Dear White People, Recover your Anger
White people, separated from their anger, align to power and suck their way to conditional safety. They must, to merely be accepted.
Since publishing this, I’ve found numerous descriptions of how this problem plays out. Here are some links to those descriptions.
“I don’t feel anger”, protested one white man regularly, at the very moments he shook with inadmissable rage. Not me. I’ll fucking tell you. I was raised to speak my mind. And I’ve since learned to harness my anger to do so. That’s a problem. White folks do not like to be called in — particularly when it comes with anger. It means they’re a bad person. That logic might have started in the scriptures but it’s metastasised a few times since then. White people HATE me. Like, even the ones who try to pay attention can’t pay attention for long. Soon enough they feel like a bad person.
I’m sharing an emotion that white people (and assimilated others) had strategically removed when they were young. Civility is the goal. Not just the elites. Every white person living a “normal” life plays that game. Sidling up to power. That’s how survival works when inequality is sharper than it was at the time of the French Revolution. As sharp as the inside of a prison. “Don’t ruffle feathers darling.” From the beginning of time, before speech. When a baby, before they can talk, wails in anger, their parent twitches (a special reaction reserved for angry baby) in shame. Mum and dad are terrified of another’s anger, even when that “another” is two months old.
Mostly when you hear “Mum and Dad”, someone is microagressing against queer parents. Setting the norm. I’m not doing that. I’m deliberately leaving queer parents out of my accusation. When you’ve had to disappoint people consciously, you kinda know you’re not an angel. You stop it a bit with all that fragility. Queer friends, I’ve found, don’t pull away from anger so much. You can’t very well watch your blood relatives curl their lips at your personhood without rediscovering and admitting your own anger.
The Deal™ we live in needed us to lose the anger before it needed anything else from us. A baby’s angry cry gets a reaction from caregivers that doesn’t apply to other cries. Parents might go to their preferred response — fight, flight, freeze or fawn. But because the tyrant is a baby, nobody notices the parent is scared. Anger is so scary not because brutish men are clubbing people over the heads with theirs, but because someone angry with us is someone with a point. We’re imperfect. We harm people. All the time. Until white folks notice this and learn accountability, they will reproduce the systems they sense are the problem.