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Not to beat a dead debate-horse to death, but in relation to Obama's debate performance that many have perceived as passive (and that is probably the kindest way to put it), I have seen many references to the "angry black man" syndrome. Too many.  Waaaaay too many.  I was talking to a colleague of mine today, who is a black male, and in our discussion of the debate, he brought up the fact that Obama has to be careful to not appear angry.  Because you know, black people can't get angry.  It scares white people.  It feeds into the very basest notions they have of us.  Anger trods down the path to violence, and you know what happens when black people get violent, right????

Well listen, I am a black woman. And I am angry that I can't get angry. I am angry that when something happens that deserves my outrage, I must repress it for fear of being misunderstood, for fear of being unfairly judged, for fear of scaring white people, for fear of being discarded as just another "angry" black woman.  I bet it makes our President angry too that he even has to think twice before reacting in a way that could be characterized as such, especially when his reputation, record, and integrity are being attacked. I bet it makes him livid when he hears media sources reference his wife in that way.  Which leads me to this question - why is anger the one base human emotion common to us all that only black people are not allowed to have?

This diary is not designed to be a dissertation on the history of the angry black person stereotype.  It will not be filled with footnotes or cites to authorities who have studied the issue. Instead, this diary is meant to help me understand why in 2012, black people still can't get angry. I want to know why I've seen post after post on this website and others which state that Obama could not fire back at Romney in the debate Wednesday night because being angry black Obama is worse than being passive black Obama. Passive Obama can still get elected, even if it makes us unhappy with him. Angry Obama though? No way...kiss the election goodbye. Are we really saying that only other races have the freedom to get mad? That black people can't express any outrage when it is warranted?

I experience this very unfortunate stereotype in my work sometimes. Every now and then, maybe when I'm in a deposition or something like that, I've had to raise my voice at opposing counsel.  I'm not necessarily angry, but I know how to get forceful when I need to be. When I do it, the recoil from the other side of the table is palpable; the look on his or her face is like I'm about to start taking out my earrings and putting vaseline on my face or something like that.  If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny.  In my little world, it really doesn't matter to me whether someone thinks I'm an angry black woman. I am an advocate and I make no apologies for doing what I have to do to not be disrespected (and many times, I am). But when you are the leader of the free world and the tyranny of evil men besets you on all sides, what in the hell are you supposed to do if by you are a black man who is forbidden from getting angry??

The inability of our President to even have the appearance of anger is disturbing.  If President Obama, with all his Harvard education and the prestige of being the first black president of this great nation, cannot seem to escape the taint of black anger, then none of us ever will. But if anyone is uniquely in the position to help try to break that chain, it is him.  Lest we forget, for all the negativity embroiled within the emotion of anger, one good thing can and often does come from it....CHANGE. When people are outraged and decide they aren't going to take it anymore, shit starts changing.  Every major movement in this country - from the establishment of democracy to the ability of blacks and women to vote, to the passage of civil rights - has started from a seed of anger. That seed prompted people to fight a good fight. A little bit of anger is good - maybe even necessary. But what happens when people of color are discouraged from planting the anger seed? Especially if those people of color are in positions of leadership? We must be careful that our fear of showing anger does not lead us into the slavery of silence. Our leaders need to be mindful that the call for passivism could very well be a back door way to keep us quiet - to keep us mired in the muck of "I can't say that because I don't want to appear angry", "I can't fight for that because I don't want to appear angry", "I can't go on the offensive because I don't want to appear angry".  For all these "I can'ts", the result is, we aren't...We aren't changing, we aren't challenging, we aren't defending and we're not doing these things because some people out in the world say we can't. We loosed the shackles on our hands and feet long ago only to have invisible ones now placed within our mouths. That, my friends, makes me angry...

