News Flash: Black Americans Are Angry

Atlanta, 1963

Sometimes it amazes me when white people are shocked, shocked, to learn that black folks might be a smidge angry over that whole secondary status thing.

Not all white people are this clueless, but many are. Mostly because their lives are so insular. As a black person you have to interact and work with white people if you want a decent job and want to live in a decent place. As for white people, they don’t have to deal with us at all. There are plenty non-diverse places in every part of the United States were your only interaction with a black person would be while watching “Cops” or “Flavor of Love” on VH1.

When you never interact with the “other” America, where Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the “damn America” amen chorus jumping and shouting in agreement reside, you’re going to get a rude awakening in black anger 101. There is a lot of rushing to judgment.

This is worse than the KKK! This hate speech is deplorable! I don’t care what the context, you don’t damn America!

I won’t get at how hypocritical this outrage is considering a bevy of prominent religious zealots have “damned” America in recent years (Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, John Hagee, et al). If it doesn’t bother you when Fallwell says our tolerance of “the gays” is why we were attacked on Sept. 11th maybe you need to sit down and shut the fuck up.

But back to black people being angry. I never get why this is shocking. I realize most white people don’t have a firm grasp on black history, but general American history teaches you how all us black folks got here. But for all the people who wonder why 40 years of progress after 300 years of slavery and apartheid still = pissed of black people, here’s a brief history of “Why Black Americans Are Angry”:

15) Project housing/inner city neglect. They were such pretty, clean buildings when low-income, working class families from the segregated deep south first moved into them, dreaming of moving up in the world. But cutting off city services, neglecting the neighborhoods around them and lax policing turned them into sorrow-filled hell holes were dreams were murdered on a daily basis. The government’s response to these problems? Indifference and excessive police force. Then finally, as in Chicago and St. Louis, tearing the buildings down, but never repairing the hopelessness and discrimination that created the initial blight.

14) Housing discrimination. Wow! You were fortunate enough to have worked your way up and out of poverty to the Middle Class. You want a house, but your Realtor will only show you homes on the north side and when you go to your bank for a loan you’re denied despite having better than average credit. Then you go to a more questionable lender who charges an interest rate much higher than what you should have to pay. Then when you move to the neighborhood it doesn’t matter that you’re an engineer for McDonnell Douglas and your wife is a school teacher. Every white person on the block vanishes and within two years the neighborhood is entirely black. But at least they were nice enough to leave a note saying, “It’s not me. It’s you!”

Tulsa, Oklahoma burning after the race riot of 1921.

13) Rosewood, East St. Louis, Oklahoma and other race riots of the 20th century. When people think “race riots” most conjure up visions of the LA riots after the Rodney King trial. While that was a riot, it wasn’t really a “race riot.” A real race riot involves the murders and beatings of one racial group by another. There are plenty of those. The East St. Louis Riot of 1917 involved the murders, beatings and lynchings of black people. The government was slow to step in and stop the killings as they are wont to do when there’s a race riot. The Chicago Defender reported 150 blacks were killed. Other papers reported … nothing!

12) One-drop/Three-Fifths rule. I put these two together because they pretty much sum up two of the most ridiculous things about the black American experience. The “Three-Fifths” rule was a contrivance to count the non-voting slaves as residents so the political power brokers in the south could have more representatives (and more power) in Congress. Being counted as a voter when you, in fact, cannot vote, buttresses nicely to another bizarre law, the “one-drop” rule that designated that one drop of “black blood” made you black. This law was adopted by many states after the Civil War. Racism was a festering sickness of white paranoia that deemed it necessary to make all that is black anathema, unholy and taboo. These rules were essentially created to fight miscegenation and keep the white race pure. Just another nice way to say, “I hate you.”

11) Voter suppression. Popular in the south, but can be found anywhere blacks vote in numbers significant enough to tip the scales of an election. (See Ohio, Florida and the city of St. Louis, etc.)

