why we need to stop dismissing angry black people on social media

March 16, 2017

I am angry. Not all the time, but often. It’s difficult not to be when the world insists on being anti-Black no matter what you do, how you speak or what you wear, while still demanding you do, speak and dress more respectably. It’s hard when Mike Brown is murdered on a lie that shouldn’t have even mattered in the first place, and his killer is let off on even more lies. When everyone acts like no one pointed out these lies in the beginning, so there’s nothing we can do now that people who matter are starting to call them what they are. I’m angry that there are people who matter and people who don’t. That there are more and more Mike Browns and Aiyana Joneses every day.

By Hari Ziyad*, AFROPUNK Contributor

I’m angry that my trans and gender non-conforming siblings are experiencing violence at unbelievable rates while popular feminist icons theorize their existence away like it’s all hypothetical. I’m angry that I sometimes make peoples’ lives into hypotheticals, too, and that sometimes it seems I can’t help participating in the shit that makes me angry. I’m angry that not harming other people doesn’t come as easy as it should.

I express my anger whenever I need to, including in my writing and online, because if I don’t I will explode. I have learned and worked through so much on the internet, and I don’t think its healthy for me to create a separate, emotionless persona on platforms where I spend so much time, and a different one in real life. In any setting, my anger is uncomfortable and discomforting—I know this. It makes me uncomfortable. It often seems as though I just can’t let other people be happy because I have a habit of noting when their happiness is at the expense of someone else’s. I have been called cold, bitter, and “woker than thou.” I am over-compensating and I don’t leave space for others to grow into understanding shit the way I was given space to grow. There might be some truth to all of those claims.

See, us angry Black folks are full people. We make mistakes. We have insecurities and vulnerabilities, too. We don’t always call folks out the right way, and we definitely don’t always do a great job of being self-reflexive. Some of us are doing what we do for the applause. “Wokeness” can be made profitable now. Some of us spit all the right words but won’t ever back it up offline. We can be full of shit and messy just like anyone else. But this is not due to our anger or willingness to show it.

Anger has such a bad rep, especially when it comes to Black folks. We are already considered hyper-violent, animalistic, and incapable of communicating intelligently, so any show of anger can be made to represent our deepest, most inherent vices, and it can be made so easiest when we are just a floating avatar on a screen. This stems from the same place where the “angry Black woman” trope comes, and the myths around Black on Black crime and Black homophobia. But anger is a real, legitimate emotion like any others, and, for Black folks especially, we should be careful not to fall into the trap of dismissing people based on expressions of it alone.

When Chimamanda Adichie spouted her transphobic bullshit last week, then doubled down, there were lots of folks who chastised those of us who responded most angrily as doing the most. Some of us, it was pointed out, had our own backwards thoughts regarding gender not too long ago. Our anger was conflated with a willingness to dispose of anyone who disagreed with us, which would be hypocritical considering we hadn’t been disposed of when we were struggling out of our own transantagonistic violence (presumably).

But anger is not the same as embracing disposability. Some of us have been set straight most thoroughly by the toughest checks from the angriest people who loved us the most. Some of us know that love and anger are not mutually exclusive, and sometimes, even, anger is the best way to show love. Some of us are struggling to show love better through our anger, but never get a chance to do so when we’ve preemptively been overlooked as immature, hurt, fundamentally broken Black babies who have nothing to contribute simply because of our willingness to show anger.

I am angry, but that is not all I am. I feel joy, too. You might miss these moments because it is easier to flatten us than reckon with us, but they are there. You might miss them because my anger is shown at times we are told Black people should not show it, and my softness is shown when I am supposed to be angry.

I reserve most of my gentleness for Black kids and Black folks given the fewest options to receive it and least agency especially. The criminals who were already criminalized because they are Black. The Black folks who mugged me for my phone who probably needed it more than I did. Folks I refuse to call the police on if I do not have to because I know the fatal results that could culminate. The Black babies who are so angry for so many valid reasons but have not been given any other outlets for it but violence against one another. I want to create new outlets, not pretend there shouldn’t be any.

And if we are to create healthier outlets for all of our emotions, we have to give folks space wherever we can—even online—to be angry and hurt as much as we give them space to be happy. We are not robots. Violence is happening all around us and anger is a legitimate response to it. If we don’t give folks a chance to find the healthiest way to express their rage, they never will.

*Hari Ziyad is a New York based storyteller and writer for AFROPUNK. They are also the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitR, deputy editor of Black Youth Project, and assistant editor of Vinyl Poetry & Prose. You can follow them on Twitter @hariziyad.