To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.
- James Baldwin
When I was young and idealistic, I had a newspaper column. I was a “Community Columnist” for the Charlotte Observer in the early 2000s and I loved every minute of it. I loved it for the anonymity and the notoriety but most of all, I loved it because it was free therapy. Back then, all I had to do was sit down and write out all of my anger, my frustrations, my despair and fling it on to the pages of the newspaper. And everyone else had to deal with my feelings. I wrote about race, I wrote about equity, I wrote about diversity - all before they had classes and consultants for such things. I forced the readers to hear my thoughts, feel my rage and at least consider my point of view - and I thought that was helping. And maybe - then, it was. This was before the age of social media, Trayvon Martin wasn’t a hashtag yet, and Barack Obama was still a community organizer. Twenty years ago, my little column made me feel better about injustice. I felt like I had made progress in the conversation about justice, equity and inclusion by just making the masses acknowledge the issues. (The September 2005 article about race relations after Hurricane Katrina particularly enraged the masses. I was pleased).
Twenty years later, I can’t seem to get rid of my rage. Nothing I do, nothing I write makes me feel better. I can’t take another hashtag, I can’t take another video, I can’t stand another murder. I have fear - fear for Black men and women, fear for my people. But overwhelmingly, I have an anger that simmers. It simmers while I’m at work and when I’m in public and I have to remind myself that this level of rage isn’t healthy or productive. I have to remind myself that every white person isn’t a racist, in the same way that every Black person isn’t a suspect. And I know better. I know advocates and allies, I have white friends. I know that there are good people and bad people of every race. But my anger is irrational and hurtful and I can’t seem to remember it when another Black man is dead in the street.
I’m a parent now and that adds another level of anger and fear. I’m angry that I have to train her to be smarter, more thoughtful and better just to be treated equally. I’m angry that in addition to training her to be respectful of her teachers and other adults, I have to teach her to be careful in addressing authorities, specifically white people, in order to be safe. I’m angry that every month or so, I have to contain my anger so that it doesn’t convey hate for another race. I want her active and aware, not angry and slightly depressed like her mother.
So forgive me for just a little while. Forgive me if I’m not friendly, forgive me if I’m quiet. When I was young, I could just write the pain away. But I’m older now and I can’t seem to wipe it away with my words. I’m hurt and I’m angry and I haven’t quite figured out how to process it. And every time I think I’m fine, every time I think I’ve coped - another Black person is murdered. There aren't enough words in the world to wipe it all away.