Anger is largely seen as disruptive, challenging, and terrifying. Abusers know this. Oppressors know this. And they use it to their advantage. That’s why in my family, my stepgrandfather could wake up my mother and aunts at two in the morning in a drunken rage and hurl misogynistic insults at them without anyone in our family doing anything about it. That’s why members of my family can steal from each other without anyone making a scene. That’s why all of the talking is silent, behind backs, because making a public display of anger is inappropriate, no matter how justified it is. When you’re angry you’re seen as unhinged. Women in particular are stereotyped as vicious harpies should they show any anger. Black women are seen as angry without even displaying any signs of anger. Ironically, anger is used to silence people and the accusation of calling someone angry can be equally silencing. Even within social justice movements, people who get angry are seen by fellow people in their movements as hurting their cause, as contributing towards a detriment or a bad reputation.
Anger is seen as not logical. Yet, I would argue that there are situations in this world where the only logical response is anger. I do not believe anger is toxic. I do not believe it is something that you need to “let go” to be a better person. I believe that, for some people who go through oppression and hardship, anger is something that gives you strength and losing that is the equivalent of giving up. Anger will not solve all of our problems. Anger will not stop the pain and anger will not necessarily heal and maybe for some people, peace is something that brings happiness. But for some people, peace is not an option and it was never an option. When I see people arguing for peace, sometimes I see they are coming from a good place, but other times, I just see an extenuation of my family trying to silence any discussions that might make waves. Peace to me means silence and death. And now when people accuse me of being too reactive, too angry, too aggressive, it doesn’t stop me from expressing myself, it encourages me to do it more.
I think for those of us that use our anger, it’s beneficial to remember that we’re working with a destructive power. When you’re working with fire, you have to learn to avoid burning yourself or others. But that’s not a reason to never use it. There’s a reason abusers utilise anger when they can and those who choose not to use anger can still fall victim to those who do. Expressing your anger can be a powerful but at the same time frightening thing that can leave you vulnerable. In instances where I have had to temper my anger, to stay silent and not say anything, it’s only honestly made me more angry. Being peaceful didn’t bring me peace, because being peaceful meant being silent. It meant being as good as dead because no one else in the room could see me. Expressing my emotions may, to some people, make me look unhinged or reactive, but I would rather express my feelings for all of the world to see than sit in silence and go unnoticed like lawn furniture.