I don't know if any of this ran through Obama's mind on Wednesday night.  I don't know if he ever thought to himself, I must be passive or risk being labeled. Or even worse, risk not being re-elected. Well Mr. Obama, if you did think those things, then I would like you to think on've often said to the people that we are the change we have been waiting for.  But Sir, I venture to say that you are the catalyst that can light the spark. You are the President of these United States. You are the evidence of what black can now rise to. You can be the example that a black man can get angry, but that anger does not have to invoke fear. That anger does not have to incite violence. But if done right, a little bit of anger can bring us ALL the change we've been waiting for.


Originally posted to D W Mason on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 01:43 PM PDT.

Also republished by White Privilege Working Group, Black Kos community, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think you are angry (31+ / 0-)

    whether anyone is allowing you to be or not.  And I find your expression of your anger very refreshing.  You're absolutely right that there are still lots of ways that black people are "supposed" to act and "not supposed" to act - and when is the last time you heard anyone express an opinion on "how white people should act?"

    Honest to God, though - angry is not who President Obama is.  I saw flashes of disbelief when Mitt Romney claimed he never planned to cut rich peoples' taxes.  I saw bemusement at Romney's ability to spew lies.

    As I have been telling all my disappointed friends, the Obama who showed up Wed. night is EXACTLY the same slightly cool, slightly disinterested-seeming, slightly professorial guy who showed up for all those 2008 primary debates.  Hillary beat him at least as much as he beat her.  Debate is not his strong suit.  But his coolness will wear much better than Romney's heat.   Obama was exactly who he wanted to be:  my opinion.

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 02:07:44 PM PDT

    •  you are right (9+ / 0-)

      Obama was not a strong debater against Clinton - that is how he is. Clinton cleaned his clock in the debates and I remember feeling the same way as I did in this last debate - 'come ON Obama! get heated up about something!'

      So, we get who we have - an excellent president and a kind of sucky debater. I would rather that than the reverse - an excellent debater and a sucky president.

      Keep constant watch on your mind. - Dalai Lama

      by redstella on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 02:24:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Btw, I don't think O is a sucky debater (12+ / 0-)

        I do think his style is different. I thought his knowing smiles and his flash of a grin when he said something meant to be inoffensive, were perfect.

        I get his not being overly aggressive. I remember being at a sales seminar once where this matronly woman of 60 plus was telling us we needed to "tell" the client to do this or that. A bunch of us "big guys" (over 6' 2" and over 220lbs) looked at one another and shook our heads. There is no way we could tell a client to do anything in the manner she was describing, we could have had the police called on us for being coercive and intimidating a client to do something they didn't want to do. We had to use other skills and use gentle persuasion. We couldn't do it the way someone who looked like your grandmother could.

        Obama is a gentler persuader. Romney would have a lot of his business cancelled after he left the clients home. It's not a matter of just getting the contract, the client has to want to keep it.

        •  Romney doesn't care about "after the sale" (8+ / 0-)

          Once he's got his fangs in you he'll suck you dry despite your protestations.

          That is why it looks like the American people aren't buying him.

          --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

          by chipoliwog on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 03:35:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  absolutely (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            i am angry too don't care if he win i would never have any respect for this thing he is a nasty,dirty,stinking,liar he meant every thing he said n that viseo you could hear it in his voice and no matter what he says now he is vindictive and the poor would suffer under his adm. the one person i have a lot of respect for is pres. carter he did the right thing he stayed away from them bottom feeders when he got out of office this is not the first time they have been as nasty and people need to realize they have always did similar things to dems and get is office and start wars that is the only thing they can do 2010 should have been a lesson to people look at what has hapened for the last 2 years since they voted all these t-bagger in office

    •  I am not an angry person (18+ / 0-)

      however I want the right to be able to be and express it like everyone else without repercussion. Obama is not an angry man, and I don't want him to be. The only reason I wrote this was because this was the excuse given as to why Obama didn't call out Romney at all on anything at the debate. The angry black thing came up in comments over and over again. So it made me think, is Obama the way he is because he's really not that way, or is it because he has conditioned himself over the course of his life, as many of us have, to NOT be that stereotype???  I mean, he's been black all his life and he grew up on the south side of Chicago. I'm sure he knows how to fight.  I'm sure he's had to.  I'm sure he has yelled. I'm sure he's been filled with righteous indignation. He's never shown us that side and probably never will. This is an attempt to get at the root of why we can't get angry still - in this day and age.   And since there seems to be a fine line where black folks are concerned between showing any kind of agitation and anger, we are always stuck between the rock and hard place of just doing nothing at all, because nothing at all can't be misinterpreted.  

