By Liz Brazile
Being black in a world that perpetually undermines and denies our humanity is an arduous task. As the late James Baldwin once said, “to be a Negro in this country (America) and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” The more life experience and knowledge I acquire, the more this sentiment presents itself as a common theme in my life.
There always has been and always will be a “loud and proud” class of white supremacists who are unwavering in their overtly racist worldview. And I think it’s fair to say that most of us are past the point of caring to cajole these run-of-the-mill racists out of their bigotry. We just drag them for the filth that they are, let their employers or other institutions to which they belong know they have racist trash on their hands, and keep it moving. But what seems to aggravate us the most is watching “not-racist” white people turn a blind, complicit eye to the racism around them, refusing to collect their “are-racist” skinfolk.
Well-documented evidence of systemic racism is more accessible to us than ever before in the age of information. Black folks are laboring tirelessly over our personal experiences with discrimination at every turn. And America is enduring the presidency of a blatant racist who isn’t even clever enough to code his anti-people of color language. Yet, there is still a sector of mild-mannered—liberal value holding, even—white people who refuse to acknowledge the true state of racial affairs in this country.
It has become an exhausting norm for the white friends, colleagues, associates, and institutions that we once held in high esteem let us down. And I completely understand why it is easier for some black people to let racism go ignored and unchecked, rather than react to the incessant white nonsense that lands upon our desks each day. To do so is almost necessary if you prioritize protecting your inner peace. But your personal decision to remain dispassionate in the face of racism is just that: a personal decision.
Your outward apathy and indifference toward racist events and interactions is not a reflection of your higher consciousness or maturity over those who choose to express the natural human response to injustice: anger. If you opt to remain unbothered, that’s your prerogative and I respect it. But do not patronize those of us who choose to voice our indignation about the state of the anti-black world we live in.
The fact that you can opt out of outrage is, in itself, a privilege. A privilege that was granted to you as a result of your ancestors’ labor—labor that was born from their seething rage at their oppressed condition. Anger is a motivating force and a necessary factor for any society to make real progress. So next time you set out to tone police your skinfolk, don’t. We receive enough tone policing as it is from non-black people.
I agree that we must choose our battles wisely, for our own sake; mental health, emotional well-being, interpersonal relationships, and professional opportunities stand to take a hit if we don’t. Some days I have the time and energy to drag and reeducate and other days, not so much. But never forget that all of us have a role to play in effecting change, and every movement needs members of varying temperaments and skill sets. You can follow Booker T.’s accommodationist lead if you want to. But I’m going to stay on my Ida B. sh*t for as long as I have a voice and a pen.