Its funny how people find it easy to discount one’s opinion if they consider one to be an angry person. As if what is said by an angry person has no bearing. When did it become fashionable to assume that should a person speak with anger, what they are saying is not valid. Has it become that convenient to ignore other people’s opinions carelessly? If they come across angry, is it not worth investigating or just thinking critically about why they are angry? Too many questions, I know.
We all live with labels whether we like it or not. Being a woman of the darker hue, I have more often than never been labelled as angry, militant, aggressive and even loud. I have many a time been discounted and dismissed as just another angry black woman, who knows? even now as I write this I am aware of the fact that someone might just be thinking, ‘oh there we go again, yet another ABW’.
One person’s anger is another one’s passion, only as a black woman one is most likely to be branded rather angry than passionate.
I had the strangest experience today at our son’s day care on the playground. This is my son’s second month at the school, so it is still a relatively new environment for all of us. Every morning and afternoon the kids are allowed to go outside for some play time- weather permitting. This of course is a treasured time by the kids, as they get to mess about in the snow, run along and play to their heart’s content. As parents we usually get a moment to observe the children at play when we come to take them home at the end of the day. From time to time, it has come to my notice that there are these two kids who are constantly in what looks like peals of ungovernable laughter, usually resulting from them having said something about some other child, which they find to be incredibly hilarious. The finger pointing happens, the laughter breaks out, and which ever poor individual at whose expense the joke is, has no choice but to keep their head down or move away from the laughter. Now these are just kids, and we all know the saying, ‘boys will be boys’
Since I happen to be at the playground on a daily basis, I get to observe these ‘naughty boys’ at play and often see how the teachers are at their wits end trying to keep them under control, to no avail. At those particular instances, I try to turn a blind eye, mind my own business and pretend not to see just how these children are giving the teachers a run for their money. Out of embarrassment maybe, or just out of compassion and respect for the adults. Either way my modus operandi has usually been to pretend not to see, and do what I came there to do, collect my son and leave. This approach seemed to work, until of course the one day when as I entered the playground I heard the familiar jeering and taunting, which was not out of character,however upon closer inspection I discovered that the object of ridicule was none other than my very own beloved son. You can imagine the haste with which I advanced towards that trio, the lioness in me was now fully alert, and as soon as I arrived I hoped that perhaps the kids would let up, but lo and behold, they continued to jeer and shout in our direction in a language that is foreign to me, while pointing fingers at both my son and I.
No, they didn’t! is what was crossing my mind. Now remember, I had seen how these kids operate and knew that I was not going to engage in any contest with them about what they were doing, especially since there was the language barrier plus, it would be futile to engage with them on any level anyway at that point. Instead, I took my son by the hand, and sought out the head teacher, to air my grievances and express my displeasure, tell her how unimpressed and disgruntled this here mother was.
Well, as you can imagine, the poor headmistress by now knows that I don’t shy away from expressing my views, particular when I believe that a change is needed, so one can imagine that she already knew by the haste in my step that perhaps something was amiss. I proceeded to recount the details of what had just happened to me and my son out there on the playground. The first question she asked me was, ‘did anyone of the teachers witness this?’, ‘Well…I said, this just took place less than a few minutes ago, I don’t actually know whether they saw it or not, the point is I am telling you that this has just happened’ Now, I’m thinking, what do you mean did any of the other teachers see it, what are you implying? And what has that got to do with the price of soap?’ Anyway, she then proceeded to apologise, excuse and explain the behaviour of these children. She mentioned how they have been in numerous meetings with a psychologist trying to come up with solutions of how to address the behaviour of these now notorious boys. She said, that we were not the only people to complain about this pair.
As she was promising to figure this out, and find a solution for this problem, it occurred to me that maybe this was just a pointless exercise. Perhaps the persons who should be spoken to hear are the parents, after all these kids are 4 or 5 years old- how can this be about them?
Well, after a few minutes of talking albeit aimlessly about this matter, I took my child and went home to get on with life eager to put the whole episode behind us.
The next morning as fate would have it, I bumped into the very same children at the front door, the mother of one of them, and a teacher were present. This was the golden opportunity to speak about the issue I thought, so I greeted and asked if I could have a moment of the mother’s time. She was unfortunately in the midst of trying to persuade her son to go inside and as was the teacher . Apparently the two boys were resisting and were just running circles around the mom and teacher. I waited patiently for the commotion to subside-which it eventually did, but while we were standing there waiting to either go in, or talk to the mom, the children started shouting and jeering in the same fashion and started pointing fingers at my son and I. This in full view of the teacher and the parent. The boys were exhibiting their unruly behaviour and both the ladies present witnessed the spectacle. So, I said to the mother that the matter I had wished to discuss with her was that of her son’s behaviour which did not need explaining, considering that she had just seen it for herself. She said to me not to take this personally, because they do this to everyone, they even do it to her. Excuse me? This woman then said, that these are just children we shouldn’t be upset at them, they are just kids who mean no harm. I said I understand that they mean no harm, but I will not tolerate the disrespect. The issue at hand here was not what they mean or do not mean, it was the sheer lack of respect they had just displayed for all of us present at that moment. She said, she did not teach her son at home to behave this way-which to me was a non statement, for it is immaterial for that goes without saying, the point is that she has a recalcitrant child, and she needs to take responsibility for that.
Is that not what we as parents have to do? I just failed to understand why she would want to defend and exonerate herself from the situation, it was blatant that there was a behavioural isssue and it had now got out of hand. So after ministrations from both teacher and mom, the boys still refused to go inside, now she had to do something to make these boys co-operate. At this point I knew that the conversation was over I had said what needed to be said, and that if I wanted to talk further, I would have to wait till kingdom come for those two boys to obey, so I thanked the woman for listening and bid her goodbye. She promised to talk to her son and went on to plead and beg her son to go inside. I left and went on my way while the commotion continued.
Once I got home, I could not get this episode out of my mind, and decided to vent my spleen once again by writing about this.
What is going on in our society? When did children decided how they will or will not behave, who is responsible for their good behaviour or lack there of? Who is to be held accountable?
I do not place myself as a judge, the truth is I know that no mother wants to be told that there is something wrong about their child or the child’s upbringing, however in the interest of the greater society, we as the parents have the responsibility to draw boundaries for our children.
Of course, my point of departure was on being branded and labelled as an Angry Black Woman, well, needless to say that to me the encounter with all the teachers that I have complained to before about these boys, has left me acutely aware of how little the women I spoke to seemed to be listening to me. Is it my imagination? Or am I just scratching where there is no itch?
If I am angry or militant, is it a surprise that I as a black woman have become that way?
These of course become rhetorical questions as I really don’t expect any answers to them as they tend to cause too much cognitive dissonance. So for the time being, I shall continue being the observer that I find myself to be, and will speak at any instance where I believe my voice should be heard. Whether one comes across as an Angry Black Woman or not, one must speak up. Whether one is deemed angry or not is subject to interpretation. We must take responsibility for how we listen to and hear other people’s voices, otherwise we may miss very important opportunities to engage in a constructive manner. Here I rest my case.