Race conditions how emotions can be expressed

Courtesy of Tucker Center

Conclusion of a three-part series

Anger is one of 10 basic human emotions. However, it seems that being able to freely express this anger depends on race, especially in sport: White females can, and Black women can’t.

Diana Taurasi, a veteran WNBA star, annually ranks high among the league leaders in getting technical fouls. Yet she is rarely tagged as an angry White woman, but rather as feisty and competitive.

Legendary tennis star Serena Williams once got fined $17,000 for breaking her tennis racket during the 2018 U.S. Open championship. She also got hit in 2009 for $82,500 for angry on-court outbursts. In both instances, Williams was immediately tattooed as the “angry Black woman.”

Zuma Press/MGN Serena Williams celebrating 2015 Wimbledon Ladies Title win.

The “angry Black woman” tag isn’t new; it’s been a feature of racist stereotypes for at least two centuries. Nineteenth Century minstrel shows mockingly portrayed Black females as uncontrollable. The Sapphire character in Amos ‘N’ Andy became popular for her displays of anger. The moniker unfortunately joined other racist terms specially directed to Black women such as mammies, jezebels, welfare queens and baby mamas.

“I think oftentimes, as Black women, if we express ourselves on our own displeasure, our discontent of how we were treated, we are automatically thrown into this angry Black woman category instead of individually seeing it as a particular incident,” explained Dr. Akilah Carter-Francique.

We first met Carter-Francique, a regular View contributor, several years ago at a Tucker Center-sponsored women-in-sport conference. Her work on issues of diversity and the disparities Black female athletes often face has made the San Jose State associate African American Studies professor nationally and internationally renowned. She is the past president of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport.

Carter-Francique, now the executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at SJSU, appeared last month on Tucker Center’s virtual panel discussion on Black women in sport. “We have been taught to hide our emotions, to shield our hurt,” she said during her presentation time. “Rage and anger is a normal human response to oppression. Rage can be cultivated as a source for empowerment.”

Later during a Zoom interview, Carter-Francique further explained that if a White female gets angry, she is allowed “to have that emotion.” But you’re not allowed to express anger if you are Black, no matter what.

“If a situation has taken place that you’ve been wronged, you’ve been discriminated against, then you are going to be upset about that situation. You will be angry at that particular situation.”

Nonetheless Black women are forever seen as angry even when they are not.

Other tennis players have broken rackets and argued against officials’ calls as did Williams, but only she has been singled out for this. Her right to express herself has been racially charged.

In the current call for equality, equity, and inclusion in sport and society, this call also should include the right to express one’s emotions without penalty of shame. This is what Carter-Francique and her fellow sistahs in academia are consistently advocating.

“I am part of this community of Black women,” she said. “I am going to continue to speak up, speak out.

“When I walk down the street, people don’t know I have my degrees, that I competed [in college track] and have done certain things. [But] I’m a Black woman.”

Globe-tracking the Lynx

Temi Fagbenie’s Great Britain team plays Poland in a Euro Cup qualifier this Saturday. She grabbed 11 rebounds last week in a win for her Italian club.

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (Turkey) posted a double double (14 points, 11 rebounds) in 36 minutes in a loss last week.

Related Stories:

Part two: Tucker Center’s all-sistahs panel talks sports and rage

Part two: Black women caught where racism and sexism intersect