Lisa Fritsch: Am I Angry, Bitter, Or Just Passionate?

Oct 18, 2019
Originally published on October 18, 2019 1:52 pm

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Reframing Anger.

About Lisa Fritsch's TED Talk

When Lisa Fritsch was running for governor of Texas, she had to walk a fine line to never appear angry. Today, she wants to destroy that trope — because it forces black women like her to be silent.

About Lisa Fritsch

Lisa Fritsch is a writer and speaker, as well as a former talk radio host. She is currently in her third year of law school.

Fritsch ran for governor of Texas in 2014 as a Republican. She was the runner-up in the primary against Governor Greg Abbott.

Her writing includes The Freedom to Be The Angry Black Woman and Politically Corrected: Corrections from a Former Black, Tea Party, Republican Conservative. Additionally, she has been published in the New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Madame Noire among others.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

GUY RAZ, HOST:

So when you think about the whole concept of anger, do you think of it as an inherently negative thing?

LISA FRITSCH: Not at all - for me, when I think of anger, I don't mean hostility, resentment, hatred. For me, when I think of anger, I think about passion.

RAZ: This is Lisa Fritsch.

FRITSCH: Something has disturbed you. Something has triggered within you a consciousness that there is imbalance here. There is unfairness here. Something's not right here. Something should be done about this. That's what I generally mean by anger.

RAZ: Lisa is a former talk radio host. And as an African American woman, she's no stranger to people labeling her as angry.

FRITSCH: I think the word has been confused to mean that I'm bitter. I have this festering hatred and hostility, a chronic kind of resentment towards someone or something. And most people are able to express anger without that attachment to it. But somehow, women, and black women in particular, we might not even be angry. We could just be simply passionate. We could have gotten excited. We could be concerned and slightly more animated and emotive about something. And then people go from that immediately to anger when, a lot of times, you're not even angry; not yet.

RAZ: This actually happened to Lisa back in 2014 when she ran for governor of Texas. Here's more from Lisa Fritsch on the TED stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

FRITSCH: It all started when I was running for governor of Texas in one of those war room sessions. For those of you who don't know, the war room is where the core campaign team comes together. We vet all the dirt. We dish out everything. In this particular war room session, I was preparing to introduce an immigration policy that I was proposing. I knew it was going to be controversial because I was proposing to give dignity and hope to immigrants in Texas. And you - as you may know, this is very defiant of the status quo.

So I was prepared for the pushback. And I knew I was coming in also balancing a good blend of logic and humanity. It's just as I'm getting ready to talk, I did raise my voice because I got excited. I started to lean in. I was really intense. I used my hands. I spoke with fervor because I was passionate. I wanted my team to know these words had a mission. Just as I was cresting to my most important point, I get the - one of my main guys, one that I loved the most - I even nicknamed him.

(LAUGHTER).

FRITSCH: He said, Lisa, whoa, you need to back off. You look like the angry black woman. And let me tell you, a heat hit my throat. Once he hit me with that label, the tables completely turned. It was no longer about this wonderful, game-changing policy on immigration, but it became about how I could, under no circumstances, in any shape or form, be seen on a campaign trail as the angry black woman.

But I'm going to be honest with you, I got a little angry for not being able to show the passion I intended to show - more than that, not to discuss this immigration policy. And it left me tight-lipped and frustrated and thinking, why? Why does it always have to be anger?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: How do you think these anger stereotypes affect how African American women think about themselves and their place in the world?

FRITSCH: I think they're very effective. Unfortunately, a lot of times, it keeping us silent, keeping us from going for things and keeping us out of places where, frankly, we should be. It's way too effective. And there's so many more of us out there, but we haven't had the access and an opportunity to be there and to show up and be seen.

There are so many more women like me who - that have something to give and bring to the table that so many people our community are missing out on in finance and technology and political leadership, community leadership because they might not look, sound or act the way that the status quo acts, they are not perceived as having value to add. And that's what's wrong with that.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

FRITSCH: Our world is missing out on the wealth of knowledge and experience of black women. I always find it interesting how we marvel and raise up successful black men who attribute a lot of their success to being raised by a single black woman. And we do this without considering all of the leadership, management and skills and diplomacy this woman must have had to do this on her own, and too without considering all of the things that must have indeed made her angry.

(LAUGHTER)

FRITSCH: But angry enough to do better for herself and her family. And that's the truth about anger and the angry black woman that we need to accept and think about. Let me tell you who the angry black woman really is. She's awesome. She's awesome because she's likely had to uphill climb her whole life to get to where she is today. She's dedicated. She takes up causes that many of us don't realize and informs us what can matter and what's important in the world. She's real.

I want the freedom to be the angry black woman because I look at where we would be without all the angry black women who have come before us who put progress over posture. The angry black woman is an essential voice to us as we speak up and out, break down barriers and push humanity forward.

When I am tempted to back down, speak more softly or grin and bear it and just move along, I think about what they've done. I think about how they saw a situation that made them angry and they took a stand that we're all grateful for today. So when I think about that, I don't back down, but I give myself - I say, sister, no, you don't have time for that. You have to rise up. And I rise.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: How do you think the world in our society, in our country would be different if women, especially women of color, were able to freely and openly express their anger and passion without fear of being criticized or worse?

FRITSCH: Well, I think there'd be a lot fewer things to be angry about, first of all. I think when people have the freedom to express what they need, what they're missing, to share their painful experiences without being judged that it was their fault - until we can get to a point where we hear another person share something painful without thinking that they're a whiner and all of that or ask for help without attaching some type of - what are you trying to take from me - to it, we won't get past that.

So yes, the world will be a much better place when women can fight for things, fight for equality without being seen as aggressive. When we can start saying, wow, look at that leadership quality that she has - she's a really hard worker. She's really strong. I didn't see it that way before. Let me think about it - that's the work we have to do before a lot of this effective change can happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: That's Lisa Fritsch. You can find her full talk at ted.npr.org. On the show today - ideas about rethinking anger. Stay with us. I'm Guy Raz, and you're listening to the TED Radio Hour from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.