Coffee Rhetoric: Madness & Reality Radio: Angry Black Women, Hoodrats, & 'Othering'

February 15, 2013

Madness & Reality Radio: Angry Black Women, Hoodrats, & 'Othering'

This past Wednesday night, I was invited to weigh-in on Madness & Reality Radio’s hot-button topic: ‘The Voyeuristic Fetish of Angry Black Women’in hopes of contributing to a nuanced conversation about the 'Angry Black Woman' trope; but alas, as most conversations about Black women do, the discourse veered a bit off course. Additionally, due to technical difficulties, I wasn't able to be patched through successfully, so I could offer my two-cents, as planned. I sat on the sidelines clenching my mug of hot apple cider, racked with a wicked case of the WTFs; caused by guest commentary from a popular pod-caster at the helm of a movement called, “Die Hoodrat Die”, who calls himself HaterArazzi. Most of the more incendiary comments came from male-callers (undoubtedly loyal fans of Generation X forumsTommy Sotomayor HaterAzzi's podcast)- who were able to get patched through and make some incendiary comments about “those” Black women who act ‘ratchet’.

Rippa, the show’s host, wanted to delve a little deeper into the anti-Black women sentiments manifested in “Bitches Be Like...” memes, viral internet videos of Black women in urban America fighting, and reality TV show behavior that’s been pervading popular culture and social media because let's be real, the commodification of Black female pathology is popular and lucrative machine in mass media.  As if the infamous Cleveland bus brawl video wasn't cringe-worthy enough, a recent one showing a group of Black women (and their children), whose behavior was admittedly off-putting, enmeshed in a confrontation outside a downtown Atlanta mall with a security guard named Darien Long. Long recorded the altercation, and himself tasering one of the women. Long posted the video online, where folks sneered, jeered and cheered, before Reddit crowdsourced more than $20,000 to gift him, so he could get "better and more gear".

Long, who's been employed at the mall for about a year, allegedly has tasered mall patrons before and often records his confrontations, which make their way online in a series titled 'Kick Ass Mall Cop'. Long claims that he wants to help rid the neighborhood of unsavory elements, so he can see businesses flourish. Which is all well and good, but 'the road to hell'... etc and so-forth. My first inclination would be to ask him if he attends any local Chamber of Commerce or neighborhood planning committee meetings; or if he mentors young at-risk Black women and men in his spare time. Because I honestly don’t see how recording poor Black women and/or men behaving badly, to prove just how 'kick ass' he is, helps encourage any sense of community building. And since Long has developed somewhat of a cult following for his Otis-like approach to mall security, I’m now left wondering if his freshly minted ‘I’m not the one’ reputation doesn't serve as a stage to continue providing content for social media consumption. And that he prompted strangers to gift him with thousands of dollars, comes as no surprise, since people cum cream leche in their pants, whenever loud-mouthed Black women get put in their place, whether it's deserved or not.

The moral majority on Madness & Reality Radio disagreed that their critique of Black female pathology had anything to do with self-hate or intra-racism. And I somewhat agree, since the commentary was more overcast with cumulus misogyny. The line of demarcation that was drawn- “us” Blacks vs. “those” hoodrats (and “hoodwolves”)- was pretty clear. And the division is not unlike the “those people”/othering commentary that surrounds discussions about racism, when some folks want to emphasize their disdain for Blacks.
When one male listener called in and proceeded to liken ‘hoodrats’ (a term I despise, by the way) to “animals” who “breed all over the place", before being cut off at the quick by the host, I damn near blew a gasket over the flagrant ignorance.

Listen, those in the Black community who love to play respectability politics, particularly when Black women are at the receiving end of the derision, can tsk tsk about how abhorrent a specific segment of Black women are, all we want, but what does the act of shaming accomplish, exactly? Who are some of you trying to impress, when you loudly declare how vast you've made the divide between yourselves and the disenfranchised, in a bid to prove how respectable and 'unlike them' you are?

As for the stereotypes about the hulking Angry Black Woman goes, I've surmised a long time ago, that no matter what any of us do, we’ll always continue to come under harsh scrutiny; whether it be from underneath the white gaze, Black men, other people of color, or other Black women. Whether we’re docile, educated, upwardly mobile, successful, or have a recurring date to have high-tea with the Queen of England, society will always stigmatize Black female behavior. Black women aren't saints. None of us are infallible- we’re subject to err, hurt, make stupid choices, and experience the range of circumstances and emotions just like everyone else gets to work through- but because we are expected to continue playing mule alongside the Black male ego and remain unflappable but silent, our humanity goes unrecognized.


Anti-Black woman sentiment and stigmatization doesn't have a genuine or vested interest in what it is, exactly, that’s making young Black women tick and lash out, because it's much easier to gaslight, grind and ax, and to continue marginalizing. Even the First Lady of The Free World isn't above the scathing critiques or having stereotypes ascribed to her...

During a 2012 interview with Gayle King, in response to a book written by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, in which she frames the FLOTUS as being difficult and forceful, Michelle Obama said she didn't read the book and suggested that she, more or less, navigates the negative tropes ascribed to Black women the way I had to program myself to learn to do, more than five years ago; she has removed herself from the scrutiny that works to silence us from having a voice and hinder us from evolving, and says she's made peace with not being able to please everyone– “ There will always be people who don't like me. (…) “It's a game, in so many ways, that doesn't fit. Who can write about how I feel? What third person can tell me how I feel?” she said.

That valid critiques and conversations need to be had (among ourselves), about the public displays of destructive and at-risk behavior young Black women are caught exhibiting, goes without saying. But they need to be productive and broken down accordingly, because it's definitely a lot deeper than 5-6 minute viral video excerpts. We need to ask legitimate questions; like why many of us support websites like World Star Hip Hop, who thrive on seeing Black women (and people) under duress? and why we continue to feed into the incendiary commentary it prompts? And while it makes us (yes me too, sometimes) recoil, dismissing a poor Black woman as a hoodrat because of her lower socioeconomic lot in life, or to say she isn't worthy of her humanity, mental health or rehabilitation, and deserves to have violent acts perpetrated against her for shits and giggles, is troubling; regardless of how far away you distance yourself from it. 

For those Black women, like myself, Michelle Obama, Toni Morrison, and others, who have the mental capacity and wherewithal to remove yourselves  from the critical gaze of people who don’t deem you as worthy of protection and who’d rather write you off as angry and bitter, and who rejoice at seeing you at your lowest point, do so immediately… for your own growth, self-preservation and peace of mind; and if you feel inclined or have the resources to do so, mentor those young women and girls who haven’t mastered the art of navigating their circumstances. Because continuing to pander to folks who talk over you and are adamant about telling you who they think you are, it's a destructive dance.