Confessions of a Loud Black Woman

March 20, 2012  |

My grandmother was the first person to tell me being loud was an issue. She stayed with us every summer and as kids of the ‘90s, we spent our summer days outside instead of sitting in front of some type of video gaming system. So that day, just like every other day of the summer, my sister and I were outside, in our cul-de-sac, enjoying life and the unrecognized freedom of childhood. We were playing with some of our neighborhood friends, so naturally there were squeals and screams, a little bit of talking and plenty of laughter.

When we came back into the house, my grandmother pulled me to the side and mentioned that she could hear us from inside the house. I didn’t see the problem. She broke it down for me, saying something to the effect of we shouldn’t be “so loud.” But I explained to her that we were outside, using our outside voices. That’s not what she meant. She went on to tell me that being so loud in public view and earshot was “unladylike.” Now, I was very close to my grandmother and I was always one of those kids who wanted to be grown; but if being a “lady” meant I had to be quiet even when I was outside playing, I wanted no part of it. I said that I understood her and we would try to do better but in my head I thought this type of regulation was utterly ridiculous.

As I got older I came to see why she might have said this.

Being “loud” is a stereotype commonly associated with black people. We’re loud talkers, loud laughers, just  innately loud beings. Of course this is not true of all black people, many of us are very soft spoken. And I’ll be the first to say that I’ve come across my fair share of loud Asians, Caucasians and Latinos too. If you’re a loud person, you’re a loud person, race doesn’t dictate volume. But the stereotype is there and some of us, like my grandmother, have really internalized it.

I just couldn’t let it get me down. By nature, I’m an introvert. I’m cordial, yet reserved around new people, most of the conversations I have throughout the day occur in my head and I’d much rather read a book than attend any type of mixer. An introvert through and through. But when I get comfortable, chile, all bets are off. I…am…loud. You might find me in the midst of an intense debate yelling and slamming my palms together to make sure the severity of my point is understood. My laughter is a force so strong it takes a complete head toss, a sprained neck and a mild ab workout to release it.

If my grandmother were still here, I suspect she would be mortified by the fact that when I’m talking or laughing in public, sometimes complete strangers stop and stare in my direction, trying to identify the source of the problem. The thing is that I just don’t care. I’m not one of those people who use volume to solicit attention from others and I know when and where it is completely inappropriate to be loud and obnoxious. But I refuse to stifle my exuberance in public, social settings just so I don’t perpetuate a stereotype. My sister, my partner in loudness, and I have this philosophy. “If someone looks at you with disgust while you’re laughing, it’s because they’re mad they’re not laughing too.”

Ironically, the same grandmother that told me it was unladylike to be loud, is the same grandmother that told me laughter is good for you. Perhaps she assumed I’d take this medicine in private spaces, where white people couldn’t judge me but that’s not how it played out.

As I’ve said several times to close friends and associates, we’ll know racism is truly a thing of the past when we, black people, can live our lives and pursue our passions without fear that we’re embarrassing the “family.” I’m certainly not there yet. There are certain things I say, songs I listen to and even things I do, that I’d never want white people to see, for fear that they may assign these moments of ignorance to the black population at large. This is not a healthy way to live my life but that doesn’t make it any less true. We all have stereotypes we just can’t allow ourselves to internalize or else we’d go crazy. I’m working towards breaking down some of those barriers in my own life by allowing myself to talk and laugh loudly in public. I’m not ready to share everything with the mainstream but I will not suppress the purity, authenticity and humanity of a loud, gut-wrenching laugh.

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  • Mr. Khayat

    I am staying at a hotel in Ann Arbor, wow I never felt racist until this very moment. I can hear everything the guests are saying to each other in at least three rooms, and surprise they’re all black. “NO SHES NOT FINE, SHES LIKE A FIVE OUT OF TEN!” – heard as I’m typing this.

