When a television critic for the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley, referred to Shonda Rhimes as an “angry black woman,” in a recent article (that I will not link) twitter went wild. It was filled with many black women including Ms. Rhimes appalled at the author for characterizing her in that way. The author went on to say that Ms. Rhimes’ characters such as Miranda Bailey from Grey’s Anatomy, Olivia Pope from Scandal, and now Annalise Keating from How to Get Away with Murder (who’s creator is not Shonda Rhimes, rather it’s Peter Nowalk) are successful women despite being the “angry black women.” The phrase “angry black woman,” is a tool used to silence black women and discredit their anger. As a black woman, I am angry that Ms. Stanley chose to perpetuate a stereotype that is not only false but demeaning, and disguise it as a compliment.
As if referring to Ms. Rhimes as an “angry black woman” wasn’t enough, the Stanley then goes on to say that they casted a “less classically beautiful” African American woman, Viola Davis, as Annalise Keating of How to Get Away with Murder. If you have never seen Viola Davis, she is gorgeous and exudes elegance. What does “less classically beautiful” even mean? When I searched classically beautiful it returned countless white faces, so the assumption would be that less classically beautiful is anybody other than white. Countless black women on twitter responded with a mockery of the phrase “less classically beautiful” with gorgeous pictures of themselves. You can see examples below.
It’s for reasons like this that black feminism exists. Ms. Stanley never claimed to be a feminist and I don’t believe her to be. However, I used her article as an example to bring forward some of the many issues black women face on a daily that white women aren’t aware of and do not understand. Black women are overlooked, characterized as angry, mocked, and imitated. Black feminism was birthed because our needs were not met with mainstream feminism. Our needs were not understood. Our needs were even ignored. We have the right to be angry, and that doesn’t make us the “angry black woman,” it makes us angry. One must understand a black woman’s story, to understand her fight
Asha (in all my less classically beautiful glory.)