Strong Personality Dilemma

**Hopefully, this post doesn’t get any drastic backlash. But i wont be pleased with myself unless i share it, so here goes…**

Today, I went through some things that sparked this question in my mind:

Why are strong, passionate women always associated with negative words?

I think this stigma is more so associated with minorities, especially African American women.

I happen to be a proud Nigerian-American (which means I’m automatically placed in the African-American bracket) young woman and I also stand at 5’11 so you can imagine how many times my personality has been associated with negative words. I have heard a countless number of times that I have a strong personality and that my communicative approach to others always feels like an attack.

So for a very long time, I’ve TRIED working on myself…trying to “be a passive student/coworker,” “speak up a little less,” “look down when I’m speaking (because too much eye contact is an attack),” or “dismiss pressing issues with my white counterparts” all because I didn’t want to be called an “aggressive/strong, black girl who has no emotion and is always attacking others.” But I’ve found that that has done me no good. In many of the instances where I’ve been called “aggressive” I haven’t been in the wrong.

Granted in the past I’ve been told by my loved ones that I sometimes combine my passion with aggression a lot and it comes off in the wrong way. In the past 3 years though, I have definitely changed. When e-mailing, I no longer use all caps to express my excitement or frustration, I smile more often when I’m speaking just to make sure my counterparts don’t feel “attacked” But even in making these adjustments, it never fails that any time I open my mouth to speak I am accused of “attacking” someone.

I’ve expressed my frustrations with people that I hold in high esteem and they’ve often reassured me that while my approach/intention may not at all be malicious or aggressive, “there are in fact weak minded people that exist and will often confuse my genuine intention as an attack.” So, my next question was, what do I do in these instances? …

Someone suggested that I don’t lose myself in trying to please everyone or trying to remove the “black woman” stigma from my life because it’ll always exist. This person said… “what can’t be insulted is knowledge.. being book smart is one thing but being both book and street (or should I say school/work smart) is entirely different and will undoubtedly work in your favor.”

When my father would stress the importance of an education when I was younger, I would always say “this guy is just being overly dramatic.” But he would insist… “They can call make fun of your complexion or judge you for speaking differently but they can never take away the education. They can’t take from you what you know.” The sad reality is that this is not entirely true but it does hold some truth (if that makes sense)… Education can definitely earn me respect but there will always be a stigma associated with “black people” in general and the matter gets worse for “black women” of all kinds.

I would never understand why my genuine passion is almost always mistaken for aggression but I DO know that I can use everything I’ve been through as learning experiences—with the hopes that my decisions will be inspiring to young women who look like myself (and possibly mentor brown-skinned girls like myself).

To my Readers, ponder on these questions:

1. Why are passionate, result-oriented, goal-driven African, African-American or Latino women seen as aggressive?

2. Will the stigma of being a black woman ever go away?


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