  • Professor Lu

    This woman’s wrong. It’s not that black people are loud. Poor people are generally the loudest. Being loud is a form of assertiveness and it’s used to gain things. (e.g. status, access, goods and food) Amongst the poor, the more aggressive people tend to be the ones with more of those things. For example, if there is a crowd talking then the person who projects the loudest is the most likely to hijack the floor. So, people start talking over each other and the din starts. Before you know it, people are looking at us like, “Damn! Black people are so loud!” LOL The Lebou are generally super loud. They are combative and they can curse out the best of them. They are the textbook model of loud blacks! On the other hand, the Toucouleur and Bamana (also called Bambara or Banmana) are subdued. As it turns out, the Toucouleur and Bamana are immensely more resourceful than the Lebou.

  • Benson

    So much for self-restraint.

  • Missy

    By all means laugh and have fun with your friends, but I think it’s important to be mindful and respect other people who are around you as well. Don’t not be loud because you don’t want to perpetuate a stereotype, just try to keep your volume down in consideration for others. My boyfriend were out to eat at a restaurant a few weeks ago and the table next to us was so loud we had to get up and move to the other side of the restaurant! And we could still here them then!!!! It was annoying, to say the least

  • Theresa

    It has nothing to do with your race. If anyone is loud in public, it’s annoying to people bc it’s disruptive to thought and other conversation. It’s just about having basic courtesy and respect for other people. There’s nothing “stifling” about toning down noise in order to be courteous.

    Why is being loud a black trait? Where does that come from? Why is it so prevalent in the black culture?

    If people are looking at you, don’t ignore signals from others. It means you’re being rude.

  • Bldr Republcn

    The core of the problem is that being loud disrespects every one else in the room. I’m surprised someone must tell you this – it’s common sense.

    It’s the equivalent of saying “what I’m talking about over here is more important than whatever you are talking about over there, so you’re going to hear me”.

    THAT is why we look over at you and lower our estimation of your IQ to the point where we begin to pity you.

    I’m sure that’s the exact OPPOSITE of what image you think you are projecting, but it’s true.

    Heck, because of your article above, I already think that someone who feels they must DEFEND being loud is not playing with a full deck…

  • Null Point

    A good and honest article. Yes you should honour who you are.
    But you also have to judge each social situation you’re in.

    If yours is the loudest voice in the room because you chose to ‘refuse to stifle your exuberance’ and then interpret peoples expression as ‘looks of disgust’ it sounds like you are misjudging the accepted level of volume and then taking an extremely negative view of peoples response to that.

    Put yourself in the others persons shoes: they’re having a quiet conversation when all they can hear is you ‘yelling and slamming my plans together to make sure the severity of my point is understood’

    There are lots of ways you can put your point across with passion & severity.
    You should also honour those around you as much as you do yourself.

  • randy miner

    I think there is confusion about what “racism” means. Please read the following from wikipedia:

    Racism is actions, practices or beliefs, or social or political systems that consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities. It may also hold that members of different
    races should be treated differently.

    Now if I don’t like to be standing in line behind two women who are super loud and don’t have the consideration to keep it down because as the author says “I just don’t care” and if I don’t like it, that’s not racism according to the above. It is very true that all ethnic groups of all different colors have a “culture” that they mostly follow and it is also true that there are culture clashes between groups even of the same skin color. Example, the French and British don’t generally get along well.

    What the author calls “stereotypes” is also the incorrect word. If a majority of black people that I encounter are loud and if it bothers me then I have a logical reason for avoiding black people because of the bad experiences. Again that’s not racism. Go read the defintions.

    What blacks need to realize is that they only represent about 13% of the overall US population and if they want respect, open doors and opportunity then its absurd to expect the other 87% of the population to embrace the black culture. Instead, blacks ought to be trying to fit in to the “white” culture when in public.

