The virtues of anger

Anti-racism work is tiring. Unlike other jobs (whether it’s truly your day job like with me or virtually a job like for those who dedicate their off time to it), where time off is important to one’s overall sense of well being, it doesn’t necessarily work the same. Doing anti-racism work as a Black woman in Trump’s America means that even time off can be a loaded issue. After all, racism, whether personal or systemic doesn’t operate on my time clock nor does it take a break. I have had racism find me on vacation, when shopping, when eating, when caring for an ailing family member…oh yeah, any activity that I engage in can be interrupted by white supremacy and racism. It’s just an uncomfortable truth and it has always been an uncomfortable truth.

As a result, I believe in blowing off steam by any means necessary. When I learned that letting things out was vital to my well-being, my anxiety decreased and my blood pressure thanked me. My usual venue for blowing off steam is Twitter. Those who follow me on Twitter tend to know this. Despite the site being a cesspool so often these days, there is still much good and useful about it. And, as someone who often works alone and from home, Twitter serves as a de-facto water cooler. I can pop in and pop out.

A few days ago, I did just that. A well-meaning but racially ignorant white acquaintance made a comment and it was the type of comment that will never fail to piss me off. For some reason, white people and their system of whiteness believes that when a Black person or other non-white person experiences racism, that it is far more important to “go high” or be a classy act than it is to stand in truth.

As a 46-year-old Black woman, who has been Black all my life. I am here to tell you that being the “better person” in the face of injustice get tiring; it wears on you. And after a while, it steals your humanity. Between the large acts of racism and the daily microaggressions that are pretty much par for the course, that means you spend more than half of your waking hours (assuming you are a POC around white people) stuffing down your feelings and playing a role. What people see on the outside does not match what’s on the inside. You are seething with rage and you can’t or don’t express it because if you do, you risk being labeled. And as long as most of us earn our daily bread working in white-owned institutions, showing up in our fullness as people is simply not an option.

So, after fielding an ignorant comment from the casual, white acquaintance, I went on Twitter to blow off steam and that’s when things got weird.

A white woman tweeted back to tell me that she was unfollowing me because my tweet was sad and that I need to find peace with myself and the world because my anger is poisonous.

*blinks*

So, a Black woman expressing herself is poisonous? Clearly this woman didn’t know or care that she was the embodiment of what Black folks deal with everyday. The denial of our humanity via tone policing. Tone policing is one of the oldest tools in a white liberal’s bag when it comes to race. Rather than seeking to get at the heart of what’s causing the anger, the anger becomes the focal point.

Remember, this all started because of the casual acquaintance suggesting that I should go high/be a classy act and now a random white woman on Twitter is telling me that I need to find some peace.

Instead of asking how they can be a part of the solution and work toward becoming actively anti-racist, the onus is placed on me (or any marginalized person) to a better person. There are times in life, when being the better person can be a good option, but never has Black humanity been granted by being the bigger person. If one is constantly abused by the system and individual white people, how is shrugging that off “better” or “bigger?” When has passively accepting chronic abuse caused it to disappear? Giving a pass to the oppressors only gives them license to continue.

Systemic racism and white supremacy will not be dismantled by being a better person. If that were the case, racism should have been eradicated during Barack Obama’s eight years as U.S. president. Obama and his wife were always going high and this country thanked them by electing an ignorant buffoon and openly racist, sexist SOB. People may have admired the Obama’s both in and out of office but even when the most powerful man in the world was a Black man, the needle didn’t move on racism. Instead, a nastier and more virulent form of racism sprouted up in our collective yards. Weeds on steroids.

To be honest, it is disheartening when people who would probably see themselves as allies of sorts engage in the same violent behavior towards POC as the openly racist. Make no mistake, tone policing is violent and harmful. It also widens the gulf and ensures that no real change will happen.

Whiteness is a system of rules and norms designed to ensure the long-term survival of white supremacy. One of those norms is discomfort with uncomfortable feelings and an avoidance of the unpleasant and uncomfortable. Another of those norms is a minimizing of the feelings of those harmed.

