Choose To Challenge: A Malynda Hale Guest Blog

I’ve learned a lot this past year.

I’ve learned about myself, but mostly I’ve learned about other people.

I’ve learned how often people don’t choose love and that facts don’t matter. And I’ve also learned how easy it is for people to silence the voices of others.

As a Black female, I think about how often micro-aggressions have found a way to maneuver themselves into my life - the little ways in which my voice has been dismissed by random strangers on social media or even by some of my closest friends.

I told my husband a while ago that I often feel invisible - in my career, in my circles, in my work - and that the only way for me to be seen and heard is to be loud.

But the problem is when I choose to be loud I am often accused of being angry or aggressive because the spaces I often inhabit are predominately white spaces: spaces where your Blackness often has to be defended; spaces where the checklist of how to act, what to say, how to present yourself, have to be checked off before you even dare think about speaking. As a Black female in predominantly white spaces, often you are not seen, at least not in the way you want to be seen. You see, if a Black woman speaks on what and how she feels, she’s angry. Suddenly, she isn’t a human being whose feelings were hurt and is letting you know how your words made her feel. Suddenly, SHE is in the wrong.

If we as Black women choose to do the natural human thing and defend ourselves from things that we find offensive, it is OUR fault for letting it affect us, and not being able to take it as a joke and laugh in the moment. If we as Black women bring to the attention of those around us that what they said or did was inappropriate - or, dare I say, racist - we are the ones who are immediately exiled from the community.

I’m a direct communicator. I get to the point and don’t beat around the bush, and I’ve realized a lot of Black females operate the same way. The problem is that being direct is often misconstrued as being aggressive and that trait is almost always projected onto Black women. So instead of going through the emotional checklist of how do I act, how do I talk, how do I change how people perceive me…. we shut down out of fear because we know how our voices will be misinterpreted and we will be deemed angry. The angry Black woman trope has always been used as a way to silence Black women and invalidate feelings that are completely warranted.

But I’m tired of having my voice chosen for me. I’m tired of not calling people out on the things they say because I don’t want them to feel bad. I wish I knew how to express my feelings without having a stereotype pushed onto me. But that’s the fear… fear of offending, of being misunderstood, of coming across the wrong way, of losing out for speaking up. It doesn’t help matters that there is almost always some form of indirect punishment for speaking out and speaking up.

I feel this way too often. It’s as if we have the audacity to speak up for ourselves, because when we do, we are viewed in a negative light. But if there’s anything I’ve learned recently, it’s that I don’t need to accommodate others and their feelings. I don’t need to conceal my voice or feelings because when I do, where does that leave me? It leaves me feeling like my feelings don’t matter and because I spent so much time and emotional labor making sure the other person doesn’t feel bad, I feel worn down.

So I challenge you:

Instead of thinking a Black woman might be angry, listen to her and understand her pain.

Instead of thinking a Black woman might be sassy, listen to her and understand her voice.

Instead of thinking a Black woman might be aggressive, listen to her and understand her strength.

Instead of thinking a Black woman might be wrong, listen to her… because chances are she’s right.

#ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021