      •  I didn't mean to classify you as "angry" (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pedmom, Larsstephens, naka, Bud Fields

        except about the one issue you wrote about so brilliantly.  

        Obama claims that these ideals and his compromising nature (which irritates his close friends no end) come from his study of Gandhi and King and other nonviolence advocates....

        I think you really have something here about HOW he got to be that way, the forces pulling on him.

        Trying to think if I have ever seen anything more than a kind of flash of ice in his eyes - as when he met Putin.  He seems to have a killer instinct (when he's not listening to his Davids too much....)  

        Still enjoying my stimulus package.

        by Kevvboy on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 03:34:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  DW, keep posting... (4+ / 0-)

        Meanwhile a thought:  the current web commercials with Samuel Jackson playing a very angry black man?  When I saw those, I thought "this trope was translated by Pulp Fiction into something else all over again." Thoughts?

      •  I don't think it's part of his personality (10+ / 0-)

        I hate the "angry black man" thing because, hell, I don't trust people who aren't angry to some degree. And minorities, especially, have every reason to be pissed off.

        I remember after the Trayvon Martin controversy, NPR did a thing about "five word about race." The one that stuck with me the most came from a black man who wrote "Always put white people at ease," or something to that effect.

        There was a discussion about this reality, that black people are not allowed to show anger lest they terrify the whites.

        And that bothers me, because if there is such a thing as justified anger - and there certainly is - it's at the way we treat anyone who is not straight, white, christian and male.

        Now, all that being said, I don't think that's why we never see anger from Obama, I think it's just his personality. I think it's just part of who he is. It goes along with his idea of bipartisanship, and being the change you seek, and everything else that he puts forth as his ideals.

        Obama works slowly and methodically. You can't work that way if you are prone to fits of anger. And he's smart enough to know that he won't get the job done any better or faster if he gets angry.

        So I dislike the comments about Obama not getting angry because of the "angry black" thing. Not because I disagree that white people can be all petty and freak the fuck out if a black man shows anger (while ignoring that the angriest of all groups out there are the "take our country back" white folks). But because I just don't think it's part of Obama's character.

        That doesn't, of course, render the absurdity of acting like black folks can't be angry moot.

        "...and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love...then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream." ~ Michelle Obama

        by BoiseBlue on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 05:18:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Point of clarification: Obama grew up in Hawai'i (10+ / 0-)

        and in Indonesia. He went to college in California and then New York, and didn't wind up in Chicago until he had already graduated from Columbia. FWIW.

      •  You know to the credit of the quiet type. (7+ / 0-)

        You know what you are getting when someone gets pissed and lets you know it. It is another thing when you know someone is mad but is keeping cool you don't know what to expect which is really more frightening in my experience. Having Obama stay cool probably threw Rmoney off his game. He did seem nervous and got diarrhea of the mouth as a result. He said things he probably wishes he didn't.

        •  Interesting possibility (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but only a possibility. That could be what got Romney so "animated", was his attempts to elicit emotional overcharge from the President.

          If that was his plan, he failed. Miserably. At least in front of the cameras and 60 million viewers--which is something else that must be considered. Every second, the world is watching this man. As a man. As the leader of the free world. That carries everywhere he goes, even television camera-filled auditoria.

          That's a heavy weight. President Obama is a heavyweight. Perhaps Romney may never understand that, but he certainly experienced it. The cool, calm negotiator is the most difficult to sway, or overcome.

