You know how everyone tells you anger is a bad thing? How it’ll bring you down and takes away from you. It’s scary, it’ll hurt you, and at its worst it can hurt someone else.
Each and everyone of us have different relationships with this fiery emotion. We don’t know what we’ll do with it or what it’ll do to us. We should proceed with caution.
Honestly? I say spare me your words of caution. Anger has been with me for a long time. It’s hardly ever been a detriment, in fact it’s been one of the greatest tools I’ve had in life. The existential threats that we face, have faced, and are facing would easily overwhelm anyone. The embers of my utter rage has allowed me to move when it’s been soul crushing to move as a Black person.
To quote James Baldwin: To be Black is to be in a near constant of anger. The reasons why we are/should be angry? They are utterly infinite because society has left me (and millions) little reason to not be furious.
This heat, coals, flame, whatever you want to call it, I have a very intimate relationship with it. I’ve learned I had to live with it. Society teaches us that an angry Black person is the worst thing imaginable. So, I learned to hide this under the societal mask I have to put on. So, I don’t appear non threatening in white spaces — work, school, and so forth.
When I saw the beating of Rodney King as a child (I was 5) and the news of the LA Riots, the spark began. I was sad that a man faced get harm for our shared skin color. It made no sense but eventually I got mad. I became enraged as this Black story of violence repeated without end. I kept these feelings from my family because what could anyone tell me? Every time my parents spoke of how I had to conduct myself “in public”, the embers in me would move.
I had to “behave” in public. I always had to defer to authority figures especially if they were white. They weren’t always right and who was I to question it. My parents would remind me to not get angry over thing. I wasn’t an angry child but they made sure to stop any semblance of that.
I realize they didn’t want me to be an angry Black person. I’m already a threat to society why give them more reason to end my life sooner? Sorry, but I grew up to be mad as all hell and live as such.
Every time I heard someone speak of rage as a bad thing, I knew they were lying. I would nod and agree nonetheless, as I could hear flames flicker within me.
Every story, every time, everyday a Black life was stolen, the fire was kindled bit by bit. I would lament their loss but I would rage on, within myself due to the pain caused by the world. I’m angry at it all: the normalcy, our persuasive suffering, the acceptance of Black trauma, and lies of equality. All the time.
So, I learned from my youth into my teens to wear my anger behind a smile. I became an expert like so many of us had to. No matter the offense or unfair action I had my smile or the occasional sad face. I shrink myself for white society for the sake of protecting myself. My fire was always with me, it knew I when I wasn’t wrong. I let it burn.
When I would see others get angry I knew that was what truth looked like. When I felt small and asked myself why were people like me absent from spaces? I got angry.
When people invalidated me, my feelings, and concerns I remained enraged quietly. Alas, I never had the ability to let my emotions burn. To rightfully explode? I know that would endanger myself. Rightfully call a coworker out for their insensitive racial remark? Ha, why I do so when that would put my livelihood at danger.
This inferno I have? It’s a friend, it’s a comfort, and a guiding light. Every time I would give way to sadness it was a reminder. None of this was OK nor fine…
What does one do with this perpetual inner bonfire? I’ve used it to push myself through my trials and tribulations. I’ve used it to keep perspective. I obsessed over the quality of my work. I let the fire in my heart push me for exceptionalism in all my work. It’s allowed me stay honest. No matter how small or larger I will celebrate a Black person’s achievements.
If someone had the audacity to pacify and or question my rage, god help you. Every time I’ve let the raging flames go off, I’ve written/acted/spoken from my heart with no filter. As a result, I’ve done amazing work after work.
Keep in mind my anger, as deep and intimate as it is, is small. The fires that keep me going are nothing compared to the most marginalized of the Black community. Black womxn, non binary people, and my queer peers have real heat. Life doesn’t allow them the right to be righteously and openly angry as they need. They are disrespected, challenged, silenced, and by literally everyone else. The harm they face can be from white supremacy, patriarchy, toxic masculinity and even intracommunity relationships from Black males like myself.
If their fury was unleashed across the nation? That would be a fire of revenge, retribution, and destruction that everyone owes them. It would do away with all of us that have caused them harm. I can’t imagine exactly what it’s like for them. But my anger is but a mere match in comparison to volcanoes ready to erupt.
America, has seen what real rage does. When millions like myself say enough. We protest for weeks with no end. We march in the face of police antagonism. We cry out about our pain and we will riot to demand change. We will burn down what needs to be burned down as a message to you. For that kind of rage is generational. It’s felt in the soul for all the times our lives were robbed. You now are burned by our rage.
Rage is something I’ve carried for decades. To be Black is to be righteously angry. To be Black is to be purposely angry. To be Black is to remind the world why I’m angry. To be Black is to hold the world accountable for my rage. To be Black is for me to survive with rage in my heart. When will this fire die out? Well, when will you give us all true equality?
I’ve been mad as all hell and I won’t let you forget it.