    Keep doing you and keep growing Shala!

  2. I knew he was going to use your work, Shala. Keep fighting and get what is due you. Don’t let him use your work for free. I personally don’t give a damn about being thought of as angry. I’d keep after his ass until he paid me. When he stole from you, ish got personal. LOL. I wouldn’t let that slide. He’d know what amgry/crazy looked like if he’d done that to me.

  3. Alot of times people try to say that to keep us quiet. They think if they call us an angry black women that will shut us up. But everyone gets angry and it is usually for just reasons.

  4. Why the Black woman has JUSTIFIABLE anger, that they should NEVER apolotize for.

    Misplaced anger is a symptom of DEPRESSION

    ALL women NEED the following to be their BEST selves:
    Love
    sex
    paid what they’re worth
    a father for their children
    free of drug use and drug abusers
    fun times
    love, love and more love.

    Even with that said, I will say that NO WOMAN OR MAN CAN AFFORD TO WALK AROUND PERPETUALLY ANGRY AT THE WORLD AND STILL EXPECT TO ATTRACT POSITIVE ENERGY AND LOVE.

    So in the face of it all, try hard to be patient, kind, loving, assertive but not outwardly anger at those who did nothing to deserve it, IF YOU EXPECT TO OVERCOME.

  5. “So, as he continued to talk, I tried to speak my peace. Yet, each time I attempted to talk, he cut me off. ”

    1. When he was talking you should have just let him say whatever he needed to get off his chest, then you could have came in with what you had to say after he was done talking. He’s writing the check, shut up and listen!

    2. If his claims are valid then use corrective action

    3. If his claim aren’t valid then ask him what type of remedy would he like for this situation, and or see an arbiter or file a law suit.

    4. Do say I apologize or sorry, thinking that someone is going to say it back. It’s not about image, humbleness, or anything else beside do what you believe to be right and or just.

    5. A) You could have said Mr…. can I call you back when we’re more calm.
    B) Mr…. I do not appreciate you raising your voice at me.
    C) Don’t make me come through this phone! jp

    6. FYI, when your cutting check and unhappy with said work, you’d want to speak without someone trying to speak every time you took a breath.

  6. Thanks for reading and sharing, ladies. @HELPER at first when he was coming at me crazy (and it completely caught me off guard), I tried to interject, and he would not allow me to speak. So, then I’d listen. Yet, after he kept stating, “I don’t want to pay you for this,” he wouldn’t say anything like he was making his final statement and feelings known to me. And at these times I tried to ask questions and state my claims, but he’d just cut me off saying, “I don’t want to argue about this.” As I wrote, it was not about me interjecting, but more about the fact that he could say how he felt and it was supposed to be final without me being able to say anything.

    Also, the problem was he did not offer constructive criticism; all he said was “I’m unhappy with the work and I know you can do better.” No specifics, as stated I sent him 6 stories, but nothing specific or any feedback from any of them. It’s one thing to say you’re unhappy with a person’s work and quite another to explain why.

    And to @ SISTA my cousin is a lawyer. We have since reached an agreement for him to pay me the full amount I deserve.

  7. Well said. To paraphrase her greatness, Maya Angelou “success is liking who you are, what you do, and how you do it.” Let the rest kick rocks!

  8. Helper you seem to missed the point of her argument.

    “So, as he continued to talk, I tried to speak my peace. Yet, each time I attempted to talk, he cut me off. ”

    1. When he was talking you should have just let him say whatever he needed to get off his chest, then you could have came in with what you had to say after he was done talking. He’s writing the check, shut up and listen!
    _——————————————
    He was NOT writing the check, so she had every right to be ASSERTIVE. He was finding every reason to JUSTIFY his position and wanted to hear nothing from her which is peculiar because prior her praised her for making him look good.

    From this side of the story he seemingly USED Shayla for her services and misled her in the end to AVOID PAYING Shayla for IMPROVING his work and by default padding his ego.
    _—————————————————————

    Shayla I am disappointed that you attempt to be professional and adult by APOLOGIZING when in actuality you didn’t owe him an apology. The only thing your apology served to do was bolster his position and feed your insecurity/complex about black women being angry. You were not angry. You appeared to have been blindsided by his sudden dissatisfaction of your editorial services.

    Shayla, I believe you are ENTITLED to compensation to the point of his satisfaction and beyond. He commissioned you for a service. Don’t ever apologize for being assertive and using your voice.

  9. Thanks for reading and sharing, ladies. @HELPER at first when he was coming at me crazy (and it completely caught me off guard), I tried to interject, and he would not allow me to speak. So, then I’d listen. Yet, after he kept stating, “I don’t want to pay you for this,” he wouldn’t say anything like he was making his final statement and feelings known to me. And at these times I tried to ask questions and state my claims, but he’d just cut me off saying, “I don’t want to argue about this.” As I wrote, it was not about me interjecting, but more about the fact that he could say how he felt and it was supposed to be final without me being able to say anything.

    Also, the problem was he did not offer constructive criticism; all he said was “I’m unhappy with the work and I know you can do better.” No specifics, as stated I sent him 6 stories, but nothing specific or any feedback from any of them. It’s one thing to say you’re unhappy with a person’s work and quite another to explain why.

    And to @ SISTA my cousin is a lawyer. We have since reached an agreement for him to pay me the full amount I deserve.

  10. Yes this is something I deal with more than I care to admit. But I am working on it. I see my white counterparts complain and whine about everything they are unhappy with and express themselves without a filter and sometimes I look at them as if they are from another planet. However, sometimes it’s necessary to show out.

  11. @POV…your wrote:

    Shayla I am disappointed that you attempt to be professional and adult by APOLOGIZING when in actuality you didn’t owe him an apology. The only thing your apology served to do was bolster his position and feed your insecurity/complex about black women being angry. You were not angry. You appeared to have been blindsided by his sudden dissatisfaction of your editorial services.

    This was the reason I decided to write this article. Unfortunately, it took me realizing that I didn’t owe him an apology and I was not feeding into this stereotype AFTER I apologized to him and he simply replied “thank you” as if I was completely in the wrong. But, like all unfortunate events in life, I’ve taken this as a learning opportunity.

    You also wrote:
    Shayla, I believe you are ENTITLED to compensation to the point of his satisfaction and beyond. He commissioned you for a service. Don’t ever apologize for being assertive and using your voice.

    This has certainly taught me that I won’t be apologizing anymore! Thanks for reading and sharing your POV.

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