    Also quite frankly a lot of blacks I’ve seen have absolutely no idea how to dress or look nice. I see a lot of young men driving cars with $600 chrome wheels but they are wearing gym shorts, raggedy sneekers and an old tee shirt? Also wearing hoodies, winter coats, etc. when its 85 outside here in Florida is suspicious. Its a manner of dress that sprang from LA gangs wanting to conceal weapons. Hiding one’s face behind a hoodie is a way of avoiding being seen when committing a crime, again from LA. Stop dressing like a gang banger and people won’t mistake you for one!

    Until blacks as a group stop with the victimhood mentality of blaming everything on whites and expecting whites to accept black culture like it-or-not then these clashes will continue.

    I used to not understand why whites and blacks could not get along. However, I always lived in an all white neighborhood. Now blacks have started moving in (two of my four neighbors are black) and I now see what the problems are.

  • Dave

    It’s a gift, not a curse. Never be embarrassed or ashamed of the way you laugh. It’s not in your control. You can’t change it. It’s an inborn neurological reflex. So you should accept it as part of what makes you who you are. It’s a part of your essence. Embrace it, go with it, and when you need to laugh, let it all go and enjoy it to the hilt! Life is too short to worry about what other people will say. And for me, a woman’s laugh can be a big part of her physical allure. And I just love the beautiful picture at the top of this page.
    – a white guy

    • Jill

      Give me a break! I’ve had black and white neighbors around for the last 15 years. Guess who’s houses and yards are neglected and trash looking? Not us “whites” as I here you all say. You keep racism alive by not having good manners

      • Dave

        Sorry, Jill, but I don’t understand your reply. What did I do wrong? And what does racism have to do with it? What do trashy yards have to do with anything I said? I’m a guy who loves the laughter of women, race immaterial. And I’m not the only guy out there who feels this way. Men’s brains are wired differently from women’s brains. We are programmed to find the sights and sounds of women exciting and attractive. We can’t help that. And you ladies can’t help the fact that you’re female and we guys are going to love you!

  • tom

    “The thing is that I just don’t care. I’m not one of those people who use
    volume to solicit attention from others and I know when and where it is
    completely inappropriate to be loud and obnoxious. But I refuse to
    stifle my exuberance in public, social settings just so I don’t
    perpetuate a stereotype.”

    This attitude…that I don’t care….is exactly the reason there continues to be problems between blacks and whites. It is the reason why whites like myself avoid blacks and why I am trying to sell my house because they are moving in, in droves. Why do I have to put up with bad behaviors? It’s not the skin color, its the behaviors, stupid! If a person does not care whether they bother others or not, then that person should not expect acceptance nor cry foul when they don’t get it.

  • Anastasia

    Interesting. I’ve only been to this country for 5 years and I do find black women very loud. I would even say 75% of black women are loud. As much as some people want to say it’s all about “not caring what everybody things” it’s associated with a lack of class. A few times in my life I would have to switch a table because of obnoxious black women and it was not because of the fact that I wasn’t having a great time but they were. To me it seems that it’s all done on purpose to be annoying and showing this attitude: “I don’t give a d*mn what you think!”. When I was young and loud as well my Mom used to tell me: “Speak quietly, you are a lady!” Now I see why. Cause when I see this type of women I feel like I’m in a zoo. Do they really think they look classy, sophisticated or swexy to any male in the whole establishment? Oh, wait, they don’t care!


  • Seronica

    I’m biracial and I’m sick of black women thinking I’m acting white since I’m quiet. I’m not going to lower my standards to act ghetto and stupid.

    • randy miner

      Its sad that someone like you with a broad set of experiences from the black and white communities is not considered as a source of understanding.

  • Sandra

    I am disgusted with you because your LOUDNESS causes my ears intense PAIN. not because i’m jealous i’m not laughing with you. that’s absurd. be courteous to others for a change, life isn’t about you all the time out in public.

  • I am introvert. And I think that  I’ve actually found that white people are louder than we are but still …Great article!

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  • Amija James

    Sorry, I hate loud women.  Of any race.  It’s tacky and lacks class.  I’m a black woman and of course I’m loud sometimes, but you won’t catch me out and and about showing my arse.

