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Gifty And The Faux Fear of Black Women

The Angry Black Woman is a stereotype and a trope often used to depict black women, it exists alongside The Strong Black Woman or The Sassy Black Woman as boxes black women are placed in to stop us from being seen as full human beings.
Luca Teuchmann via Getty Images

Gifty Louise received the fewest votes from the public, along with girl group Four of Diamonds, on Sunday's X Factor and after a sing off was voted off the show by the judges. Instantly comments appeared on Twitter that Gifty was "angry" , "shifty" and she deserved to lose her place on the show because she had a poor attitude. Before I stopped watching the show I remember Gifty being a happy contestant, "maybe things had taken a turn for the worst since I'd last seen the show" I thought. Upon seeing the footage of her exit from the show I realised people online were misreading her facial expression as one of anger when what I saw was a young woman expressing extreme sorrow and regret and who was sad that her opportunity at winning the show was cut short. The problem is the British public have been programmed to only recognise two emotions in black people, black women especially; anger and joy. To those unfamiliar with the nuances and expansive range of emotions black people are capable of expressing, her lack of a smile meant only one thing- she was duh Duh DUH angry.

This morning after being eliminated and during Gifty's interview on Lorraine Kelly's show, Benidorm's Tony Maudsley tweeted "Ooff!! A good night's sleep has done absolutely NOTHING for Gifty... She's still RAGING... If looks could kill."

For those new here misogynoir is misogyny perpetuated specifically against black women, it is the intersection between sexism and racism - the term was coined by Moya Bailey. Tony Maudsley's tweet is deeply and so expertly steeped in anti black women rhetoric that it's easy to miss. This is not to say it does not exist but to highlight the crafty way in which misyogynoir permeates and infiltrates what some may see as a scathing but innocent observation of Gifty's face. It is easy to identify racism when someone comes out and says "Fuck this black bitch", however the function and ingenuity of misogynoir, why it continues to exist and be disseminated is its stealth at hiding in plain sight. The Angry Black Woman is a stereotype and a trope often used to depict black women, it exists alongside The Strong Black Woman or The Sassy Black Woman as boxes black women are placed in to stop us from being seen as full human beings.

Again on Lorraine as on X Factor the night before, Gifty wasn't "raging", the look on her face was one of despair not of murder. The stereotype is so heavily engrained in the public consciousness, that a young woman distraught at the reality that she will no longer be able to compete for a dream she's had for life can be seen as a threat, someone to fear. And let's be clear, if Gifty was angry, she is allowed to be, that is a legitimate emotion when something you wanted to go on and on ends abruptly. It is the inability of many to find other words to describe the myriad of emotions Gifty might be expressing that I find frustrating.

When Alexandra Burke won The X-Factor in 2008 she cried her way through the final of the show (she cried every step of the way) thus endeared herself to the British public. The perceived threat her complexion posed was dulled as she presented herself as someone so grateful to be thought worthy of the adoration she received - though she was. The public, while still not as perceptive to her had she been white or light skinned were forced to embrace her because her propensity to cry at the drop of a hat meant she was acceptable - not too fierce or too angry or too sassy. I cried when Alexandra Burke won because I saw myself in her, an emotional, talented woman desperate to succeed but let's not lie when she performed with Beyonce we were all begging her to hold it together- it's the Queen for heaven's sake. Unlike Burke or Leona Lewis before her Gifty Louise neither had Burke's tears nor Lewis' proximity to whiteness. In order to be seen as deserving of sympathy black women must be dress ourselves in the guise of fragility to overcome the faux fear and lack of empathy our skin incites in those who see us as other. Gifty tweeted that she wouldn't smile for the benefit of others, we have here a woman who understands how stereotypes are used against her and refuses to accommodate those who'd prefer to see her fall to her knees, "weak" in the face of those whose sensibilities that image would assuage. I admire this in her, her audacity to remain defiant where others might cave.

In the coverage of Gifty's exit from the entertainment competition, The Evening Standard claimed the singer "blasted judges" and ensured to use a picture of her looking solemn feeding into the negative and false portrayal when in fact she's someone who refused to pretend that she's grateful when in fact she's sad. Bolu Babalola clearly articulated the phenomena with a thread of tweets "British racism is so insidious. They never come out with it, always laced in dog whistle and code so they can deny it when called out." The thread quickly got the attention of racist trolls who camped out in her mentions telling her to go back to where she came from if she was so unhappy with life here. To be a black woman with breath in her lungs and opinions in her tweets is to feel the wrath of racist twitter should you ever share your views on the realities of being black, British and a woman. Twitter fails black women time and time again, because like the British public the app is unable to identify those who use the surreptitious nature of misogynoir.

If black women are so "scary", why are the British Public so comfortable mistreating us? If black women are so "angry" why are the British public so happy to mock our sadness? The truth is their fear of black women is a myth, a fairy tale used to deny us the fullness of our emotions.

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