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Dear Scary Mommy,
I’m so fucking angry. Police brutality. Cities burning. The president inciting the flames of hatred and violence. Family members and friends coming out of the woodwork as raving racists. Oh, COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc and some folks seem to think it just vanished with the way they are galavanting about to bars and parties. From the minute I wake up to when I go to bed, I’m absolutely livid. All damn day. I’m a white, cisgender, straight woman; I’m aware of my own privilege (including white privilege), but the rage is blinding sometimes. I’m so goddamn angry that I’m having a hard time focusing on anything else, and I’m starting to take it out on my kids, which I absolutely don’t want to do. Help!
So you’re angry? Good! You should be angry. I’m angry too. I’m fucking livid actually. We have a lot to be angry about.
Like you, I’m a white, straight, cisgender woman. I’m aware of my privilege. I’m working to educate myself, and taking responsibility for learning and unlearning about our country’s 400-year history of systemic racism, not to mention the individual racism that runs rampant as well. Everywhere we look, it’s blatantly obvious just how fucked up our country is. The news is a highlight reel of dumpster fires. Our social media feeds are a cesspool of racist relatives we thought we’d weeded out years ago (surprise! and ugh). It is impossible to get away from it all.
But here’s the thing: we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t look away. We shouldn’t just “get away” from it all or turn off our white hot fuse. We should be angry. We should be stark raving mad with rage, in fact.
Our righteous anger isn’t the problem; it’s what we do with it that is the question. We can rage-scroll through Facebook, unfriending folks and getting into internet fights (which does feel good sometimes, believe me). But we can also turn our rage into action. We can use our anger to fuel our commitment to change. Because with all that privilege we have comes an even greater obligation to do something productive with it.
I’m not a therapist, nor do I have a degree in psychology. But I have seen my fair share of psychologists and spent a shit-ton of time in therapy. I know that anger is almost always fueled by another underlying emotion. It might be hurt, confusion, or fear. But sometimes anger is the underlying emotion. It could be all of the above. Once you pinpoint the underlying emotion of your anger, it can be easier to figure out what to do with it.
Because the other thing I’ve learned is that if your rage doesn’t have anywhere to go, it festers inside of you and comes out in unintended ways. For instance, I spent the better part of the afternoon snapping at my kids about the disastrous state of their bedroom and their constant bickering. But my kids aren’t who I’m really angry at. I mean, not really anyway.
I’m angry at racists and our leadership (or rather the lack thereof). I’m angry at our president-turned dictator who is fine with using tear gas and violence for a sacrilegious photo op. I’m angry at every fucking person who voted for that asshole. I’m angry that some folks think it’s more important to galavant around without face masks than to help stop the spread of a potentially deadly virus.
Without an outlet for all that rage, it quickly becomes me screaming at my kids for not putting their dirty dishes into the sink or because someone left a freaking freeze pop wrapper on the couch… again.
So my advice to you is to find somewhere to channel your rage. Find a local organization you can support in some way. Educate yourself on white privilege and the history of racism in the United States. Read Stamped or A Kids Book About Racism with your kids — and then talk to them about what you’ve read too. Buy books written by writers of color or with Black protagonists for your school library. Go to a local protest. Donate money for arrested protesters’ bail funds, or drop off water for protesters. Join your local chapter of Black Lives Matter or Standing Up For Racial Justice, and find out about any volunteer opportunities they might have. Start a virtual prayer vigil. Start a petition. Find more Black women to follow on social media. Listen to people of color when they say what they need. Do any of the things on this list. Volunteer to Get Out The Vote or to work a phone bank. The point is DO SOMETHING. And do something that combats whatever is making you most angry.
(Side note: Do not, however, look to Black folks to guide you through this. Do not talk about how “shocked” you are. Do ask your Black friends for recommendations. In other words, do not make POC do more work or emotional labor.)
In the midst of all the doing something, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Activism is hard work and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So stop doing those things that drain your energy reserves, and focus on those things that tap into your passions. If scrolling through Facebook leaves you feeling angrier and more helpless, log off. Unfriend your racist cousin instead of trying to explain white privilege to them. Check in with the news once or twice a day, instead of having CNN streaming 24/7. Focus on those things that feed your passion, not those that starve it.
But whatever you do, do not feel bad about your anger or try to calm it. You are right to be angry. Now go out there and help change the world with it.