When I was younger, I understood that black women were supposed to be angry. Since stereotypes frustrate me, I became especially motivated to a) understand anger and not to b) embody the stereotype with my actions or my words.
Understanding anger is easy. All you have to do is underline the cause and disentangle the roots; the effects will become self-evident.
Not embodying the stereotype is hard.
First, we aren’t in control of how others perceive us, regardless of the story we tell about ourselves.
Second (race and racialization aside), everyone gets angry.
Third, anger is important.
I wanted so much not to be angry and black that this truth escaped me.
We need anger. It can save us.
I’m unapologetically introverted. I care very much about purpose and efficiency and always maintaining peace. When there’s chaos, I try to mitigate it. When there’s conflict, I try to get to the root. I like to put the pieces back together. Diplomacy is important to me, as is maintaining good will.
Distancing myself from anger has always come with a price. It’s insincere. It’s complicit. More than that, it can fuel the fire; fan the flames.
If you aren’t capable of understanding other people’s anger, you create harm. If you don’t understand your own anger, you alienate the people you care about and harbor life-long resentment. You run the risk of never finding joy because you can’t (or won’t) articulate your own dissatisfaction. You may even believe your disenchantment doesn’t matter because the role you play is important to the team. Your sacrifice is important.
When She died every bit of anger I’d been repressing leaked out at the seams. I barely knew her and hardly managed her, but she had always been gracious and kind. I didn’t know much about her other than she loved her husband and young children and that people loved being around her.
I kept a picture of us wearing ugly Christmas sweaters kneeling in front of her ESL class. I was out of place and ineffective, but her energy was overwhelming. People who didn’t love anyone, loved her. People who didn’t love themselves, loved her.
She was wearing a wig today, and I understood (without accepting) that the chemo was failing.
When she died all of the anger I had been hoarding came pouring out.
Insignificant anger, immature anger, unadulterated anger. Anger at Chicago, anger at sub-zero temperatures, anger at snowstorms, anger at snowboots, anger at salted sidewalks, anger at black ice, anger at sexist mentors, anger at passive-aggressive peers, anger at racial profiling, anger at failure, anger at sadness, anger at self-fulfilling prophecies; all of the anger blanketed me and held me close and made the world stop.
Being black is important to who I am.
I’ve always been defined by it.
I understand where and how it positions me.
But anger, if I allow myself to feel it, helps propel me. It helps me move, act, participate, and engage. Without it, I don’t know how much incentive we’d have to make hard choices: to quit, to move, to leave, to rally. My most significant, formative experiences were fueled in large part– by anger.
Anger keeps me informed. It makes me read, analyze, and interpret. It helps me listen more closely to discern alternative facts. More than that, anger connects me back to my center.
If I let myself feel it, it can be one of the most significant gifts I own.