10) You’re not worthy of dying for this country. What do the Civil War, World War I and World War II have in common? They were all wars black men weren’t good enough to die for. It didn’t stop black men from fighting for the right to die in them anyway, eventually succeeding in dying for their country in the hope that surely, SURELY if I show the ultimate display of patriotism, to want to fight and die for America surely I will be finally recognized as a man. So they fought and died and when the survivors came home America was still racist, but I’m sure no black people are bitter about that. I’m sure it doesn’t bother black World War II vets to not get any kudos until they were ancient. Or, in the case of the Buffalo Soldiers, dead.

9) “Bad blood.” I know that the whole “the government created AIDS to kill black people” sounds kooky. I don’t believe it. But considering their was an actual immoral study on syphilis that allowed the disease to run its deadly course on black men and infect their families despite the discovery of penicillin as a treatment, you can understand that we would be a little suspicious of damn near anything.*

8) Separate but Equal. Plessy versus Ferguson was the Supreme Court case used as an excuse for decades to make life exceedingly miserable for blacks while simultaneously reinforcing long held beliefs that blacks were not human, not equal to whites. Protecting the “purity” of the whites, blacks were denied entry into all places deemed for whites. Apparently we had the world’s biggest case of racial cooties. The kind of cooties that get you separate and inferior facilities.

7) Reparations. I’m not a pusher of reparations. I don’t think there is an amount of money that could be paid to make up for slavery and institutionalized racism. But there are always going to be people, furious, wondering when their 40 acres and a mule are showing up.

6) 100 years of Lynching. See? This is why there is no amount of acceptable money that could ever be paid to make up for killing people for the sake of killing them. For being terrorists. For terrorizing millions of people living primarily in the South and lower Midwest. You just don’t want to know what could make up for that. For killing people for sport, for any excuse, then taking pictures next to their ritualistically burned and mutilated corpses, then turning those pictures into postcards to mail to your friends. Just as the Nazis couldn’t kill 6 million Jews without the consent of German citizens, the Klu Klux Klan couldn’t terrorize and murder blacks if they weren’t endorsed by the members of the white southern community who supported the politicians, sheriffs, police officers, businessmen and other upstanding individuals who were more than happy to don white robes, burn crosses and massacre people.

5) Police brutality. Rodney King was not an isolated event. Rodney King happens every day, all across the US because blacks are deemed as being more violent and less important than whites when it comes to crime. It doesn’t mean anything to sodomize a man with a plunger or open fire on a man reaching his wallet or taser a woman over and over or rough up a youth because his pants hang low or beat a confession out of an innocent person. The color of justice in this country is painted in the blood of cruel indifference and apathy.

4) Katrina. This shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone, but black people are pretty pissed about Hurricane Katrina. They’re angry that the preparations for the hurricane were so slipshod and flawed. They’re angry that for days people were trapped, starving, dying of thirst or drowning to death. They’re angry that no one seemed to care. They’re angry that when people sought help they were denied it. They’re angry that blacks were branded as “looters” for seeking supplies at water-logged Wal-Marts and their angry about all the misinformation and wild speculation that went on. They’re angry that promises were made, but never fulfilled. They’re angry that black neighborhoods that had existed for hundreds of years were gone, never to be repaired. They’re angry about the trailer homes that are stinking of poisonous formaldehyde. They’re angry because of the gentrification taking place in their neighborhoods. They’re angry because they want to come home, but can’t because their jobs and homes are gone. They’re angry because insurance companies won’t pay damages on their homes. There are a lot more reasons to be pissed, but you get the drift. Many people have wondered if this is an issue about race. While the incompetence of the Bush Administration that weakened FEMA and glossed over forecasts did not initially have a racist slant, the lackluster response and tepid rebuilding effort reeked of “fuck all y’all.” Was it a mere coincidence that the people the government was reneging on were poor whites and a large majority of blacks?