    • Ifuaskme2

      Define ‘class’. And if you’re loud sometimes, just like the author, you must hate yourself. Otherwise you wouldn’t be loud at all. Class itself is a stereotype. LIVE. OUT. LOUD.

      • Amija James

        I love how you took the time to stop and give me a lesson.  You can say whatever you want,  a loud woman on her cell or talking to her friends, is hood.  

        I say that I’m never loud out and about which means in public so if I’m ever loud, then it must be in the privacy of my own home.  

        Class is a stereotype and obviously you don’t have it, so I hope while your hood arse is living out loud, keep it down, because don’t nobody want to hear it.  

  • Bella

    Preach, sista, preach! You’re just like me – a young girl who is introvert when I’m not comfortable around new people, but loud when I am. It just depends where I am and who I’m with. Great article x

  • darkman

    It’s true that we shouldn’t fear of being stereotyped by white people, but we should first consider the society we’re living in. Speaking loud is commonly considered being rude in the western world, not only here in America.
    You can LOL or speak loud for a few minutes but after that, ask yourself if the rest of the people around you, really need to hear your conversation instead of theirs?

  • Nicolesandraperk

    I’m an introvert like the author…..but once I’m comfortable I get loud. To me its just being comfortable around the people you associate with on a daily or regular basis

  • sholla21

    As far as I’m concerned it’s a question of education, and I’m gonna anger a lot of people by adding that the social class you belong to also has something to do with what behaviors are considered acceptable (ladylike) or not.

  • Ijs

    I am in full agreement. I’ve actually found that white people, when in their element, are louder than we are but still I hush.

  • dddooonnnttt

    I think the writers grandmother saying that wasn’t a black thing, but an old person thing. I was with a friends grandmother who is Mexican and she told me that I was laughing too loud and that men would come out of the mountains and kidnap me. Um, what?
    I’m sure everything I did today by a woman born in the 30’s standards has been unladylike, or downright ‘mannish’.

  • Gmarie

    Thank you for this. I’ll be happy when black people become comfortable enough in their own skin to embrace the culture and live their fullest lives without “fear” of embarrassment. Yes I like dancing, Yes I like chicken, Yes I can become louder in the company of good friends and family, etc. To be honest I don’t know of any culture that does NOT enjoy either of those things.

  • Girl are you sure you’re not my cousin? I’m an exactly the same way, quite reserved when I don’t know you well, and I spent most of my life reading books rather than worrying about any type of mixer. But once I get to know you, I let it all hang out. My laughter comes straight from my belly. The way you can tell if I think something is truly funny or if I’m just laughing politely is by the position of my head. If it’s funny, I will throw my head back, clap my hands, and tears will come into my eyes. That’s not me trying to get attention. That’s me enjoying a full-bellied, full-bodied laugh. I’ve been told by many that my laugh is infectious, so if my laughter makes someone else laugh, it’s all good :-).

    • anonymous

       Add me on the reserved around new people list if I meet someone for the first few hours I’m quite reserved and calm until I warm up to the preson. Some people say I’m a hypocrite but  I don’t see it like that at all **shrugs**

  • F3ral Anarchy

    like my grandmother still says to this day….there is truth in every stereotype. Her and my mother raise my siblings and I to never do anything to embarrass the family.  I just dont get kids these days.  Embarrass your mother?!  who does that kinda stuff in 2012?

  • Miss_Understood

    Reading comments from those of African and Caribbean descent reminds me of how this “issue” relates to what an African Studies professor taught me in undergrad:

    When slaves were brought to the Americas, slaveowners attempted to erradicate them of all customs and memories of their Native Land. HOWEVER, remnants of Africa have still been passed, often unknowingly, to us today such as slang, “unusual” names, they way we sing, dance, play music, call and respond, etc.

    I think having loud voices may be one of those cultural remnants passed to us…

    • L-Boogie

      Yeah, Melville J. Herskovits talks about that in the book Myth of the Negro Past.   

