“To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” – James Baldwin
That quote has come into prominence in a big way recently in predominately African-American circles because constant state of rage is probably the best way to describe the collective Black American psyche in 2016. Which makes sense when you look around and see the state of affairs that we are in. Donald Trump is literally a step away from becoming president. This is the same guy who when discussing with his team how to court African-American voters decided that this was the best course of action:[side note: He gave that speech in front of a 95% white crowd]
I don’t need to list all the reasons why black people are angry, there are plenty of other publications that do it much better than I ever can. However, if we allow this “constant state of rage” our “wokeness” to prohibit us from sitting back and enjoying things, then we are only doing ourselves a disservice. There are both physical and mental side effects from being angry all the time.
“Repressed anger — where you express it indirectly or go to great lengths to control it, is associated with heart disease.” Dr. Chris Aiken states.
Prolonged anger also has been shown to increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks as well as decrease lung function and ultimately decreasing our lifespan compared to those less angry. We are literally killing ourselves when we refuse to take our fingers off of the anger button every now and then.
The mental side effects are on par if not worse than the physical side effects. It can exasperate already existing anxiety disorders and it is also linked to increased depression. It also has the ability to take your joy away. The last one may not be an official medical diagnosis but it is something I have seen over and over again in people of color. We have a tendency to believe that if something is not constantly mentioned or is a trending topic on twitter that it has been forgotten.
Y'all forgot about Sandra Bland already? Trayvon Martin too?
— JAN6 (@TLacoste33) August 5, 2016
Y'all forgot about ALTON STERLING.
Or everyone just taking a break at the same time
— Butch™ wit an eye (@AintDataButch) August 29, 2016
yall forgot about trayvon martin fr ?
— slim. (@mali3ah_) July 7, 2016
I mean, those ae just 3 of many tweets I could show you, just search “(insert name here) forgot”. Arguably even worse is when something more light-hearted becomes a trend people talk about and it’s like people race to their keyboards to suggest that we’re all fools for allowing ourselves to be distracted.
People shouting out harambe. That's just a distraction from all the black men getting shot by police. Smh
— Cam (@cam4navy) August 26, 2016
these Arthur memes are a great distraction of what North Korea just did..
— L3ctro Lion⚡️ (@L3ctroLion) July 30, 2016
— βlondie 🌸 (@HumblyVain) August 19, 2016
Quite frankly, that sentiment is insulting by suggesting that we can only focus on one thing at a time. We were all taught to multi-task and I can still be aware of the institutional racism that plagues this country AND get these Young Joc memes off. It’s not mutually exclusive.
We’ve shamed black people for watching and cheering (and participating) for the US in the Olympics…
I'm tired of the Olympics & I'm tired of black people putting their beauty, strength, power, grace, & awesomeness on display for Amerikkka.
— Urbane Booti Eater (@Booda911) August 19, 2016
#SorryNotSorry the black people that represented USA in the Olympics shouldn't have participated for a country that don't give af about them
— Princess ✨ (@Camelliaaa__) August 19, 2016
…Empire and Power….
How U watch an entire season of empire when U never took time 2 build ya own? How U watch every episode of power but have NONE? It "Shows"
— Sy Ari (@SyAriDaKid) August 21, 2016
We’ve even shamed people for not being woke enough on standard 1st date questions…
I saw a tweet about asking about Bill Cosby and Black on Black crime on a first date. What ever happened to, “what music do you like?"
— Lil' Cory From SW 🌊 (@CoryTownes) August 11, 2016
I mean just check the replies to that last tweet. Being a black person in this country is a uniquely challenging experience and there has been and will be plenty of material for us to get rightfully upset about without us overly policing everything we hear or see.
I can make fun of Young Thug’s album cover or Odell Beckham, Jr. singing “Sexual Healing” in the cold tub with another man without being accused of “policing black men’s sexuality” or being called a “homophobe”. Every disagreement between men and women doesn’t have to devolve into someone being called sexist, or misogynistic, or a bitter men-hating feminist.
Now if someone has crossed a line, let them know, but our first steps must be to inform instead of just shame/ridicule or drag through the mud. We lose important opportunities for conversation when our default reaction is hostile.
We must protect our mental health that comes from protecting our ability to be happy, to be unbothered, to be carefree. We have to allow room to enjoy things without making ourselves or others feel guilty for doing so. I’m not telling you to ignore the issues, or to stop being woke. What I am requesting is that we allow ourselves to recharge, that we allow ourselves to enjoy, that we understand that man cannot survive off rage alone. There has to be a balance, there is a balance, now it is up to each and every one of us to find that balance.