Not long ago, I got into an argument online with a friend of mine for posting about how I was angry at Tina Fey’s cake skit following the white supremacists’ march on Charlottesville, which resulted in Heather Heyer’s death and injured many other brave counter-protesters. I was angry at Tina Fey’s advice to stay home and eat cake instead of counter-protesting at the Boston white supremacists’ march. I know that ignoring injustice will never end hate: only counter-protests and direct action can do that. And even then, we’re a long ways away from ending hate. But I digress. My friend was disappointed in me for sounding so “angry” and “aggressive” in the Facebook post about the skit. She thought that it was “inappropriate” at the time, and that I simply didn’t “understand” it. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in my friend’s response to my justified anger at a privileged woman’s request for us to remain passive in the face of hatred.
Anger is far too stigmatized in our society. Even justified anger towards oppressive regimes is stigmatized. Too often do I see self-help columnists or spiritual leaders say that the only path to enlightenment is to let go of anger and other negative emotions. I see this as a subtle form of gaslighting. We are told that our anger is something that needs to be repressed, that it’s “wrong” for us to feel angry even when we are being abused on a worldwide level. We are told to simply forgive and forget. That sort of policy might work for simple disputes, like if you’re angry at your friend for being late to your birthday party. But when it comes to much larger situations, situations that may even mean life or death for some people, it is impossible to forgive when nothing is being done to fix the situation.
I do think it’s important for people to control their anger if they are lashing out at innocent people, but expressing anger towards racists, passive “allies,” or abusers and oppressors is not something we should censor, especially when those expressing anger are people who are often systemically silenced on a regular basis.
Yes, sometimes it hurts, especially when you are the one experiencing the brunt of our anger. But your temporary discomfort does not outweigh the daily pain experienced by marginalized people. Perhaps you made an insensitive post or seemed entitled to someone else’s emotional labor and ended up getting called out or yelled at. What you shouldn’t do is claim that the angered party has no right to be angry. Instead, you should apologized for what you did. If the person you angered agrees to answer your questions, you can ask them to explain where you went wrong. If they don’t agree, don’t pressure them to educate you. Instead, try to educate yourself by researching the context surrounding your post/tweet/comment. Check to see if you posted anything that came across as passive, victim-blaming, or subtly racist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist/etc.
We need to accept anger as a symptom of much larger problems in our society. Until we eliminate the cause, it is unfair and immoral to expect people to forgive and passively accept their oppression. Until we eliminate oppression, anger is justifiable.
Question of the Day: What helps you accept your anger? Let me know in the comments below, and please like and share this post if you found it informative or helpful in any way.