Black people, Indigenous people and other marginalized groups have every right to their anger. As a Black person whose ancestors were enslaved and whose father grew up under Jim Crow laws and who lives every day of my life fighting to be seen as fully human, I am very angry. Thankfully, I have learned to use my anger for good by working for social change. Anger and a willingness to not accept the status quo is often the fuel that motivates people to change. If you can move past the place of being immobilized by anger or wildly flailing about with it and instead by fueled by it, your anger can be a source of good and you can actually find peace by being angry.

The question I have is: Why aren’t the good white people angrier? Why can’t white people who purport to care about racial justice use their anger and privilege for systemic change instead of stifling the anger of marginalized people? Why can’t white people use their anger to confront the bigots in their lives? Instead, only racist white people are actively at work using their anger to protect their self interest, which is to maintain whiteness and white supremacy. And it’s getting them pretty far lately.

Rather than feeling sorry, shocked or immobilized, tap into your anger and let it be the guiding light on your journey to change.


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The college admission scandal is just one blossom from a deeper set of roots

(Following up on the recent post here at BGIM Media, a piece by one of our contributors on the pervasive inequities throughout the educational system that hold people back, often because of race)

So I’m sure y’all have heard by now about this college admissions bribery/scandal/mess with this white dude, William Singer, the two white actresses, and the other 50 parents, administrators, and coaches in the thick of it. To summarize, Singer, for about 10 years, had been falsifying documents, doctoring photographs, rounding up test scores and hiring his own proctors to control tests—all to get students into prestigious programs in exchange for money from the parents (who knew what he was doing). And I’m sure some of you are surprised by this.

Well, if you are, that means you’ve been privileged by the education system.

The education system in America privileges you if you are white, wealthy, and have connections (and yet so many of those people still have to cheat to get in—using a whole extra layer of privilege and connection allowed by wealth). Anyone else attempting the right way to get in by working hard? Good luck.

Black and Brown people have been fighting the education system that ultimately privileges wealth and whiteness (Think all the way back to Ruby Bridges). And what’s happened to these families? One Black mother, Kelley Williams-Bolar in Ohio, falsified her address to send her children to another, better school than the one in her district. When she was found out, she was told to pay over $30,000 in back tuition and when she couldn’t, they made an example of her by throwing her into jail for 10 days and giving her three years probation, along with community service. All for attempting to enrich her child’s educational experience because the system disadvantaged her kids by ignoring the schools where she lived.

There is blatant inequality because of race and wealth in education. It sadly does not matter if these Black and Brown students work hard. Privilege can get you far when you’re white and wealthy. Ashely Alese Edward writes in their article “This Mom Went To Prison For Enrolling Her Son In A School Outside Her District”about another Black mother, Tanya McDowell, who “falsified” her address about where she was staying (her and her son were homeless at the time).

Edwards writes: “All public education in the U.S. is not created equal, which oftentimes forces parents from low-income backgrounds to use the addresses of friends and family members to get their child into a better school district. It should come as no surprise that those most impacted by this disparity in funding are people of color: A recent study found that white school districts have gotten $23 billion more in state and local funding than predominately nonwhite districts”

This sums it up perfectly. Underfunded school districts force parents to intercede in their child’s education. They have no choice. Williams-Bolar and McDowell’s move of falsifying their address isn’t hurting anyone; what these other parents did is, they had a choice. Their choice is keeping brighter and more capable students out. It’s fixing the system in their favor. These Black women should have never been charged; their children should have been given an equal chance at education.

There is so much I could go on about within this topic: how the hardworking student of color lost a spot to a privileged but less deserving white student, how the student of color might be lost in student loan debt because of all of the loans they had to take out, how the student of color isn’t heard at their university with regards to their experience,  how the student of color is passed over for job opportunities in the future…

However, what we need to start with is educational opportunities suited for all students. We need to reward hardworking students, instead of letting them down. The whole educational system needs an overhaul with all parents, instructors, administrators, coaches, and the community working towards the betterment of the students’ education. Every student. The education system is far from equal when it comes to race and wealth. This need to change.

