This ‘black women have attitude problems’ line is getting old.

obama angry

I have long been aware of the fact that I have a genetic predisposition to having an ‘attitude problem’. Apparently, at any given moment, I am one piece of stray weave away from a catfight and one neck roll removed from crushing any man’s ego with my ghetto fabulous hands.

Have a conversation long enough in a room of black men and women about the state of relationships in the community, and some smart aleck will pipe up with the old ‘but black women have attitude problems, that’s why I don’t deal with them!” line.

Yawn. Meh. Whatevs.

I’m not actually going to deny that black women tend to interact differently to women of other races. It would be perfectly logical to believe that social norms differ between ethnic or cultural groups. (Blackness isn’t monolithic though – there are a myriad of different cultures within it).

I’m also not going to deny that there is a problem with some black women expressing themselves in a way that is perceived as aggressive. Frankly, I think black women have a lot of things to be angry about. A lot of black women are struggling to survive and thrive in adverse circumstances. That doesn’t excuse bad behaviour, but in terms of behavioural psychology, it goes some way to explaining it. In a similar way, while I have issues with some behaviour patterns that occur in some black men, I understand the context in which they occur. It’s very easy to become distracted by trying to cut off the bad fruit without working to address the root cause. Broken families, poor social conditions, cycles of abuse – these things make broken, poor, abusive and dysfunctional people more likely.

Additionally, I completely reject the idea that the behaviour of black women as a whole is judged against the social norms of white females. Why is their behaviour the baseline against which my behaviour is compared to? Why are black women ‘loud’, why aren’t white women described as unusually quiet? (I know plenty of quiet black girls btw). I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a million times, we need to stop describing white people as a norm, and everyone else as a deviant from that norm. It’s silly. They’re a global minority. Not only that, but a white middle class female has a completely different cushion of privilege from your average black woman. Is it any wonder that she hasn’t developed a ‘hard-as-nails- attitude to deal with the world? Life ain’t a struggle on the mean streets of Hampstead Heath. This isn’t to say that life can’t be hard, because it can. We all face similar emotional pressures on some level, but poverty and racism add a different dimension of stress.  Someone who comes from a middle class background may be mean, nasty or have a bad attitude -they might just not show it in the overt way that’s associated with a ‘ghetto’ persona. Middle class attitude stinks just as bad, it just stinks more quietly.

In fact, the differences in behaviour that people sometimes attribute to race are just as likely due to class and socio-economic status. What made me think about this topic was interacting with people in my workplace. Many of my patients and colleagues are from white working class backgrounds, and it’s interesting to me to see some of the similarities in ‘attitude’ between white working class women and some black women. Let me put it plainly. Vicky Pollard is just as bolshy as Shaniqua. There are a million Vicky Pollard’s, and I’m not sure why Vicky’s attitude gets attributed more to her socioeconomic status (which is arguably offensive to self defined working class people who aren’t bolshy), and Shaniqua’s gets attributed to her race?

The majority of my close female friends are black.  We may be outspoken, opinionated and confident, but we don’t have ‘attitudes’. It’s very, very boring to hear black men describe my non-existent attitude problem as the reason they date outside their race/can’t work with black women/ hate their babymama. It’s offensive to me and it’s kinda offensive to the non-black women you may choose to deal with as well. Just because another race of women may act out their aggression more passively, does not mean that it’s not there. Women are women…get on her nerves enough, and you’ll see it.

Having said all that, the combination of black and female in a racist, sexist society isn’t the easiest coat to wear. Maybe a little bit of ‘attitude’ is an unfortunately, a necessary defence.

What do you think? Do black women have attitude problem? If so, why? And do you agree that it’s less to do with race and more to do with socio-economic status?

9 Comments

  1. October 27, 2014 / 9:39 pm

    I think the minute one characteristic is ascribed to a specific class, gender, color or cultural environment, I’ve stopped listening. It’s lazy thinking and it fails to take into account, as you pointed out, that no group is monolithic.

    • January 18, 2016 / 7:27 am

      In light of the comment from Michelle At The Green Study:

      She makes a really great point! I often think about how on social media, Hispanic women are fetishized for their “spicy” tempers (no pun intended) with unending memes & jokes from Black guys about how they will cuss you out in Spanish but it’ll be “sooo” sexy… Or how they’ll take a knife to a man’s genital area… (all a load of cafeteria food if you ask me)… But as soon as a Black woman demands respect in a way that makes a man the least but uncomfortable, she’s “ghetto.” We’ve got to kill this! I’m not ghetto, I may be opinionated and very sure about how I feel… And I may occasionally raise my voice for emphasis… But I’m not ghetto. I know I’m not, and Sir, deep down, YOU know I’m not. It’s just a copout to avoid fully listening to me and dismiss everything I’m saying… Boy, PLEASE.

  2. October 29, 2014 / 6:10 pm

    Funny how when we get upset its attitude problem but Italian and Irish women are coveted for thier fiery tempers but black are just ghetto. Smh. I, like you, are tired of this lame lie. Its just a put down for not giving us what are our rights…respect, to have husbands and fathers for our children, financial stability etc. Yeah, other races can deman and be vocal about those things but with us its bad attitude or is that too ghetto. Lol

  3. STEPHON
    December 31, 2015 / 10:10 am

    I think it is socio-economic. I have not dated outside my race that often, but women of lower economic status have always had a little more attitude. I think it is what they have received from society so they give it back. I date a black woman that has a very mild manner, and would rather listen than speak. She is respectful and supportive of me so its not all black women. I have had the pleasure of meeting white women that had the worst attitude. Most were from lower middle class homes, and worked low-end jobs.

  4. January 18, 2016 / 7:16 am

    Hey! 🙂 I was going to say anything because I thought I was going to have to make an account to comment (this could be prematurely perceived as millennial laziness but I think it’s actually a testament to the increasingly self-important, brand-oriented nature of a lot of modern website culture). LOL. So I was like, “I’ll just keep reading and smiling while I nod.” …Then I was like, “No! This girl needs to know that another Black girl hears her voice and is high-fiving her from the vast, faraway hills of the Internet.” Your topics, your explanations and your figurative language make for a five-star blog. I truly mean that. I love your work and more importantly I am just elated by the concretization of “uncomfortable-to-talk-about” racial/gender-based/HUMAN feelings that at times can seem isolated, awkward or just too “abstract” for this spoiled world to accept in word-form. So here I am, at two-something in the morning, thinking: “Now this girl KNOW she wrong for making me stay up late and read all these doggone blogs.” 😉 Alas, I tip my hat to you for shining light on things can’t afford to stay in the dark in this day and age… You go girl! 🙂

    Johnetta Queen

    P.S. I know this can sound like solicitation LOL… But if you wanna check out my stuff, I think I can tell by your work that you might like it! 🙂
    queenjohnetta.wordpress.com 🙂

    • thatgirlwiththafro
      May 20, 2016 / 12:05 am

      Did I reply to this ? I hope i did. I’m just reading through all my old comments. What a lovely thing to say and how encouraging. I so so appreciate you commenting i’m just often very late at replying but I read every one. lol at millennial laziness – I do feel especially honoured you commented then! Thank you so much. I think I’ve already seen your blog and I will follow xx

  5. January 18, 2016 / 7:18 am

    (Sent this comment again so I can get notified in case you do reply!)

    Hey! 🙂 I was going to say anything because I thought I was going to have to make an account to comment (this could be prematurely perceived as millennial laziness but I think it’s actually a testament to the increasingly self-important, brand-oriented nature of a lot of modern website culture). LOL. So I was like, “I’ll just keep reading and smiling while I nod.” …Then I was like, “No! This girl needs to know that another Black girl hears her voice and is high-fiving her from the vast, faraway hills of the Internet.” Your topics, your explanations and your figurative language make for a five-star blog. I truly mean that. I love your work and more importantly I am just elated by the concretization of “uncomfortable-to-talk-about” racial/gender-based/HUMAN feelings that at times can seem isolated, awkward or just too “abstract” for this spoiled world to accept in word-form. So here I am, at two-something in the morning, thinking: “Now this girl KNOW she wrong for making me stay up late and read all these doggone blogs.” 😉 Alas, I tip my hat to you for shining light on things can’t afford to stay in the dark in this day and age… You go girl! 🙂

    Johnetta Queen

    P.S. I know this can sound like solicitation LOL… But if you wanna check out my stuff, I think I can tell by your work that you might like it! 🙂
    queenjohnetta.wordpress.com 🙂

    • January 18, 2016 / 1:29 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words I really appreciate when people take the time out to comment, it’s so nice! And sorry for making you stay up late. Yeh, we need to hear that we are not alone in this! There are others who experience the same thing even though when it comes to racial/gender inequality they will try and tell us we are the problem or it’s all in our heads! Will Defo check out your blog x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *