Trina Jones (Duke) & Kimberly Jade Norwood (Washington U.) on “The Trope of the Angry Black Woman”…

Trina Jones & Kimberly Jade Norwood, “Aggressive Encounters & White Fragility:  Deconstructing The Trope of the Angry Black Woman”, 102 Iowa Law Review (2017).

Kimberly Jade Norwood

Kimberly Jade Norwood

Black women in the United States are the frequent targets of bias-filled interactions in which aggressors: (1) denigrate Black women; and (2) blame those women who elect to challenge the aggressor's acts and the bias that fuels them. This Article seeks to raise awareness of these “aggressive encounters” and to challenge a prevailing narrative about Black women and anger. It examines the myriad circumstances (both professional and social) in which aggressive encounters occur and the ways in which these encounters expose gender and racial hierarchies. It then explores how the intersectional nature of Black women's identities triggers a particularized stereotype or trope of the “Angry Black Woman” and explains how this trope is often invoked in aggressive encounters to deflect attention from the aggressor and to project blame onto the target. After discussing the harmful effects of aggressive encounters and the absence of effective legal mechanisms to address them, the Article sets forth tangible steps that individuals can take to minimize their incidence.

On one hand, constantly having to silently tolerate racial microaggressions in the workplace discourages Black folks, and women in particular, from participating in the economic marketplace.  Thus, the economic impact and redistributive effect of racial microagressions can be categorized as asymmetrical profit maximization or asymmetrical market rationality.  On the other hand, Black women know that responding to them feeds into a specific subset of the myth of black inferiority, the trope of the angry black woman.  This and other racial stereotyping are examples of asymmetrically imperfect market information about black folks. 

Trina Jones

Trina Jones

Professors Jones and Norwood are completing a book project relating to these issues.  In a sense, they are bringing Patricia Williams’ Alchemy of Race and Rights into the 21st century.  In trying to make some of these aggressions actionable in the courts, I hope one day the authors, when invoking the 14th Amendment or Section 1983, will have use for the concept of racism as asymmetrical market imperfections as a legitimate and reasonable means by which the court can go beyond discriminatory intent. - DreSmith

Andre Smith