This past semester, I graduated from my Alma Mater, UM-St. Louis (UMSL). At this university, I was blessed–yes, blessed!–to have taken my ENGL 3720: Literature After 1865. This class taught by the brilliant Dr. Kimberly Welch.
Young. Gifted. Black AF. First Black English Professor I had at UMSL. I wish I was joking. But in her class, we talked about the troupes most Black characters in this time frame are identified as: Mamie (think Hattie McDaniel from Gone With The Wind); The Coon/Uncle Tom (Stephen from Django); The Buck (think the dude in Get Out who wanted to take over Chris’s body and make him this monstrous athlete); Tragic Mullato (the biracial girl never to find love; Wench/Jezebel (the hypersexual Black woman); A Sapphire (the sassy, bitter, angry Black woman).
Here, is what I am going to stay:
Most Black women I know are sassy. They have a quick wit, a sharp tongue and take no shit. I, myself, fall into this category. Sapphires are the ‘sassy Black friend’, they are strong and sure and some times unapproachable. They have the stigma that they are ‘bitter.’ Dr. Brittney Cooper (Eloquent Rage) said that, “Sass is an acceptable form of rage.”
Dr. Cooper goes on in the text to say this nation loves ‘the sassy Black friend.’ The nation loves us to be mad, and quick-witted–while hurting internally. The lovely and brilliant Diamond Stylz pointed this out while speaking about and episode of Pose (y’all know the episode!) when Candy Ferocity was murdered by a john.
Let me tell you something, Black women are not as bitter as the world thinks we are! Sometimes, we are just mad. Sometimes the world has gotten so crazy for us, leaving us no place to emote. The default emotional place is sass. That quick wit, the neck rolling, the melding of rage and responsibility–rather than telling people to kiss our asses with the power of Tiffany Haddish. We do this: “Girl, bye!” and walk off. The world can’t handle us on Full. Not really, not for real–and that leaves Black girls no place to truly emote, release or just be mad for a minute because our twist out ain’t come out right! Or if our full set chipped!
But this month, what you all are going to see–and realize–there is more to this ‘bitter Black girl’ thing than you think. You already have the text we are going to be discussing.
Get ready. Class is in session.
[image from mygirlsquad.com and umfreepress.org]