3) The uneven justice system. This ties in with police brutality and the indifference when it comes to black crime. Black defendants are disproportionately given harsher sentences than white defendants for the same crimes. Drug laws are overly punitive towards blacks. Incarceration rates are higher. Violence towards black women and children are overlooked. When blacks go missing, irregardless of age or gender, little attention or resources are focused on finding them. When crimes are committed where blacks are the victims, the police or prosecutors do not make an adequate effort to protect witnesses. Sometimes it feels like the number sin in America is to be born a black person who is three-fifths of a white person therefore not deserving of justice.

“Bloody Sunday” in 1960s Alabama.

2) “Jim Crow.” Jim Crow laws were the direct result of Plessy versus Ferguson. These were created to segregate the races. To this day, despite integration, many southern high schools don’t hold proms out of the fear of black boys and girls dancing with white boys and girls. Destroying Jim Crow consisted of being tortured and attacked during non-violent protests, being murdered for speaking out, being assassinated for leading a movement, having your churches bombed and homes burned, being mutilated and mistreated, being beaten by police and soaked by water hoses. The fight also involved false imprisonment, human rights violations, illegal wiretappings, being spat upon and verbally abused. So why would anyone still be mad when after all that segregation still exists in many parts of America due to white flight and redistricting?

1) Slavery. You say, “It happened so long ago. My family never owned slaves. How could you still be mad? You weren’t a slave, your parents and grandparents were slaves, so really? Get over it already.”

If only things were that simple. Slavery is the set up, the root, the origin of all black anger and resentment. Behind every frown, holler and painful cry, behind it is our nation’s shameful legacy of slavery. America’s unique brand of “once a slave, always a slave and oh by the way, you’re children are slaves” bondage was so demoralizing, so punitive, so humiliating that it still shapes both black and white America’s views of each other.

This racist conceit was created by white intellectual elites (See Thomas Jefferson) who wanted to justify bondage when they were fighting for their own liberty from the British. They branded blacks as inferior, subhuman, violent, child-like, sexually perverse brutes meant only to serve whites. When you’re not seen as human people can do unthinkable things to you or ignore your pleas. And despite being here for 300 years black Americas are still fighting to buck the inferior, brutish, perverse stereotypes we are consistently labeled with. You can’t have an honest discussion about race without talking about slavery’s impact on how our country views race.

There has never been a full apology or formal recognition of the legacy of racism and slavery. There has never been a national conciliatory effort to cure the ills of Jim Crow. There has been no apologizes for the failures of our government involving Katrina. No apology for the people prosecuted and sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. There has been no effort to right the root of our wrongs. There are only scraps tossed here and there and cries of “when will you get over it” when there was no true acknowledgment of the root of “it” to begin with.

Why so reluctant to apologize? Because our nation doesn’t want to acknowledge its failings. Because many whites don’t want to “own” the crimes of their forefathers, government, neighbors, friends and family members. And who would want to own this? This wretched past of cruelty and pain. Who would want to recognize it and mend this fence? No one wants to because the fear is that once the apology is through will there be a debt owed. Will there be demands for acknowledgment, payment? Will there be lawsuits? Will there be reparations? Will there be revenge?

There are other slights and horrors I could have listed: the rape of black female slaves, minstrel shows, the pain and violence surrounding integration, health care disparities, a flawed and broken educational system. I could go on and on, but for what if others don’t understand that you can’t flick your hand and wish it all away. Not when we’re marked with the sin of our country in the color of our skin.

I’m sorry if those cries are hard to hear. I’m sorry if hearing black anger offends whites. But you can’t call it racist when Pastor Wright’s polemic sermon was true. Our government has committed sins at home and abroad and has atoned for nothing. We have never apologized for anything we did to another country or minorities in the United States. Our own policies failed us and we were attacked. Everyone acted surprised, but any one who follows international relations knows that many are angry over injustices, some perceived, some true. We’d been attacked before and ignored the warnings. None of this should be a surprise, unless you’ve turned a blind eye to it all and only chose to here the popular fictions you have always heard, “America is great. America is good. America can do no wrong.”

