On Twitter, I recently saw a mention of blog post with a title so bold, I had to click the link. "Angry Black Bitch: The Trials and Tribulations of Being Too Real" is a personal expression of the frustration one black woman feels as a result of the marginalization, disrespect, distancing, and worse she has encountered in organizing spaces and social settings. She attributes this maltreatment to her status as a "Black femme fat woman." Ashleigh Shackelford, the author, is clearly motivated to change the world and passionate about speaking truth to power. Based on her biography, she appears to be fully equipped to create the new justice-filled world we both envision. But the blog communicated more to me about its courageous author than those it intended to call out. I say this with all humility and genuine concern. The blog read like a thoughtful, well-crafted, compelling soliloquy on suffering. Anger was described in affirmative terms; it was her friend. Each line expressed the attitude of a sista deeply enmeshed in a dysfunctional repeating cycle of trauma, pain, anger, and expression. I wish I could free her from this cycle by changing the behavior of all the offending folks who have been dismissive, standoffish, or threatened by her truths or violent against her, but I cannot. What's more, even if I could, it would not end the suffering. I know in my heart that this sista, like many myself, likely needs to look inward to address the pain and despair which is wreaking havoc on her life. She must stop embracing the defensive badge of "Angry Black Bitch" and become work a Self Loving Sista. Ashleigh, I say this from the most loving and non-judgmental perspective I can muster. I do not know what it is like to be you, but I do know that I want the best for you. My positive intent, like your pain, is really real.
I was moved to write this reaction because I too want to change the world, and I need sistas like Ashleigh to help accomplish this mission. I recognized the suffering in Ashleigh's words precisely because I have gone through many of the same things (I do not mean to claim that my struggle is hers). To say I empathize with each emotion she has endured is an understatement. It was not too long ago that I was seemingly trapped in a nihilistic spiral of bitching, blaming, and bummed out beliefs. I had a surfeit of the courage to call others out for their role in oppressing our voice and heightening (yet minimizing) our struggle. Still, It took reflection, time, and trauma for me to develop the same power in relation to my self. I do not mean to invalidate Ashleigh's reflections, only to suggest that it takes a much more radical effort to deconstruct the self-effacing beliefs and behavioral patterns we inflict on ourselves. Until we make amends with all the pain in our lives and release the despair gripping our minds, we cannot fulfill our life purpose or change the world. Creating a new world starts with loving ourselves enough to transcend our pain and deflect anger. We must all learn to experience pain but not be defined by it. We must be thinking and living testaments to our beauty, grace, and awareness. This is how we transcend suffering and transform ourselves into the conscious souls we need to be to change the world. I do not have all the answers, but this mental shift has worked for me.
I am not blaming the victim or excusing the faults of others. I know that Ashleigh and other women like her have in fact been unjustly perceived as "Angry Black Bitches" and are subject to "tone policing," public erasure, exile, and all other sorts of nefarious BS behavior. But I also know that we cannot control the behavior of others, only ourselves. What's more, I know that the entire way we experience the world is reflective of our own consciousness, our beliefs about ourselves. Previously, I embraced painful experiences as a badge of courage and allowed them to define me. In fact, in retrospect, I sought them out because I was strangely attracted (read: addicted) to the emotional fullness they created in my life. Being a warrior in pain was a proxy life "purpose" which distracted me from personal reflection and stillness. Yet, each time I reacted to the disrespect of others, or grew angry at another instance of injustice or brutality, the only impact I created in the world was another bruise to my self esteem and emotional stability. I wanted to fight the power, but I was only brutalizing myself. I do not want this for my sistas because I will not tolerate it for my own self. I deserve more, a better life than suffering and anger have to offer me.
Now, after much reflection, I choose not to identify with negative thoughts and experiences which tormented me. I don't waste mental energy thinking about what others think of me because I know that my power is in my own awesome conception of myself. As a result, personal attacks, disrespect, and slights (even violence) by other people do not cause me to suffer any more. I am not as apt to harp on negativity in a situation. I simply perceive painful experiences for what they are, learn what they are telling me about myself, and then release them with a swift mental toss like an unwelcome house guest. I am beautiful, thoughtful, progressive, and ascendant. Nothing anyone else does can create an alternative reality for me. I cannot be "erased, ignored, or ostracized."
This post is a loving suggestion to Ashleigh and sistas like her. I suggest that we take a step back from the struggle confronting the beliefs and actions of others and first make a concerted effort to heal ourselves and adopt the loving beliefs and behaviors which will transform our lives. In all due respect to your unique life journey, I empower us all to remove ourselves from the assaultive life cycle we are frequently reacting to. I encourage us to lose our attachment to pain and negative perceptions of self. Yes pain can be a transformative element in our lives and the world, but only if we learn from our pain, not wallow in it. Pain can be a catalyst to improve our relationship with our dynamic selves.
Ashleigh, you are correct (even justified) to perceive pain and injustice but you should not identify with them. Likewise, you should not identify yourself by your race, body type, sexuality, or activist status. Please take the time to consider why you are constantly attracting pain. Do you believe pain is an inevitable chronic force in your life? Do you use language and thoughts to commit emotional suicide? Do you believe you deserve to be loved, respected, embraced, connected with, and heard? Do you love, respect, embrace, connect with, and hear yourself, or do you relate to your own self as just another Angry Black Bitch?
Ashleigh: Heal yourself. Love yourself. Embrace yourself. Treat yourself well. Find your peace. Live in a state of grace. Stay positive. Take care. Be blessed.
You are awesome in your ability to transform yourself and create new worlds without suffering.
Please read these affirmations I crafted for you:
1) I show gratitude for the transformative experiences I have experienced, each of which has created the opportunity for me to learn more about myself and connect with my true identity.
2) I view negative experiences and unhappy thoughts as separate from my own self. I can contemplate them, but they do not define me. I view mistreatment as an opportunity to grow in grace.
3) I honor and love myself.
4) I cherish my health and make wise choices about what I eat and drink so that I am nourished and capable of leading an active lifestyle.
5) I forgive those who have hurt me because I know that forgiveness is a bridge to my own peace.
6) I bless and release all of the old pain from my life.
7) I am a positive person who attracts like-minded people into my life.
8) I am continually more focussed on healing myself and treating myself in a loving manner each day.
9) Others value my presence and the contributions I make to the world through my actions and expressions.
10) Each day I reflect the positive energy which I create internally.
Please share this post with all of the black women you know who are in the process of becoming better versions of themselves. Tweet me one loving thing you do for yourself each day with the hashtag #theashleyway. Thank you in advance.
Fall Down the Rabbit Hole"
Read this book by bell hooks.
Employ the strategies in this article.
Check out this other blog post by Ashleigh.
Watch this insightful video.
Soundtrack to this post: