The “angry Black woman” is as much of a stereotype in the African American community as any other label used to describe our people—sometimes even used by our people. But, Brittany Cooper, a self-described feminist and professor at Rutgers University, says this anger may just be a superpower for Black women.
The author of “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” says “rage is a legitimate emotion. We are in really volatile times….we are made to feel rage and told we’re out of control when we feel it.
“It does more harm to not be able to own rage…we need to embrace our rage and allow it to become a source of energy that empowers the type of work we can do, to build a world we want to see.”
Cooper was recently in Chicago and Evanston sharing her message of using rage to make changes—externally and internally.
“There are things you stop doing when you begin to recognize you’re angry because of the things that have been done to you,” she told the Defender in an interview. “You stop blaming yourself and taking the weight of the world on your shoulder.
“There is a narrative that wants to blame Black women for all problems happening—White supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism—we didn’t create those things and we have a right to say those are problems; we have a right to stop taking responsibility for problems we did not create.”
Cooper also said we need to look at ourselves too and stop “respectability politics”—which is the idea that confirming to certain “standards” set by the mainstream will make us acceptable and protect us from injustices. “We need to stop having expectations that speaking well and having lots of degress are prerequisites to Black liberation,” says Cooper, who holds a Ph.D. from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree from Howard University. “We need to be very clear that Black people deserve to be free because we are human being. When rage comes from an honest place, we can learn to honor our humanity, we can honor our own trauma and be loving to ourselves, gentle with ourselves. We can fully see ourselves. We matter, we care, we desrve rights and resources.
“I think we are in a really critical political moment. Women rights are on the chopping block. Women are in the fight of our lives. Pay careful attention to when Black reproduction [is being legislated]…the key marker of not being free in this country doing slavery was that White people controlled our reproduction….We are now fighting for how we make families.”
In addition to claiming our rage and using it to make positive changes, Cooper also says we have to figure out what our solidarity with White women will be.
“What are we going to do when we know they (White women) are often complicit (in our oppression) but we also know they too are victims in patriarchy. If we could move 1-2 percent of White women votes, we could change politics. It’s a multi-racial solidarity piece. Black women have well-founded resentment toward White women, but we need the political savvy to negotiate terms around our own well-being.”
Cooper also addresses how Black women should be working with Black men.
“It’s time out for models of leadership that centers around charismatic Black men…Black women run everything and when it comes time for the big jobs, no one wants to give us the big job. I’m not diminishing Black men, but we need to be working alongside Black men.”
Cooper’s latest book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, is out and creating lots of buzz—for good reason.