I was truly moved by Cynthia’s heartfelt exploration of anger and its role in our quest for justice. I get angry. I get angry in some healthy ways, and in many unhealthy ways.
I like to think that I’ve gone through three stages of liberation in my life (so far! May there be many more). The first of those came when I was a young man still in high school; still struggling with coming from Puerto Rico and suddenly becoming a despised “minority.” At exactly the right moment I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and it changed my life.
Malcolm gave words to my rage and helped me wield that anger towards my first step of freedom.
I was right to be angry. And anger was an essential fuel, a powerful spark for the self-empowerment and organizing impetus that has helped me become who I am. I don’t believe we would have had a Black Power Movement, or perhaps not even a Black is Beautiful Movement, without the anger that Malcolm and others were expressing.
I believe in anger. And yes, I still get angry.
Interestingly enough, many years later, that once liberating anger had become a poison to my soul. I hurt people. And I often hurt people in the name of justice. Not just “bad” people, but my partners in the struggle, and the people that I loved.
As with all of the seven deadly sins that Cynthia outlines in her post, there is an addictive quality to anger. Anger can be overused. For many of us anger can become the go to place when we are hurt. Something painful happens and rather than becoming vulnerable, and thus increasing the possibility of human connection, we become angry instead. Anger becomes our default feeling, our posture.
I have seen it over and over again. Activists and organizers are rallied by anger, find a positive expression for it, and eventually get stuck trying to live a life for justice that is fueled by it. It becomes depleting. The opposite of life giving. That’s the biggest problem with anger, that it is not a sustainable fuel.
I’m all for anger as tool. I’m for anger as spark. And I’m for anger as power for strategic and righteous intervention. I’m not for anger as a way of life, not even a life for justice.
Interestingly enough, the consequences of my anger brought my life tumbling down almost eight years ago. I lost so much. I fell apart. And it was in that breakdown that I finally learned to love.