This is a dangerous line of thinking that would only take us farther away from reconciliation and continue the divisions that exist between a world of black anger and a world of white indifference.

*Originally number six erroneously said that the men in the study were given syphilis by the individuals working on the study. In actuality the majority of the men in the study already had syphilis but the disease went untreated as part of the experiment. Thanks for the correction, AC.

18 thoughts on “News Flash: Black Americans Are Angry

  1. @no.8 ‘separate but equal’ — the popularisation of segregation in south africa was similarly devastating. it is hard to stomach this kind of thinking happened to our people worldwide.@no.1 ‘slavery’: you made some great points. i would just like to add that dissenters in the UK now are saying that politically correct people are the ones who are harping on about slavery. no surprise these dissenters are white.

  2. Once again Snob, you are on the money. Sometimes it is really hard to voice the deep seeded anger in a coherent and logical manner.Thank you for this post.

  3. THANK you for laying it all out. I’m mentally drained from a lifetime of having to school (white) people and bring them up to speed on stuff they should have learned in history classes a long time ago–forget the fact that some (white) people who lived through at least the Jim Crow era are still with us.My Mississippi-farmer-grandfather fought in WWII, and do you know that at his funeral, no one from the military showed up for the flag ceremony? I wonder how many folks would call that “unpatriotic”…Again, thanks SO much for this post. It amazes me that nobody in main-stream media laid it out this way despite the huge opportunity to *try* to correct some folks’ thinking on the issues.

  4. Thanks America…For the boat rideFor the dirt floor slave shacks.For all that ‘overtime’ during slavery (lessee, time and a half of nothing equals nothing)for breaking up the slaves families at the auction block.for the lashing and the lynchingsfor segregation and jim crowfor the fact that as a college educated black man, I can expect to make as much as my high school educated white counter-part.

  5. I’m not surprised most of y’all are angry. I’m just surprised at how many there are who AREN’T angry(and not all of them conservative black talking heads).Until white America fesses up, I think blacks need to remain mroe than a little angry because anything less lets whites off the hook. The sad part of that is that I hate to see anyone have to stay angry for THAT long.Just 2 cents from a guy who’s raising what will one day be at least a semi-angry black girl.

  6. aulelia: Don’t get me started on slavery in Europe, where because they didn’t import slaves at the same high rate as the “New World” everyone acts like they should get some sort of racism free pass. No one wants to talk about how slavery compounded with colonialism was just as fucked up. Especially considering most of Africa and a sizable chunk of the Caribbean have still not recovered from European colonialism which largely ended a little more than 30 years ago in some places.And I was in junior high when apartheid ended. That was the 1990s. Not all American blacks are up on Africa, colonialism and slavery outside of the US, but there has always been a strong line of solidarity with black Americans pushing for the end of Apartheid and colonialism.Tamra: My Great Great Uncle John, a buffalo soldier/veterinarian, was a career military man who went the bulk of his life unrecognized for his works. They got around to thanking him tepidly a few years before he died of old age. My Great Great Grandfather who served in WWI didn’t get any love for his work. Neither did my great uncles who fought in Korea and WWII. So I can relate to that. Sadly, our story is pretty common in every black family with a US military legacy. It’s part of the reason why my parents were so steadfast in neither me or my sisters joining the armed forces, partly because of Vietnam and party because of our government’s history of screwing over black soldiers once they weren’t needed anymore.Of course, our government is an equal opportunity asshole to military families irregardless of race.gerald: You’re preaching to the choir, but then you already know that.And don’t get me started on the wealth disparities among middle class blacks and whites, with or without degrees.deacon blue: I think many of us don’t appear to be as pissed as we should be because of a combination of just wanted to get past the ugliness of it all OR a major case of DMX defeatism disease where you just get drunk and high instead of fighting on.I know most slaves, despite their hardships, just wanted to live their lives and take advantage of the opportunities given them, rather than revenge. But still out of that fear of revenge and long held prejudices many whites reacted harshly to any slights, real or imagined, creating a southern segregated police state for blacks.I think if more whites were willing to confront this issue of long-standing grievances and cases of justice denied they’d find their revenge fears to be false. Most black people don’t want to rule over them and impose their will. We just want to be respected and treated fairly. But as long as you’re projecting your guilt in the form of bigotry and three strikes laws you’re going to have to accept the occasional preacher damning you.And that’s a pretty tame assault considering some of us were lynched for direct eye contact with a white woman.Be angry black people! You deserve it.I, personally, try to balance my anger with talking about men I find attractive. Or looking at pictures of happy black families. Or holding babies. Who can be mad when they’re holding a cute baby?Kickboxing also helps. And I’ve gotten some of my best workouts while listening to classic angry black person jams by Public Enemy. Hop on a stair machine while listening to “Fight the Power” and it’s like you’re exercising all the racism fat away.

