On the Road to Angry Brown Lady

I started this post on December 6, 2016 like this…

For the first time in my life, I see myself clearly on a track and feel uncertain how to get off. The horrible injustice that seems to be finding its way to my eyes for consumption and emotional response has increased greatly. I am not stating that the amount of injustice in the world has changed, merely my observance of it.

My default response to most things is sadness and empathy. I feel sadness that the world continues to exist this way and that our global community cannot figure out how to listen deeper and love greater. Then I try to understand why and how the conflicts, disagreements and deaths happen. A new response is slowly rising within me.

I am angry. I am annoyed. I am furious. I feel deep rage. I wish ugly horrible things to the leaders instigating and calling for violence and intolerance.

This is not who I have been in the past. Anger for many reasons is not my default emotion. Anger makes me feel powerless. All of my impulses are good neither for me nor the world at large. So I sit turning the anger inward and it becomes deep sadness. It is better for these reasons to avoid this emotion. Only recently and out of necessity have I begun to embrace it.

This does not change however that I feel myself pulled in a direction with no way to deviate. There are two of me. The empathetic me tied to the train tracks and the angry me gleefully blowing the horn of the train about to run empathetic me over. Angry me has a handlebar mustache and evil laugh. I need both mes to get off the tracks.

I realize that within the anger there are deeper feelings. Behind my anger is a sense of deep exhaustion. A famous quote comes to mind.

 

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

                   – Fannie Lou Hamer

 

Read quickly about the speaker behind these words and you see something stronger than anger. You see a woman who was beaten, written off and still did what she thought was right. You see a woman determined.

I think even deeper within the anger is a sense of brokenness. More than sadness. I feel broken by the fact that just as I am recovering emotionally from one blow another comes to shatter what little solace I have found.

I don’t want to head down the track not only because I don’t desire to become a stereotype but also because I don’t desire to become someone I’m not. I try to live my life as authentically as I can and anger is not me. It’s not my go to.

There is also a huge part of me that fears the stereotype. I identify as brown to acknowledge that I am not only black. I have a vast and beautiful heritage filled with African American and Native American history.

Do a quick google image search of “Angry Black Woman” and you will find you have options. You can have: old, funny, ape, big, attitude, michelle, glee, mad, reality tv or at work sub categories for your search. Google conveniently provides them in pretty rainbow colored buttons above the original search results.

I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to be a meme. I like most humans want to be respected when I express feelings.

You don’t have to look far to see Native American Nations being made fun of for expressing emotions. I can’t even start to dive into that here. Maybe in another post.

So I find myself on the track. I’m brown and don’t feel like changing that. The world likes to make fun of any nonwhite person who expresses emotions. And I feel angry based on exhaustion and brokenness. What do I do now?

Avoiding, sitting on the sidelines only keeps me out of the public eye. It doesn’t necessarily change all of the feelings going on inside. And unfortunately I don’t see the injustice changing or moving anytime soon.

 

Flash forward to now…

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been 6 months since I wrote the words above. I didn’t post them then because I was still wrestling with myself and with how to write this post.

I don’t think I’m on the track anymore. There aren’t multiple versions of me comically trying to kill each other. No handle bar mustaches. I’m off the track and on a path.

Yesterday I graduated from a leadership program. I have had many unsettled feelings about the program and on this day I had an interaction that upset me.

I felt crazy. I felt militant. I felt angry. I reached out for help. And with that help came a clear sense of direction.

Today, I listened to words of wisdom flow from my dear cousin to me. I think of my amazing writing partner who’s more than family. I think of the words of my grandmother reminding me of my heritage and the strength that lives there. Today I think of my mother always at my side, my continual support. And I think of my white husband, the proud feminist and gentle hand by my side and at my back holding me up when my legs quiver.

I come from strong women. My heritage is beautiful. Today was the first day that someone complimented me on this. It was a good reminder.

The United States Government has tried to kill my people and failed in the 1800’s, 1960’s and even today. Black and Native people resourcefully and skillfully continue to live.

That is my commitment. I am going to keep living. I am going to keep being myself. My loud, emotional, thoughtful, inquisitive, brash, angry, empathetic, silly self. I love me. It took months alone to remember this and I won’t back.

I won’t go back to quieting myself for others. I won’t go back to tip-toeing around issues of discrimination, racism, privilege, inequality, injustice and every other thing wrong with the world.

I will no longer poison myself by turning feelings of anger inward. If I’m labeled a stereotype so be it. I know who I am.

I am a beautiful brown girl ready to learn, listen, grow and have a great impact on the world. I hope you’ll join me.

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No Heroes or Villains

I awoke from a dream where I got to tell the person who hurt me everything she did wrong. It felt really good. She understood how she had wronged me and seemed somewhat apologetic as I walked away, vindicated and triumphant. It was a beautiful dream.

I have only been deeply hurt a few times in my life. Realizing that just now, I realize how lucky I am. I think there are a few reasons why this is true.

  1. I have learned recently through my shrink that as far as relationships go I only have three camps: stranger, acquaintance, and intimate. There is one more past those; but only one person has ever made it past intimate and that’s my husband.
  2. If someone upsets me I think through it deeply. Why did they do this? What did I do to contribute to the situation? And on and on and on.
  3. I can’t stand unresolved anything. If I have wronged someone or someone has wronged me I would rather it be addressed as quickly as possible.

All of this means that if someone upsets me I talk to them quickly depending on what camp they’re in. If they’re a stranger, I will generally go through the thinking process just a little and then it’s resolved, for me at least. If they’re in acquaintance camp, I may not care one way or the other if the relationship ends. That would suck but life is short and I don’t like having unresolved stuff in my life.

So, for something to deeply hurt me a person has to be in a position where I don’t feel comfortable confronting them directly or close enough that I don’t just cut them out of my life when they are unwilling or unable to change the behavior causing me hurt.

This describes the only two people who have ever deeply hurt me. The first is my mother. We are great now, but that took a lot of time and therapy.

The second person is also a woman who is old enough to be my mother. Although her behavior often lacked that level of maturity and I don’t think she has any love for me in her heart. Of late, I’ve been struggling to forgive her. Hence the dream. She essentially bullied me out of my job. That may give her too much credit, but she’s the reason I left.

With my mom it was easy to forgive. She begged for it. Although she could never really know how she hurt me at least she wanted to make things right.

With the other woman, I don’t think she cares. The dream was wonderful because I got what I wanted. In the dream, she understood how she had hurt me and felt bad.

I find myself wanting to paint her as evil. She was the villain in my story. And although my shrink is helping me to see that most likely her actions had very little to do with me and everything to do with her; that doesn’t stop me from wanting to slay the dragon or melt the witch.

We are programmed to desire justice. Of course when everyone sees themselves as the hero of the story things get complicated. Who’s justice?

It would be so much easier if the woman who hurt me was truly evil, but that is not the case. For her, she was the hero and I the dragon or more likely simply a peasant who became collateral damage.

A few days ago I watched this movie, Radio Rebel. It’s a Disney TV movie but was enjoyable. There was only one person who was painted with one note, the principle. She relished in the agony of her students and once defeated quickly leaves the story. Maybe this is because in order for there to be a hero we can’t feel for the villain.

So where does this leave me and my dream?

I guess I have to acknowledge that maybe for this situation there are no heroes or villains. Just people doing the best they can. She was doing the best she could and that just happened to be the worst for me.