Anger Born of Fear

Posted on September 1, 2020


African Americans have endured what few people have. Ancestors were ripped away from the civilizations that created and nurtured them. Centuries later, traditions and the anchors people had to those who came before have been lost. The country that forced African Americans here didn’t want them after freedom was grudgingly given. They became a mystery and a burden and a threat.

In spite of all this, they survived. Their achievements have been remarkeable, especially given that the result of such achievements has been, for the most part, either surprise or resentment from those who hold the power.

Hand in hand with the achievements has been the anger, the kind of anger that is usually set aside in the name of survival. The kind of anger that is sometimes turned into humor, because harsh words are better digested by people who are laughing. The kind of anger that, when released, is mostly harmful to its own community.

Thankfully, the anger, for the most part, is in the form of words. Then something happens that, for some, has no words that are big enough or substantional enough or strong enough to release the feelings. It may be, for a small number, that they aren’t even looking for the words. It may be that the anger they have experienced all their lives has simply become who they are.

Most of these people are young, and they are male. They are the very people that the greater society has always feared. They are the ones we avoid when we are coming down the street in the evening and see them in the distance, headed toward us. They are the ones we don’t answer the door to. They are the ones who have been taught from childhood that their very existance is seen as a danger to people.

When anger turns violent, we can see nothing but the violence. And when that happens, many of us simply want the violence to stop. We don’t analyze. We don’t try to understand. In this time of extreme reaction and extreme fear, our reaction can be as destructive as the shattered storefronts and burning cars that parade across our TV and laptop screens.

That is the easy answer. The more complicated one is that, while anger is usually the catalyst for destruction, the source of that anger and the ensuing destruction can be elusive. While it can certainly come from within, what many of us are experiencing now is an awareness that most of the people who are expressing the anger are not doing so because they, themselves, have been marginalized. It is, instead, an anger born of a fear that those who have been marginalized will no longer be so. That they will displace others in the society who deserve to be there. That they, in their long-fought-for equality will somehow marginalize those who have the god-given right to be the ones in charge.

That is the most chilling and destructive form of anger. It’s an anger that arms a seventeen-year-old boy and rewards him, not for achievements in academics or in sports, but for murder. It’s an anger that creates groups who travel across the country and create mayhem in places in which people gather or march solely in the name of human dignity. It’s an anger that results in Facebook posts that present entirely false data about the number of police killed, fires set, businesses destroyed. It’s an anger stoked by a president, who needs the anger so that he can bill himself as the law and order president. Without the anger, he has no agenda.

It is tragic that this kind of anger may cause us to miss the opportunity to set things right. The opportunity to create a society that enables young black people to become something other than either villians or victims. The opportunity that this country can be better than the best of us, as long as all of the best of us can work together. We can’t do this unless the true source of the destructive anger is revealled. We must find a way to do this, because the alternatve will bring us all down, no matter which side we are on.

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