I’ve often wondered who coined the phrase “angry black man/woman”. I’ve also wondered if they took the time or initiative to question what causes the rage and anger they feel we house. I recently watched the film adaptation of the stage play by August Wilson, Fences. Viola Davis was nothing short of superb and Denzel Washington was indeed her equal. Washington’s character, Troy Maxson, was anger personified. Every word his sons uttered ignited a flame of hatred and infuriation within him and he spewed that fire in each phrase he spoke to them. Often, his hostility was also directed toward his wife, Rose (Viola Davis). He vacillated between soft and hard with her but there were certainly ripples of anger present.
This film, initially, was a major turn off for me for those very reasons. White washed news and media outlets have made it their primary goal to make anger synonymous with African Americans. We have seen countless examples of the “angry black man” magnified and I refused to allow myself to see it portrayed on film. Surprisingly, this film called me to a deeper depth. It stirred a lot of questions within and even led to some answers.
What was the reason for Troy’s anger? Furthermore, what is the reason for African Americans “anger” today? Why has this label been applied to us as if it’s one of the “ingredients” to be aware of? These are often the questions those who view us as angry refuse to ask. And I think the answers are beyond their comprehension because they have no point of reference and, often times, no desire to understand. To find a conclusion on why we are so “angry”, we must reach back to the past. We must pick up the pieces of brokenness from our ancestors to clearly see why we are still stepping around and covering our own brokenness today.
Americas past holds heavy discrimination toward Black people. Not a person on this earth is unaware of the slavery, racism and injustice we endured but many are unaware of the mental ramifications it held for us. Many of those, anger in particular, still plague us today. When a person, of any color, is discriminated against and not allowed to simply “live”, anger, rage and vengeance will, without doubt, develop. And when they are unable to vent or express these negative emotions to the individuals discriminating against them, they are internalized and hurled toward those underserving of that anger.
As much as I disagree with Troys treatment of his family, I completely understand it. I have been a victim of it. I have internalized my own anger and even victimized others with it. Day in and day out, Black people are on jobs and in organizations that are predominantly white and STILL perpetuate discrimination of the past. Yet, we don’t allow ourselves to express any negative emotions for fear of no longer being accepted or being labeled the “angry black person”. The internalization of this only leads to lashing out at those closest to us and that only furthers the anger and isolation that stems from it.
Discrimination is seemingly sewn in the fibers of this country so we must find and employ safeguards to ensure that we properly deal with anger. We must be diligent in securing a safe place to vent and a healthy way to express our anger, rage, concern and worries. We cannot deny that these feelings exist and we cannot continue to internalize them. Find your outlet. Let it out. Don’t allow another generation to be plagued by this.