  7. As always, well written. Excellent post I just have one wee little point of order. Regarding Number 6: The Tuskegee Experiment had 399 men who already had the advanced stages of the disease.However, the gov. allowed the disease to progress without treatment, even after pencillin was discovered as an effective cure. This resulted in the infection of spouses and children, as well as the continued suffering of the men. The government actively steered the men away from treatment in order to continue the unnecessary and flawed expirement of studying their deaths by this awful disease. To my way of thinking this is equally as evil and horrible as if they had been purposefully infected- but just to be historically accurate – the government did not initially infect their nearly 400 test subjects.

  8. Thanks ac. I made a correction. You hear the infection remark so much that I didn’t even bother to fact check it.And I agree, it’s still pretty messed up. Like letting people raise their children in homes with lead paint to see how babies’ mental development is affected.

  9. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to start leaving the link to this specific post in as many spots as I can where I see an obvious need for people to be schooled.Doing so will probably generate a bit more traffic for you (because I’m talking everywhere). And, of course, with more traffic/more exposure comes the potential for more weirdos and haters-probably quite literally. So, if you have an issue with that, let me know and I won’t. I want to start with something I read over at Chicago Tribune this morning…

  10. [quote]As a black person you have to interact and work with white people if you want a decent job and want to live in a decent place. As for white people, they don’t have to deal with us at all.[/quote]Interesting blog Black Snob.I have several questions for you based on your list. I don’t have the time nor the energy to ask them all so I will limit my question to your quote above.In this statement you talk about “interacting with White people on the job”. Lets say that there are several White folks on your job who don’t particularly like Black people.My question is – how is it that the veiwpoints of these SPECIFIC WHITE PEOPLE translate into a statement on America? A statement on the state of race relations in America?Do these specific white people have some special dispensation with respect to the GOVERNMENT of this country? How are these specific White people’s actions able to tell you this about America but Black people who you work with that might not like you don’t speak for the country in the same way?Let me fill you in on my perspective. These INDIVIDUAL White people do not speak for the government nor the global state of race relations in this nation.In the past when they openly discriminated against us as Black people it, physically assaulting us or otherwise it was the GOVERNMENT and their failure to uphold their laws for EVERYONE that was the problem for Black people. These whites could act with impunity and that they did.In 2008 where we have laws and laws that are enforced – how is it that you believe that these individual White folks count as anything more than one vote just as you are counted?In some perverted way you appear to be seeking APPROVAL or VALIDATION from them rather than noting that the only thing that we can ever hope for from the government of today is equal enforcement of the laws that all of us live under. (I am not stating that this is always the case but it sure is a hell of a lot better than in 1908).Please explain if you don’t mind. Thank you in advance

  11. constructive feedback: Um … I wrote this in reference to white people, in and outside of the media, who did not understand why Rev. Jeremiah Wright and other blacks were angry.So those are the reasons.I mean, for most black people their anger is rooted in current and past transgressions. It’s not a damnation of the individual, it’s an answer to why black people are angry. So I was answering a questions I repeatedly heard in the press.Simple as that.You can debate whether or not the anger is justified, but those are the reasons.

