Mandela and Legitimate Anger

mandela1Power concedes nothing without demand.” – Frederick Douglass

It’s weird seeing all these people praising Mandela who previously were harassing him for his directed anger at not just South Africa’s apartheid, but the US’s corporate involvement and support of evil regimes. But I think if anyone had a right to be really angry, it’d be South African blacks under Apartheid, a system often supported by the US.

As a pedestrian who has been hit by a pickup, I can get pretty angry at drivers for being reckless near us walkers. Some people get upset at me for being angry and defensive. As if it’s not my right to protect and have feelings for my life and safety.

As an urbanite who has lost friends, students, classmates and relatives to gun violence, I get very angry at Republicans and conservatives not willing to give up their so-called 2nd Amendment Rights over the apparent right to assemble guns in lock-step into Chicago. People sometimes say I’m a bit too mean to the NRA and suggest that if only I were nicer to them, they might be willing to listen.

As a person with chronic medical issues and as a parent of a child with a lifelong, serious medical condition, I get fucking angry at Republicans and anybody who argues against a better health care system that ensures more are covered. Again, I’m asked to please not be so angry.

These are issues that I’ve studied, that I know, that I deal with and live out every damned day. More importantly, these are not just issues – but policies and directions which directly affect the safety, lives and well-being of people I care for and love dearly (and yes, I love myself. Deal with it). These aren’t just opinions. This is real life and I am a real person with real feelings, emotions, thoughts. These things affect me.

This practice of telling others how they should feel or what kind of emotions they should express in public is called Tone Policing. Unfortunately, these aren’t just Republicans and Tea Partiers arguing against the safety and well-being of the poor here. In fact, personally, I more often hear tone policing from fellow Democrats, liberals and progressives. They say, If you all weren’t so angry, we’d have more people on our side!

I see (and have myself participated in) tone policing mostly in movements for justice and liberation.

If Nelson Mandela weren’t so angry (back in the 60’s), more people would have been anti-Apartheid – the Tone Police argue. Mandela eventually turned towards reconciliation*, but even then, he was still roundly derided by the very same conservatives and liberals who are fake-praising him now in his passing. Mandela and the ANC were right to be angry to highlight the evils of Apartheid on South Africa’s black population. (Real injustices, Newt. Not your fake Tea Party injustices against White ultra-conservatives. Mandela is not to be compared with your white slaveholder heroes, Mr. Gingrich!)

If only Malcolm X weren’t so angry – the Tone Police say – more white people would have joined the anti-racist movement. But what kind of movement would that be? One that portends to accept black and brown people into a society without taking them seriously? One that says, “We accept you as long as you play by *our* rules.” One that does NOT accept non-white people as fully human, that’s what kind. One does not care to hear about the monstrous effects of an entrenched White Supremacy and anti-People of Color racism in all of their facets. This is not a movement for liberation; it is not a movement worth fighting for or salvaging.

I was recently told that angry, “bitter” feminists paint feminism badly and, as a result, it’s hard to convince people that feminism isn’t that bad.

In trying to appease male (and female) misogynists to join in the anti-misogyny movement, we must deny the reality of what the system of misogyny does to women, to children, to non-binary people? We must actually revert to sexist tropes about “emotional” women? We must only accept a certain type of woman?

In other words, in order to *end* patriarchy and racism, we must *be* sexist and racist.

Reject that. Refuse to play by the Master Class rules.

My advice:
If that’s your thing, be angry and be proud. If it’s not you (or if that’s not you now), please accept the anger of others. There’s usually a valid reason they are angry. In either case, be aware of all of the arguments, the history, the struggle for why we fight. For passion does not cancel out intellect.

And then fight. And fight some more.


*Although, let’s be honest, reconciliation and justice are cyclical – and South Africa never got full reconciliation as it’s never gotten full justice for its black, poor citizens. The economic apartheid still existing there is proof of this.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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