          Nurse Kelley says my writing is brilliant and my soul is shiny - who am I to argue?
          Left/Right: -7.75
          Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

          by Bud Fields on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 11:28:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Romney will never get it. (0+ / 0-)

            He is a superficial smoozer type that does not have much of a deep thinking mentality. If he does he sure does not show it. I have known men like him they think they are being funny badgering you but it is really bully behavior. Like you said if you don't react to him he ramps it up hoping to get a rise out of you.

      •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)
        I mean, he's been black all his life and he grew up on the south side of Chicago.
        No, he grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia.  He was a grown man when he moved to Chicago.

        I worked for the Nader presidential campaign in 2000. I'm so sorry!

        by NYLefty on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 10:24:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The last time I saw someone (5+ / 0-)

      trying to tell white people how to behave, it was Klan leader trying to tone down a rock throwing mob of fellow kluxers in Cumming, GA. I don't doubt that he was motivated by visions of jail time and lawsuit induced bankruptcy, since he'd helped organize the mob in the first place.

      He was prescient. He did wind up bankrupt and serving time.

      He wasn't too bright though, since he kept yelling at them to "act like white people." I imagine they thought they were.

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 03:20:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think she is awesome... (7+ / 0-)

      2 diaries and 2 of the best diaries I've read in a long time.  And that's saying a lot given the company she keeps on this site.

      I also find her expression of anger refreshing, and honest, and thought provoking.  But I also agree with Kevvboy, that that is not who Obama is... he is just not that guy because I just don't think that's his innate nature.  

      But this is a great diary, pointing out yet another subtle method of racism that still permeates our daily lives...

      Really, so impressed with this lady.

    •  look at this pic (0+ / 0-)

      "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

      by Gorette on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 11:45:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As usual, I blame campaign consultants. (4+ / 0-)

    Our country would be a better place if we allowed all of our politicians to more fully show their emotions: anger, happiness, sadness, contempt, joy, etc..

    Anything less is dishonest.  

    When I hear and read these $300/hour+ consultants and pundits argue the false-choice between showing true emotion or being "pragmatic" that it may cost votes, I feel like they are arguing in favor of dishonesty.  Dishonesty causes more problems than it solves.

    "We are the ones we've been waiting for"

    by gossamer on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 02:07:56 PM PDT

  •  I saw some anger flash on his face. (3+ / 0-)

    But he, like you, knows that anger doesn't play well. So, like you, he suppressed it. He showed some anger during the debt ceiling mess. It was refreshing, but not long-lasting. His wife says he's generally pretty even tempered. She said he doesn't have highs and lows like most of us. We can hope that when he no longer has to worry about re-election, he will feel freer about showing his emotions. I haven't been able to figure out if he's just made that way, or if he's learned to be that way. He may not be the one to bring the change you're hoping for. It just may not be in his character.

    Your left is my right---Mort Sahl

    by HappyinNM on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 02:33:33 PM PDT

    •  It's not anger I am after from him (18+ / 0-)

      and maybe my diary doesn't make it very clear - I might have muddied up my own point.  What I was trying to say was that black people have been ingrained with this for so long until it kind of prevents us from doing anything. Anything taking an offensive position from us gets turned around and misunderstood as anger.  The few times he did get fired up, that was the response - oooooh is Obama getting angry??? blah blah blah.  It has the effect of subduing our opinions and our feelings because we don't want to scare folks. We don't know how others will perceive it. We get misunderstood a lot.  So while I am not looking for angry Obama, I am hoping that passive Obama is not him doing what the rest us do - holding back for fear that everyone will label him as angry.  He's entitled to those emotions when they are warranted. He should be able to feel free to express himself. And if it is him doing what the rest of us do, that maybe he shouldn't let himself be worried about that anymore, because there are many of us who want that fight. And if its in him to do, we'd welcome it.  If its just not him, then so be it. That's all....