  • JN31

    I’m not loud, but theres nothing wrong with it so long as you respect peoples boundaries and don’t make others uncomfortable (cursing in public around children, making unnecessary overtly sexual statements, get on my nerves with it, etc…) however, I couldn’t care less about something that should or should not be said around a white person. I’m not apologizing for being who I am. Have you ever been around a white person and they apologize for doing things stereotypically associated with being white? 

  • Angelb_33

     im a outburst laughing person sometimes, depending the places can’t help it, its my medicine from the diseases i catch (stress, haters, frustration, lets not leave out a lil of depressed- not depression lol.  When i get angry or excited ( you know agrressive get point across mad or excited happy, goood news, etc.. anyway my family some of them are loud regardless. but i am a low to medium voice speaker. honestly i don’t to talk much the muscle can and will cause trouble depending on a person, place and things, lol. but i don’t care to talk its no solutions sometimes so i laugh, all whats said , its a slim chance to none any action or changes occures, depending on the issue. I’m not proud, nor happy i am loud. happy to be cause some people can’t speak. i’m simple it doesnt bother me as long they happy go ahead loudly talk and scream but depending where and what, we don’t know what people go thru and its not only the blacks that ARE LOUD, TRUST ME OTHERS ARE RIDICOUSLY LOUDER. 

  • Cutiepie

    I’m not loud which is rare for black girls and I absolutely hate loud people, I just feel like they’re desperate for attention.

    • Ijs

      That is such an ignorant statement.

      • Georgia

        no it isn’t. being loud is a grab for dominance of a situation. it’s annoying.

        • Kim Brooks

          I say for some (I’m guilty) being loud is neither a reach for attention or dominance; it’s simply enjoying the moment you’re in. I’m an extravert who gets her energy from others and if I’m having a good time with someone else, I’m simply having an obvious good time. Laughter does doeth good like a medicine; however I do know when to be quiet if necessary (like in a library, etc lol … by the way lol DOES mean laugh out loud – sheesh lol) By the way great article

  • Mocha_687

    My family is real loud (West African). Especially when they’re taking an international call. I am always disturbed out of my sleep when my mom makes an international call at 4 am here in the states. ” EM HELLO?!?! HELLO?  HOW AH YOU UNCLE?”! Lol. I’m loud when I’m excited or shocked, but otherwise I am fairly soft spoken.

  • Yv4life49

    i try to watch myself in public…usually if ppl keep looking back out you…its probably a sign your too loud…i take no offense at it…cause I can’t stand to hear other ppl’s loud conversations…so im sure they don’t wanna here mine #commoncourtesy

  • I’m only loud when I am shocked or excited. Like if my friend told me she was secretly hooking up with a married man I would yell “OMG ARE YOU SERIOUS” completely forgetting i’m in public. But interestingly enough in normal conversation i’m soft spoken. If only I had a nickel for every time a person told me to repeat myself or for me to speak louder.  *sigh*. I think I would give you a pass when you were a child. Because children are typically loud. Period. And if your neighbors were uptight, white, racist, snobs, who were too eager too point fingers at those “damn kneegrows” then the problem lies with them not you.

  • FabienneDesrameaux

    Im caribbean(haitian) so everyone in my family is loud but we hate when other ppl get loud with us lol sad

  • IllyPhilly

    Nope never loud. *sighs* I’m losing my Black card slowly but surely. 

    • Papillonsarah

      Thumbs because I can SO relate!

  • Valencia Gunder

    I love this article because ALL The women in my family are loud…. Lol I can definitely relate! 🙂

  • Jtascam

    Being loud privately and being loud in mixed company are different issues. I feel when someone is being loud in mixed company it draws attention and I am a private person who really do not like attention from strangers. Being with a loud person draws unwanted attention which I do not welcome. Plus I don’t want people to even know what conversation I am involved in. Its not any of their business.

  • L-Boogie

    Guilty as H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS! I have my mother’s laughter.  A gift and a curse!

    • L-Boogie

      Plus, I snort.  Horrible combination!