  12. [quote]You can debate whether or not the anger is justified, but those are the reasons.[/quote][quote]And BTW, some of my more hyperbolic statements are about humor. This is a political humor/topical blog.[/quote]Since I am new to your blog and thus your style I will refrain from my assumption that you are just another Black operative with a blog. I do see a bit of distribution in your focus. I will yield in this regard.But I hope that you would agree with my point that indeed ANGER, while being a natural emotion should be channeled into CONSTRUCTIVE ends. Often the riot of today has its roots in a series of missed opportunities in the past. While this is usually made to be the case with the AUTHORITIES who typically receive the blame – it is also the case among the PEOPLE. It is the people who I am most focused upon, however.It is my opinion that there is active mismanagement and agendized leadership over Black America who’s actions ultimately leave our people powerless and thus vulnerable to the policies and antics of external forces. I can’t detail enough the importance of ORGANICALLY based progression movements over those which are driven from the outside as these external forces (ie – the American government) attempt to lift the people in question up to a particular standard that their own actions don’t afford to them.I fully respect the legitimate march toward justice. No amount of internal order is relevant if external forces are able to ride through your town, burn your stuff down and then walk away with impunity. I also make the case, however, that THIS IS NOT AMERICA 2008 in which this will happen.Thus we get back to the “Purpose” thing once again. What is POPULAR among the masses is not always what is in fact in their best interests when one takes objective measure of their progress while operating under these assumptions.For me it is less important to tell white people ‘why we are angry’ than it is to show Black people that their anger comes from their perceptions of lacking POWER and how we can collectively obtain a sense of forward movement IF certain changes are made – some of them which are counter to the POPULAR sentiment.

  13. constructive feedback: Yeah. I just felt like explaining why some black people are angry. I wasn’t trying to, how do you say it, do anything besides that?The column served that sole purpose. As for your statements regarding the governmental angst there does exist a hopelessness and apathy in the black community that relates to a feeling of powerless. And it is true that 2008 is very different, and it is a vastly different world than the one my parents inherited.Many black people still struggle to utilize the right tools to get the best result. So basically there’s a lot of talking and very little action.This has consistently frustrated me as that has not been the black American’s protest legacy. It was about innovation and savvy and passion. There was no action that wasn’t thought out, diagrammed, discussed and designed. These ideas were implemented for good and bad, but with the singular goal of advancing the cause.There is a sever malaise and stagnation. I do blame many black political, social and civil rights leaders for that. Far to many people became complacent once the dust was settled and the martyrs were buried. The struggle disappeared from their minds, turning towards self-preservation and self-advancement rather than the preservation and advancement of our culture and society. I lay a lot of the blame on the NAACP. What historically had been a poor, but proud grassroots organization is now a revolving door of cash and awards, short on struggle and long nagging TV networks, boycotting whatever we’re boycotting this week and accepting corporate sponsorship.The NAACP after the turn of the century were on the frontlines of black struggle, working with and often without the government.A lot of self-sufficiency was lost. And integration did adversely affect the black community. Black teachers and administrators found themselves out of work after their schools were closed. The middle class blacks moved out of the city when city government choked off services to the inner city in a hope to starve blacks out and reinvest in the area by filling it with business opportunities for outside companies and developers. Black businesses died and the later drug crisis would destroy what was left.So a lot of people have are stuck, not knowing what should be the next move, so everyone falls back on the actions of the past, a march here. A boycott there, not realizing that the world has evolved therefore the struggle should evolve.I wrote in your response on my Alan Keyes thread that I’m not a “operative” with an agenda. I’m one person giving her opinion about everything from foreign relations to politics to history to music to film to celebrity culture to black culture to white culture to American culture. I like to write. I like to talk. I like to think. But I don’t have any agenda other than write about what I feel like writing, make a few people think and make a lot of people laugh some.

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