      •  Your diary is perfectly clear and (9+ / 0-)

        you have not muddled up anything and you've expressed yourself beautifully.  I've been bothered by the very same thing, even though I'm a white woman and certainly am not personally impacted in the way that you are.  

        It's been driving me crazy that Obama is held to some standard of non-angry behavior- even though he is the President of the freaking United States. There's just something very messed up about that, and I'd love to see him challenge it a bit.

        I always think of his speech during the '08 campaign, when he talked about the offenses of the Bush administration, and said "Enough!" in perhaps the most pissed-off tone I've seen him use.  And the audience went wild.  I'd love to see more of that.

      •  Drilled into you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I wonder how much that was drilled into him since his mother who raised him doesn't seem to have been the type to hold back and she wasn't raised that way, not being black herself.  I have no clue, but his story and life are pretty atypical

        Never believe your own press, never drink your own KoolAid

        by Mindful Nature on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 05:56:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  not muddled at all, another well written and (4+ / 0-)

        timely diary.

        Whatever you do, do not stop writing here....  your POV is needed....  

        That I happen to agree with both is besides the point.

        Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
        I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
        Emiliano Zapata

        by buddabelly on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 06:03:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I guess I didn't completely understand your (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        diary. Thank you for your patience in re-explaining it. It's hard to know what motivates someone who we really don't know. I've been thinking about this topic for some time, and I guess we'll really never know. If you think about it, it's rare to see any president show real anger. We've heard stories about behind the scenes flair-ups, but not for public consumption.

        There are certainly plenty of public black people who have been quite open with their anger. First to come to mind is Al Sharpton, since I watch his show every day. He wears all of his emotions on his sleeve. He makes me laugh and cry and get angry right along with him.

        Our president is a whole different kind of person. We'll just have to love him the way he is.

        Your left is my right---Mort Sahl

        by HappyinNM on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 10:36:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Do you believe Al Sharpton? (0+ / 0-)

          Do you trust him?

          Do you like him?

          Which matters most to him, do you think?
          Which matters most to you? :)

          Yeah, me too!

          Nurse Kelley says my writing is brilliant and my soul is shiny - who am I to argue?
          Left/Right: -7.75
          Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

          by Bud Fields on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 11:34:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Well put. Personally, I think Obama's performance (0+ / 0-)

        was immoral in not representing his constituency (i.e., normal Americans) against the lies and deceptions Romney spouted. Obama aided and abetted right wing lies that night. And if he and his advisers don't know that trying to avoid risk is the biggest risk of all, their campaign is in big trouble.

        Two hundred million Americans, and there ain't two good catchers among 'em. --Casey Stengel

        by LongTom on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 04:29:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  How well does the truth "play?" Obama's debate (0+ / 0-)

      performance wasn't just bad, bad tactically, it was immoral. Obama allowing Romney to spew his right wing lies without debunking them is hardly better than the telling of them in the first place.

      Two hundred million Americans, and there ain't two good catchers among 'em. --Casey Stengel

      by LongTom on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 04:25:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

        I do not believe President Obama's debate performance was immoral. I understand how you could get to that conclusion. I disagree with it, and think you have misjudged him in this case. Having said it twice, I'm sure you believe it.

        But, to me, using morality as a judgement of another is...immoral.

        Nurse Kelley says my writing is brilliant and my soul is shiny - who am I to argue?
        Left/Right: -7.75
        Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

        by Bud Fields on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 11:36:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "using morality as a judgement of another is (0+ / 0-)

          immoral?" You'll have to explain that to me. We all make such judgments all the time, of ourselves and of others. Moral judgment is the basis of the western legal system, not to mention the most important yardstick by which we measure others in our business, interpersonal, and emotional relationships. Judging other people's honesty, willingness to speak the truth, their aversion to lying, cheating, and stealing--these are all judgments of other people's morality that we have to be able to make to have a society. WTF you talkin' about?

