The recent shooting of unarmed Black teenager Mike Brown and the subsequent unrest in the streets of Ferguson, MO have made me so angry and frustrated that I have had to step away from it before it totally consumes me. Thus, I’ve taken a few days to participate in the ubiquitous “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Having had a member of our community die from ALS there was a reason to help build awareness about the disease and donate to our local ALS chapter. I found an albeit temporary distraction for my anger. Although everyone grapples with anger at some point in their lives it seems that Black people–women and men–are characterized by anger. The phrase, “angry Black woman/man” is so over done by media and Hollywood images that we come to expect all Black women and men to be angry–all the time. No one talks about the angry White man/woman. Black anger when enfolded into the personalities of women and men means that such anger is regarded as not legitimate. It signals that we need to go through attitude adjustments. It suggests that our anger has no basis in reality. Angry is just who we are, not what we become.
An example of the pervasive concept of the “angry Black woman” is the way the label has been assigned to First Lady Michelle Obama. Unfortunately, the use of “angry” as an adjective for Black people has been used to diffuse any justified anger expressed by either President or Mrs. Obama. I have seen anger expressed by George Bush, Bill Clinton (and Hillary), George Bush, Sr., Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon but no one has called them “angry.” Scholars in communication, like Thomas Kochman, point out that Blacks and Whites have very different communication style. When (some) Black people get upset about something they typically get louder to make their points. (Some) Whites on the other hand are more likely to express their anger by becoming silent and withdrawing from interactions. These different cultural styles leads to miscommunication and mis-identification of meaning.
But let’s look at what is happening in our country right now (and I am deliberate in saying “our country”). We have witnessed a series of shootings of unarmed Black men–particularly young Black men–over the past few years. The deaths of Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and now Mike Brown represent a long history of brutality against our people and yes, we are ANGRY! What other group of people is asked to sit by and remain even-tempered in the midst of all out assault? We do not expect Palestinians to be without anger. We do not expect Israeli’s to be without anger. We do not expect the Kurds to be without anger. We do not expect law abiding Iraqis, Afghanis, or people in the Ukraine to be without anger. Yet, somehow we want Black people to keep calm and trust the system to treat us in a just way.
Yes, I am angry…really angry…and I think if other people aren’t angry they aren’t paying attention! What do you think? Let us know!
Stay Black & Smart!