Whenever I find myself discussing a topic of some controversy, or at times it could be as simple as someone hearing the subject I plan on I’m writing about, I inevitably get the same question:
“Why are you so angry?”
I’ve heard the question so often I figured I might as well cut it off at the pass and answer this inevitable question as my first post. In my youth when asked about my assumed anger levels, my answer was a simple one, “I’m not.” If anything I’d say my younger self was passionate more than anything. As far as how I’d respond today… (well, more on that later.) At the time I couldn’t understand why anger is what they saw. Passionate? Yes. Frustrated? Of course, but angry? Truth be told, I had no time to be angry, I was too busy conforming to what I thought society wanted me to be. Along the way however, I did learn that when emotions like passion and frustration was felt by a Black person it was often seen as anger. And if that wasn’t bad enough it isn’t simply being angry that you’re being accused of, it’s having an unjustified anger, an irrational anger. And someone labeled irrational, especially a person of color generally, and a Black man specifically, is considered dangerous. That’s what’s meant by the term/idea/stigma of the “Angry Black man.” Like the other fan favorite “playing the race card,” it’s a phrase that not only dismisses one’s argument, it can also delegitimize your experiences, your plight, your humanity. Now I know what some of you are thinking, are those people consciously looking to inflict harm when labeling someone with such terms? My answer, who gives a shit. Ignorance (willful or otherwise) is no fucking excuse.
But I digress…
The recent events in Ferguson, New York, Miami, Baltimore and many other cities have (finally) shined a spotlight on the reality people of color face within this country. To be honest, I couldn’t understand why there was such sudden interest (or at least acknowledgement) by those not directly affected. It isn’t like instances of this nature have not persisted ever since we arrived on a boat. Is it the polarization within the country, or the shock of the blatant racism that arose to the consciousness of mainstream America the moment a Black man looked like he actually may win the Presidency? Or could it be something as simple as the 24 hour media cycle needing the titillation that murder of the innocent (no matter what their color) can sometime bring? Regardless, the reason for the sudden interest isn’t all that important, what is is the fact that these events revealed several truths that, while always self-evident within the Black community, the rest of the country (and even the world) have remained willfully ignorant. Another revelation (maybe the most important one) that made its way to the forefront was how little Black lives actually mattered (though after over two decades of the so-called “war on drugs,” and the blatantly flawed judicial system that ruined the lives countless innocents, not to mention the privately owned, for-profit prisons creating incentives for states to guarantee incarceration rates will not drop, how did anyone really not know this?). Amongst the sea change of this new awareness, what I find the most hopeful (comforting even) about the sudden movements going on around the country has been the anger, the emotion that has resonated through a people who I honestly (sadly) thought had given up for good. Especially after seeing the lack of “change” when captain hope and change was at the helm. And I say that because that’s how I felt. I didn’t necessarily see it as a surrender, instead it felt more like an acceptance. Like someone looking around, seeing the landscape of disappointment and dejection, then just shrugging and simply stating, “Welp, guess this is as good as it’s gonna get.”
Damn, I’m glad I was woefully wrong on this one.
From what I could see, since the late 1970’s a good amount of our community were lulled into complacency, beaten into submission, (and still the “angry Black man” trope has been alive and well.) I have a sneaking suspicion some of it was less about defining who we were (unjustly angry Black people) and more about where they knew it would eventually lead, like a sort of preemptive strike. (Obviously it’s bullshit but hear out my unsubstantiated assumption.) I’m thinking they didn’t think we were mad, but assumed eventually we would be and they were creating a narrative to convince us anger was the last emotion we should feel. I mean, they must have seen where it was eventually headed, how could they look at our historical identity, see our present day treatment, acknowledge the lack of opportunities, read the study after study stating the disadvantage one has by simply being black, and not be surprised that we weren’t trying to burn this fucking place down?
Which brings us back to the question I opened with, the one that I have repeatedly been force to field… “Why are you so angry?” As stated, the younger, more naive version of myself would answer, “I’m not.” Today, (and as much as I hate to answer a question with a question) it’s more like, “Mutha Fucka why aren’t you angry?”
So yeah, like the (not so subtle) name of this site states, I’m an angry Black man. And I’ve not only come to terms with it, I’ve embraced it. But please know my anger isn’t limited to racial injustice alone. There’s a plethora of topics that makes me mad, like the abuse of power, like homophobia, like sexism, like the exploitation of the poor, like telling a child they’ll burn in hell, like… well, it’s a lot of things. I’m mad for a whole host of reasons, and if you’d like a more in-depth explanation from self-proclaimed angry Black man you’ll just have to stick around and read up while I repeatedly tell ‘em why I’m mad.
(And for the record… yes, I got John Blaze shit.)