          Two hundred million Americans, and there ain't two good catchers among 'em. --Casey Stengel

          by LongTom on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 01:17:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Angry (4+ / 0-)

    black men make angry white men angry.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 03:05:23 PM PDT

  •  If not angry (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smokey545, Bud Fields

    then the President needs to throw his weight around somehow the next time they debate.  I'm not going to link to it, but the New Yorker cover for next week is just brutal.

    More than anything, what makes me so angry about the Wednesday night debate debacle is that it's given ammo to all those righties claiming the President was just an empty suit who would wilt when confronted, who was hapless without a Teleprompter.

    We know it's bullshit, we've seen Obama speak very well extemporaneously, such as in his 2008 debates with Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and especially when he destroyed the entire House Republican Caucus at their retreat on live TV back in January 2010.

    But Wednesday's performance gave righties an opening to reinforce their mythology of Obama as an empty suit, and unfortunately if the New Yorker cover is any indication it may be a meme that takes hold somewhat.

    I sincerely hope that doesn't become the case because I desperately want Obama to win this thing and desperately do not want someone like Mitt Romney getting anywhere near the White House.  But it is dangerous this late in the election for such a meme to take hold because there's not much time left to undo it.  And given that 70 million Americans tuned into the debate, the most since 1980, there's the possibility that this impression has or will become quite widespread.

    Thus, the stakes are very high in the next debate.  The President must completely disavow anyone of the impression they might've gotten of him as empty suit from the first debate.  And he can do it by thoroughly dismantling Romney for all the American people to see in the next debate.  It is absolutely imperative that he do so.

    “Th’ noise ye hear is not th’ first gun iv a revolution. It’s on’y th’ people iv the United States batin’ a carpet.” - Mr. Dooley

    by puakev on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 03:09:34 PM PDT

  •  Obama's handling of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the taunts and teasing he got as a child in Indonesia always interested me. Laughing it off and clowning, making people laugh. I don't know how he managed to come out so measured and in controlled. I do wonder what advice his mother gave him during that period. Remember when someone threw a racially tinged insult at him (or something to that effect) and he just brushed it off his coat and said you just keep going?

    I don't know how he does it. I don't know how you do it. From some people though (me, for one), holding anger in and never being allowed to display it can be very hard on one's health. I hope you find a way. This discussion needs to continue, unfortunately. Thanks for the diary and your work.

    •  you learn control when you see anger doesn't work (4+ / 0-)

      That's how I learned it.  When getting angry doesn't improve your situation or actively makes it worse (especially by getting other people focused on you rather than on the problem), then it eventually becomes automatic to smother it.  When it becomes useless pain, you stop wanting to feel it at all and are no longer interested in expressing it, not even in socially acceptable ways.

      Sour grapes works great at short-circuiting it completely.

      To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

      by Visceral on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 06:22:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  2 comments (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smokey545, dinazina, Gorette

    1. You should be angry. You have the right to be angry.

    2. Howard Dean is one white dude who got labeled as "angry" and it killed his campaign. So it does happen, albeit much less frequently, with people from other ethnicities.

    Obama said knock you out.

    by samlang on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 05:13:57 PM PDT

  •  Being able to express the full range of human (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, bluedust, Bud Fields, Gorette

    emotions ought to be everyone's birthright. It is a tragedy that for black people in the U.S., displaying anger--even, and maybe especially, righteous anger--or any other emotion that might be misconstrued as anger (!)--has often been dangerous. What a terrible burden. And what a terrible indictment of this society and its history.

    I think I understand what you are getting at in terms of Pres. Obama's distinctive opportunity to push back even a little against these constraints. I'm not sure that his temperament at this point would permit that, however. Maybe that's in part why he is going gray so quickly! We may have the chance to find out in these next few weeks.

    Thanks for writing this poignant diary, D W Mason. Glad to see that you've really jumped in now. :)

  •  There is a difference (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Between angry and rageful.  When Pres. Obama shows fire and yes anger his polling among white voters goes up, not down.   What does that tell you?  If he were to go fullAdept he'd lose all respect, but then if Romney went full rage all the time, he'd lose respect too.   Those who cast stones cast stones anyway because they are racists.  Is that who you are catering to?

