For many of us, anger is a relatively easily accessible emotion, even if it’s not entirely pleasant to feel. There is a lot to be angry with. Little time passes between abuse of power and attacks on black bodies.
Even if these abuses are nothing new, the effects are still being felt. Black people have historically been exposed to racist violence from both fellow citizens and systems (health systems and police) that are supposedly designed to serve and protect us. And in our day and age we have the gift of having access to information at any time and at any time if we so desire.
For non-black men of color who, in these moments, are aware of the way they are treated differently because of their skin tone or nationality, this violence affects them negatively as well. They know they are not seen as a threat to whites like blacks, resulting in a cruel form of protection that can also have negative mental health consequences.
And then there is the ongoing discourse by experts and correspondents about the validity of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s all a lot to deal with, and while it’s not new, the anger over the treatment of blacks in the United States (and beyond) can sometimes cost it all. As James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be angry almost all of the time. ”
Anger is especially complicated and tricky for black and indigenous men. On the one hand, anger is an emotion that is more socially acceptable for men. We see value in male anger. Society often regards angry men as passionate leaders who can take control of situations and achieve results (often to the exclusion of other, more delicate emotions). Angry men are acceptable, angry women (especially angry black women) are not.
“Power in the defense of freedom is greater than power in the name of tyranny because the power of a just cause is based on conviction and leads to decisive and uncompromising action.” – Malcolm X.
Anger is also a familiar, accessible emotion. But this is also mitigated by being a man of color. There is an underlying belief system around the world that black skin means anger and violence for white (R) people. This allows BIPOC to be viewed as a walking powder keg, as if anger and violence could spread outward at any time.
However, this anger is like any other emotion, and your anger is still valid.
The first step in successfully managing your anger is to acknowledge that it is okay to feel this way. It’s okay to get angry about a system that devalues you and those who look like you. Frustration and anger are reasonable responses to a hostile and racist system that keeps you trapped by its limited view of the black.
I often tell clients that feeling angry or angry is our indicator that we are wrong. It is often an indication that injustice has occurred. While we don’t have to justify our anger, we can find purpose in it. We could also find the energy we need to correct that.
And dealing with your anger is actually better for your health. When we internalize (deny, minimize, or ignore) emotions, we end up paying the price with our health. The suppression of emotions has even been linked to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Hence, it is important to identify our feelings, sit with them and act when we can. Our life depends on it.
While it is okay and valid to experience anger, how we respond to it is really important
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that anger is not an excuse for violence or abuse. We are constantly fed by a belief system that male anger is uncontrollable and excusable, but not. We can do better. We can be better.
If you were mad One of the most helpful things you can do is put responsibility on the source of this injustice. Then you can use that energy in a productive and progressive way.
For example, you can use your anger to raise your voice in protest. You can also gather your community to vote for progressive, anti-racist local candidates. You could use your voice to shout racism when you experience it. You can use this anger to speak at community board meetings or write to leaders to make sure you are committed to making changes that are needed.
As a therapist, I often speak of anger as an “umbrella emotion”. Anger helps us feel strong and powerful, not vulnerable or powerless. But in many cases, when we dive deeper, we see that there is much pain under the umbrella of anger. When we look at this pain, we will often find elements or evidence that have been exploited or led into hurtful scenarios.
Beyond the cloud of anger, we can also find that we are emotionally wounded. We suffer. We can understand that most days we are scared of going outside with darker skin and constantly being viewed as a threat. It is painful to be seen as a constant threat in public – it is unsettling to be seen as a powder keg waiting to be ignited.
We never know when someone might accuse us of a minor crime that could result in unnecessary injury or death. We don’t know when our next neighborhood run might be our last. With this fear, we can sometimes feel powerless. These feelings are hard to shake.
It is a trauma not to be able to be fully ourselves without our manhood being threatened by others. It is an injustice to have to constantly navigate the stereotypes that are imposed on us so that we cannot be our true selves in all environments.
If we take some time to slow down, we can delve deeper into that anger. We can write in a journal, meditate, and practice self-care. We can reflect or explore our feelings in therapy. In this way, we can find that hidden beneath the anger and justice for racial justice are more tender feelings.
To deal with all of the emotions that anger brings with it, we need to allow ourselves to feel the completeness of them without faking and fixing them. If we can show ourselves for ourselves in this way, it can also enable us to share our thoughts, needs and feelings with those around us.
If we can do this work, we can use our anger to make ourselves and our communities better. Then our anger becomes a strength rather than an obligation.
Jor-El Caraballo is a licensed therapist and co-founder of Viva Wellness, a mental health and wellness practice in Brooklyn Heights, New York.