Referenced articles:


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Maybe we could start telling the stories right?

It’s almost been a year since Linda Brown’s death and so I’ve been thinking a lot about segregation. It still exists, of course, in very real ways, but it’s just not on the books in the same form anymore. Unfortunately, so much of this is because, as a population we’re still mentally segregated. This can be seen in not only our individual, specific positions on race, but in everything from our views on history to how we frame contemporary social issues.

As a child, I was taught that slavery began with Africans selling each other to white slavers. This story has been retold to me countless times throughout my life. It was taught to my father and mother and their parents and probably to you and yours as well. This story has implications that are in the very DNA of this country. From this story we are to infer that Black people inherently do not care for one another and therefore we are incapable of understanding core tenets of American society, like “Honor” and “Family.” From this story we are also to infer that whatever happened to us as a people was at the same time inevitable and exclusively our own fault.

You can see these beliefs of our moral inferiority and innate undeservedness make their way from slavery all the way through Brown v Board of Education and continuing to right now.

While whiteness continues to change and eventually include every other racial group, it will never include Native Americans or us. This is because every other racial group is allowed an origin story of self-reliance. All of their stories involve leaving a homeland that persecuted them in one way or another. Their stories, and therefore their identities support the identity of this country as a safe harbor for the tired, poor, huddled masses, etc. Native Americans, on the other hand, are thought of as noble savages who were too naïve to know that their time had come, leaches that take advantage of a system designed with only the most benevolent intentions for everyone, all of the above or somewhere in between.   

We ignore the fact that many Native Americans actually do have the same origin story as the rest of those groups. Unfortunately, most of them were also murdered en masse because, while having the same story, that story is at odds with this country’s identity.

The same, believe it or not, is true for Black people. While America tells itself the stories of Black people being responsible for our own enslavement, it avoids the true stories at all costs. America never tells the stories of the African leaders who fought against and in some cases defeated attempted enslavers. It never tells the stories of the Africans who fought against being enslaved in every possible way. It never tells the stories of the countless rebellions by the people it enslaved.

America never tells these stories because it cannot simultaneously be its own hero and its own villain. And since it cannot admit to its own villainy, it continues. But please don’t think of villainy, in this case as a reflection of an individual’s intentions. I am speaking specifically of the stories we tell ourselves as Americans about our fellow Americans that limit and destroy us as a country, and perhaps as a globe.

Currently, as a country we are struggling with addiction. The opioid epidemic has forced us to rethink our relationship to drugs entirely. We have begun decriminalizing addiction and treating it as a medical issue. Rightfully so. This change in attitude comes because it fits with our national identity of self-reliance. For white people.

Looking back at the crack epidemic, which affected mostly Black people, you can see the old, familiar story resulting in mass incarceration. White people, being self-reliant and superior find their victims of addiction in hospitals. Black people, as dishonorable things that would sell their own family members deservedly end up in cages or dead.

The same story is told about gun violence. A white person goes on a shooting spree and they are mentally ill and in need of treatment. The reaction to Black gun violence is, again, that Black people are inherently violent and nothing can be done.

Again, it’s not only in the acts of the individual where this can be seen. Currently, the most important issue the country faces is climate change. For white people. Not for people of color, though. Racism is still the most important issue for us because we’ve already been living with the effects of climate change for years and racism is why.

Humanity faces a lot of problems, but addiction and the temperature of the earth don’t care what color you are. They don’t care about your gender, for that matter, either. But if women and people of color were allowed the opportunities of a white man, there would be more doctors. There would be more scientists. Without even getting into the value of different perspectives, there would simply  be more people attacking the issues that affect our species.

That’s the story this country and the world need to start telling.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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