    Never believe your own press, never drink your own KoolAid

    by Mindful Nature on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 05:53:40 PM PDT

    •  I just think "anger" in general does not play well (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OleHippieChick, Mindful Nature

      I don't like "angry" from any one.  Its frowned on in my work place and in life in general.  Having said that, I hope and want to see Barak come out and take a few good swings at Romney.  This white man would cheer it big time.

      Expose the lies. Fight for the truth. Push progressive politics. Save our planet. Health care is a right, not a privilege.

      by lighttheway on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 05:43:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Native Americans can't get angry as well. (6+ / 0-)

    As I understand it, white men stop listening. to angry (Black men, women, and savages Indians too.)  

    Then they pathologize you.  

    Oh, he (she) is angry.  Guess nothing RATIONAL to say to the white man.  

    White man is a model of smug rationality.

    So, while it might feel good to get angry, better focus the anger as Barack Obama does so well.

    Cool hand Luke, counting the cards and looking for the tells.

    Romney tried to get the President angry and ended up looking like a bully in the process.  Obama framed Mitt, as a etch a sketch desperato on stimulants.

    Well that is the way it looks from this hill.

  •  I'm not sure it's just black folks. (4+ / 0-)

    I do think this standard applies more to Black folks than to others, but I think the media will react this way anytime there is any push back against Republicanism or anything beyond blandness from any Democrat.

    As someone mentioned, we saw this with Howard Dean.  

    There's also the example of Alan Grayson in his 'Republican health care plan is to hurry up and die' comment on the House floor.  

    And we consistently saw it with the media's constant portrayal of the OWS movement as violent when they were anything but, and their refusal to report on police brutality and violation of well established Constitutional protections, but amplified every legitimate police operation to quash unprotected protests.

    And yes, we also saw it when President Obama calmly hinted at Republican intransigence to economic recovery in his 6/29/11 presser, only to have Mark 'Leader of the Gang of 500' Halperin appear on MSNBC the first thing the next morning and famously call Obama a 'dick.'

    Yes, this issue does apply more to Black people than others, but the fact is, there will be an instant backlash any time any Democrat doesn't fit into the narrowly tailored, double standard set of expected norms the Villagers have set for them.

  •  D W you are absolutely correct. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billlaurelMD, Plantsmantx

    The idea that the color of a person's skin should dictate their behavior is absurd. Sadly this only reinforces the fact that we have a long way to go in society accepting all races equally. If it is any consolation we women are still held at a different standard for behavior than men. We are still expected to be sweet and demure or else we are labeled bitches.

    Ugh we have a lot of work to do. Great diary by the way.

  •  Anger. I'm a white woman, but I have (5+ / 0-)

    had my own experience with anger. I was diagnosed as bi-polar when I was 25 years old. One of the things that I noticed early about my disorder was that when was manic to the point of being out of touch with reality, and talking very fast, belligerently and with anger in my voice, that suddenly I would notice a change in the people around me. What I saw was a look of absolute fear in their eyes. I would be talking and all of a sudden the fear I created with my words and mannerisms was extremely palatable.

    I have often said when talking about my condition and learning how to control it and live with it is that the one thing I never ever want to see again was the look of fear in someone's eyes. I have come to the conclusion that in any argument or discussion, the one who loses his/her temper first ends up losing the debate.

    I understand your frustration that President Obama can not express his anger. But, when you say:

    The inability of our President to even have the appearance of anger is disturbing.
    I have to disagree. This is a trait about President Obama that I admire. His ability to control his anger is something I aspire to. What he does, and what I do, in private is one thing. However, when in public it is a totally different story.

    When I was young I never understood my mother's insistence of putting on makeup before making a quick trip to the grocery store. We often saw women in public wearing curlers and dressed shabbily. My mother disapproved and explained to me that we all have a duty to society to be our best when out in public.

