Passion, in my opinion, is one of the greatest emotions to feel and even more beautiful to witness coming from another human being.
Unfortunately, women of color, particularly African-American women, aren’t afforded this emotion based on socially-constructed stereotypes of the way our emotions are conveyed. We have to skip the passion and go straight for anger, according to these stereotypes. That’s where the “Angry Black Woman” was born. Now, the conversations that other people don’t want to know about or hear about from the African-American woman, no matter the importance, are labeled as angry rants instead of passion-backed truths.
At the 2015 VMA’s, Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus had a tense exchange of words prompted by Minaj’s expression via Twitter about the way African-American women are treated within the music industry and the merit on which VMA awards are awarded to artists just over a month prior to the show.
Cyrus took away a chance for the world to think for themselves about Minaj’s statement that regarded how the media and music industry downplay African-American success. In doing this, she also created a vivid image of how insecurities can prompt people to wipe their own guilt away for being afforded privileges that aren’t equally afforded to everyone else.
And to that I say: only a hit dog hollers and Miley was screaming loud enough for all to hear.
If Cyrus’s attempt to cool Minaj down and to show that she is an ally of African-American women in the music industry was to say, “I lost this award back in 2008 and I was fine with it. Whatever, because it’s no big deal. It’s just an award and I persevered. So here are the nominees still vying for your vote. Congratulations, Nicki,” there’s a better way to go about it and that includes acknowledging the real issue at hand.
There is nothing wrong with being an ally of the African-American community, but they can’t speak on or address what specific experiences or life as a whole should look like because those who aren’t members of the African-American race will never have to experience it for themselves. Those who are allies only have knowledge of what people from that community choose to show or tell them, therefore no one has the right to tell African-Americans how they should handle anything that has to do with their specific race and culture.
In a recent interview with New York Times where Cyrus was asked about the Twitter conversation, she said, “If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, [Minaj] would be heard and I would respect [her] statement. But I don’t respect [her] statement because of the anger that came with it.”
It was odd that she saw the tweets as angry, instead of recognizing that Minaj was addressing a concern about African-American women in the music industry. Out of all the feelings that Minaj’s tweets could’ve evoked, why anger? But since Cyrus felt an angry vibe, why didn’t she address the cause of the anger and the content of Minaj’s tweets? She definitely took the time out to put on her tone-policing badge but never did she acknowledge the real issue behinds Minaj’s commentary.
As the dictionary would explain to us, anger brings hostility. I personally don’t think Minaj was tweeting in hostility, but rather bringing awareness to something that affects her community as not only an African-American woman but also an artist. Cyrus had no right to step in and devalue Minaj’s words in the interview that followed the Twitter feud. She invalidated Minaj’s point and dismissed her statements as anger for not getting chosen for an award, when really it was over an issue much bigger than that. As a Caucasian woman, Cyrus should have stayed in her space instead of overreaching and telling a woman of color how she should feel about how she is treated, and to anyone who thinks otherwise, with the heart of Nicki Minaj I ask you, what’s really good? Dismissing African-American women by calling them angry or mad is minimizing them and their voices, and ultimately negating their entire statement and position like it never happened.
African-American women aren’t always angry, mad or bitter when it comes to getting passionate about an issue we believe in. When we speak, it comes from the heart, experiences and emotions unspoken, from walking a path in life where not only do you experience discrimination for being a woman, but even more so for being an African-American woman. Do not silence us by dismissing us as angry because we told you the truth about a real issue that we are passionate about and it’s not what you wanted to hear, because we talk from a place that touches the depths of our souls and you don’t know how to handle it, because we didn’t water down our words for delicate or selective ears or because we wouldn’t accept poor excuses for why we are counted out and slept on. Don’t call us angry or ghetto because our voice tones went up an octave. We have a right to feel, to think, and above all else, we have a right to voice those emotions and feelings without being told to calm down. So for future reference, the next time you get into a heated discussion with a woman of color and feel the urge to say, “Whoa why are you so angry?” Please excuse her anger, she’s just being passionate.
Collegian Columnist Chynna Fayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChynnaFayne.