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?