I am angry that in a country with as many resources as the United States, we cannot agree about basics. I’m angry that we debate sending people to the moon or little trucks to Mars when we have not made sure that each child, woman, and man is safe; that every person has adequate dwelling space; that all are assured decent healthcare; and that our schools work. Once we’ve done these basics, then I’m fine to go to Mars. But people disagree on these basics!
The God of the Bible calls each one of God’s people “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). If that’s true, then we must do the basics.
Of course, our anger must recognize that the structures that perpetuate institutional evils are inhabited by human beings. Right now, I’m organizing Black, White, Hispanic, rich middle-class, and poor to change Nashvilles budget priorities. This means confronting the policies of the mayor Phil Bredesen. Phil Bredesen is a loved and flawed child of God, and so am I. But Phil Bredesen’s apathy and ignorance of what real people have to deal with does not excuse him. (Such excuses have been the line for centuries: “We didn’t see those people. We didn’t know they were suffering. It wasn’t me–I didn’t have anything to do with it.”) My anger calls these standard excuses unacceptable.
I am trying to redeem this creation and not perpetuate the evil. I am challenging Phil Bredesen to do the same, as a fellow child of God. I must hold him accountable.
I find it essential to use reflection and prayer to moderate my anger. I do not, dare give myself over to rage. Jesus went away to be still before God. Out of that stillness came profound and inspired action. The anger does not disappear, but in reflection, God purifies it.
Unfocused, unexamined anger takes on a life of its own. It expands and is boundless. As a Black woman in the United States, I understand that kind of anger. It can be horrifying to stop and reflect on being Black in this country.
But I also know the fruits of that unfocused anger–the addictions, the violence, the drugs, the despair, the depression, the guns, the abuse, the neglect. Anger among people who are marginalized and oppressed can spiral out of control, especially where there are no channels to process it collectively.
So it explodes. Then White folks sit up and go, “See, I told you. We knew they were violent and uncivilized.”
I buck all kinds of cultural and social constructs when I express anger. I was raised to be a good Southern girl. Good girls don’t get angry. Good girls don’t talk back. Good girls don’t speak out turn. Good girls don’t rock the boat or ask a whole lot of question. Good girls go along, and they get along. They stand by their man, no matter what. My parents still sign off out weekly phone conversation saying, “Now, you be good.”
Well, I am good. I want good, and I want my friends and family to live in goodness. Goodness is healthy, and it is of God.
But when good for a community has been systematically denied, anger is the catalyst that insists on god for the whole, not the select few. It’s the base, the roux, out of which we organize to change our reality.
God gave us anger for reason. and to deny it is to deny God. When people say to me, “You’re too angry; too passionate. Why don’t you just accept things the way they are?” that is a fundamental negation of how God made me.
Jesus was angry–with his disciples, with the Sanhedrin, with the people in the temple. It was when his anger most flared up–with his cleansing of the temple–that the powers cracked down on him.
Jesus, like all true leaders, had anger. Anger is essential to the task of leadership Real leaders speak truth. They are relentless in their pursuit of justice. Anger provides clarity of vision and helps one stay in the fight.
Somewhere within me, I sense an ancestor from generations ago, a nameless woman, who was angry and from whose loins I have descended. Maybe she was enslaved. Maybe she was murdered. I only sense that she went down fighting.
I like to think that inside her was a restless, roaming, fiery spirit. It looked for a home in another generation and found me. I only hope to pass that spirit to the generations that follow.