Many people are concerned about anger within social justice circles. They want to limit and contain anger. Angry people are shamed as destroying the credibility of the movement. They are often told that if they were "nicer" they would be listened to.
However, I am concerned that I'm not angry enough.
I wonder why I'm not able to conjure up anger more easily and if that means that something is wrong with me. Maybe I am so terrified by the "angry Black woman" label that my anger has become relatively latent. I have tricked myself into seeming relatively happy or at least not viscerally upset.
My anger has been muted. Although I have a lot to be angry about. I should be angry about the sexist and racist microaggressions I deal with daily. I should be angry about institutionalized inequality. I should be angry about every instance of injustice that I hear about and personally experience.
Instead it is as if my anger is misplaced and un-reachable. I am disappointed. I am sad. But I lack the energy or perhaps the ability to be truly angry.
I have not always been like this. When I first became introduced to social justice activism and began to learn about white supremacy and feminism from a theoretical standpoint I was very angry. It was a brand new, fresh and on fire kind of anger. I was angry at individual oppressive people. I was angry at privileged and oppressive groups as a collective. I was angry at every single act of injustice. I wore that anger with a badge of honor and viewed people who were not angry with disdain.
I can mark the exact time when my angry diluted into a form of ennui and passive acceptance.
It was the Trayvon Martin case. I was fresh from my raw anger at the killing of Troy Davis when Trayvon Martin came to national attention. That was when I realized that my heartbreak superseded my anger. It was in fact what drove my anger: my capacity to love justice.
The Trayvon Martin case exposed vulnerabilities I hadn't realized that I had. I thought about this case and I thought about my younger brother. I thought about my friends. I thought about my own experiences with racial profiling and how fortunate I was that the accuser didn't turn violent. And I thought about how little regard Black life has in America. For the first time in my social justice life, I was heartbroken.
Racism is personal. It is not merely an abstract concept. It is not just critical race theory. It is losing children, siblings, parents, and friends to socially sanctioned ignorance.
Something happened to me. I became afraid of the great chasm of despair that every social justice activist will eventually find themselves in if they remain informed and passionate about the issues. I knew my anger was wedded to my sadness and so I dispensed of both emotions.
I tried to approach my activism from a relatively un-emotional stance. Or I substituted sarcasm and snark for what used to be anger or fear. It felt less painful and less vulnerable. But it's also less powerful.
In many ways, I am scared of anger. I am scared of the other emotions that are inextricably linked to anger. I want to make this my life's work but I want to steer away from depression. I do not want to be consumed by the injustice I learn about.
I approach my studies in this manner. I read some of the most gruesome history texts. I read the saddest slave narratives. I learn about little known history that highlights the extreme cruelty that Black people have faced and continue to face. I read these things with a sort of detachment.
I realize that things that would have made me livid in the past do not rise any emotion in me. I think to myself "another one, another victim" and the rage I used to have loaded and ready for every victim is gone. Some people say this marks social justice maturity. But I think this is a sign that I both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by all of the evil I see around me. And it's to the point where I cannot process it all.
Although I am doubtlessly impacted by the idea that being an angry Black woman is who you do not want to be. I am also impacted by the reality that anger and despair are not pleasant emotions. They are psychologically draining.
I can never avoid oppression. Before I was informed it seemed as if I could avoid it because I didn't know how to notice it. But now I see it everywhere. When I'm out with my friends, when I'm in my own home watching TV, when I walk outside and overhear random conversations. I see and notice hateful comments all the time. And yet, I somehow believe that I am not supposed to be angry.
I am trying to limit my humanity if I fail to be angry, if I fail to embrace the moments of sadness that I will doubtlessly experience when cases such as Trayvon Martin's are brought to attention. This is the life of a conscious and aware Black woman.
This need not be viewed as a wholly negative thing. I think that I am acting in convenience, if I prevent myself from accessing righteous anger, but really I am acting to reinforce my own oppression: the same oppression I purport wanting to change.
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