Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong. Anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems. But excessive anger can cause problems. Increased blood pressure and other physical changes associated with anger make it difficult to think straight and harm your physical and mental health. ~ Encyclopedia of Psychology
I tend to speak out against bigotry something fierce. Race and sex are my strongest battlegrounds; forgive me in advance if that makes you uncomfortable. With that said, I tend to find the varying responses to my sociopolitical talk a tad bit fascinating. It’s the comically wrathful responses that I find the most telling. Red Herring is the tactic of deflecting good points—to avoid having to listen to you so that they don’t have to bother with understanding your point of view. An ad hominem is a personal attack onto a person to discredit them from discussion. The “angry black man” accusation serves as both in a discussion or debate. In other words, it’s the equivalent to sand being kicked in your face followed by a swift punch to the crotch in what otherwise should have been a clean fight.
All my life I always pushed to be the calm, cool articulate fellow which always warranted great respect. With that being said, I adopted this maxim I also teach young leaders: Only Get Angry On Purpose. This means there’s an understanding that anger denotes a lack of control, but it’s also a natural human emotion. It is also a necessary one — it can serve as a motivator to get things done. Throughout my time speaking and listening to others I’ve noticed that this accusation gets thrown around a lot, “angry black man”. It gets categorically comical when someone attempts to exaggerate the accusation to the point of accusing me of hating white people. At that point it I’m at the point of “hilarity” which is quite far from being angry, or the type of “angry” they accuse. I will then tell them that anti-racism is NOT a zero-sum game and we are in this together. Respecting people’s differences, and people being different is paramount. Then I continue with my discussion without further pivoting.
Now being that I’m a bit older and looking at a lot more material in the psychology realm, I begin to question the totality of the “angry black man” accusation. I used to diffuse this accusation by pointing out my calm and cool. Now I’m beginning to approach what this pejorative accusation implies: black people, black men especially, are NOT allowed to be angry, ever. When you think about the gravity of that implication, it’s astounding. Approximately 39,000,000 people in this United States of America are NOT allowed to be angry. That seems a bit emotionally paralyzing.
When you then as a black man objectively observe (and study) the anger and response of people of white privilege, the results are quite shocking. As a white person you are totally allowed to be angry and even go further and project aggression. As a white person not only can you be visibly irate, but you can also stack guns, stack personal militias and stare down government officials, walk in restaurants with rifles on your back and sidearms on your hip. On top of that, no one will ever call you the “angry white man” as a pejorative. In fact, you might be called in for a job with the Tea Party campaign. In fact, white anger is summoned for political means all the time; it’s normal behavior of politicians. But to summon “black anger” seems to be some sort of evil “dark power”, a “dirty tactic” in politics in America. Even a president of the United States, if black, isn’t socially allowed to get mad — even when anger is logically reasonable. Fascinating stuff.
The Angry black man myth comes from the American Slavery/Reconstruction Era where black people, men especially, had to live in a constant state of terror their entire lives and honestly a white person who witnessed a black man reasonably “angry” as a threat to the white way of life in America. A black man who was visibly angry was kept under control by lynching him, killing him. Anger was not tolerated from blacks as slaves, or blacks as free men. So, white fear of the angry black man stems from American Slavery — which means that blacks were not the only ones effected by slavery and those effects still linger for black and white people of America.
I’ll pause for a second to point out that “anger” and “projecting aggression” are two different things. While one can lead to another, they are not the same thing. Anger is a natural human emotion; projecting aggression is something someone does to persons, places, and things. Violent action plus anger equals rage. Blacks are not socially allowed to be in a rage, not even close. White privilege extending into violence has been mentioned before. Black anger even in existence, has nothing on white rage. They are not on equal terms.
I once spoke on black people being held in an infinite (futile) state of taking care of your irrational fear. The angry black man myth is an extension of that fear. So… as a black man in America, objectively observing (studying) the wrath and rage of my white cousins… I begin to wonder should I actually be angry when my emotional disposition comes to question. “Should I be?” Anger deals with a psychological interpretation of having been threatened; socio-psychological boundaries are being infringed. So nowadays when I get accused of being angry, I calmly retort in a sarcastic tone, “oh excuse me, isn’t that allowed?”
Because I now question if am I allowed to be angry or not. Perhaps we all should ask these same questions.