    President Obama represents all Americans and the fact that he is always on his best behavior and always in control of himself sets a good example about how to behave for all of us. I wouldn't want it any other way. And didn't you argue this very point in your own way yesterday in your first diary?

    Law 9 - Win through your actions, never through argument - is what I consider to be Obama's signature law and his supporters must admit that it has worked well for him.  His coolness and calmness has always been his strength up until last night when a lot of us (myself included) called it his weakness.
    If President Obama were to display an appearance of anger in public, what gain would there be in that?

    “Mitt Romney is the only person in America who looked at the way this Congress is behaving and said, ‘I want the brains behind THAT operation.’ ” — Tom Perriello

    by hungrycoyote on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 06:43:33 PM PDT

    •  Yes I did make that argument (0+ / 0-)

      and I still stand by it.  But I actually got a comment in response to my first diary about the angry black man theory, and since I saw it so much in other posts, I thought this point was worth having a conversation about.  We all have our idea of what "anger" is, and the point I'm trying to make is that this angry black man syndrome has the effect of timidity because we are confused about how much aggression will be construed as anger.  There doesn't seem to be any kind of bright line rule...I don't want our President to be angry at all.  If the president had come back at Romney with a little righteous indignation, would the headlines the next day have been "Obama Gets Angry at the Debate"? If he had come back with anything, would he have been the one who folks said he had lost control? Who knows??? My point is that it is hard to find what the appropriate level is, and because of that, we may end up not doing anything at all. Just letting things slide doesn't gain anything either.  

  •  Thank you for both of your recent diaries. (5+ / 0-)

    I'm new to engaging here at DK too, though I've visited for years. I love your perspective, voice, and insights. Please keep sharing. I too, am angry that you and our incredible president 'can't get angry.'  
    I particularly love your assertion that "Lest we forget, for all the negativity embroiled within the emotion of anger, one good thing can and often does come from it...CHANGE. When people are outraged and decide that they aren't going to take it anymore, shit starts changing."

    Anyone who fears 'angry ____' in a political context knows/fears this. Again, my gratitude for articulating it so beautifully.

    You do not have to be good...You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." -Mary Oliver

    by hwy70scientist on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 06:51:44 PM PDT

  •  Rec'd for discussion purposes (3+ / 0-)

    I'd be curious to hear far, far more African-American male perspectives on this.

  •  I think time will help (0+ / 0-)

    both because most of the really rampant racism is from those older and because by being exposed to people like Obama people will get over themselves

  •  Strategy matters: this election matters (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smokey545, blueoasis, Bud Fields

    Your points are excellent, and I really value your saying this because as white guy it's easy to not think about how the "angry while black" thing must be exasperating.  So: thanks for the insight (which should be obvious, really.)
    As a lawyer, I'm sure you realize the following, too (and its kind of the point of your diary), but just thought I'd say it.  Obama is clever and a good strategist.  I'm reminded of   David Sedaris's comments about undecided voters in 2008:

    To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
    To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
    So...  With that audience in mind, the President probably played this quite shrewdly.  Things are changing, and having Obama as president has definitely moved the equality ball down the court in the right direction.  Playing the game to win is critical, and in the long run will make the "angry while black" matter less and less.
    Thanks for your great diaries!
  •  Bill Maher mentioned the 'angry black man' tonight (0+ / 0-)

    The best way to rob a bank is to own one - William K. Black

    by Paddy Ryan on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 08:27:55 PM PDT

  •  I don't know if the world is ready for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Wildcat McCaskill and Angry Obama in the same week...
    please have some pity on the Fox News Audience!  Do you want them spending the rest of the month hiding under their beds  as Wildcat McCaskill and Angry Obama wander over the airwaves!

    I am not making fun of your excellent did a superb job of identifying a major frustration of life today...
    it must be doubly hard for you because one group of men in this country insist on all women be sweet and submissive and never questioning of their judgments ..and if we do, we are unladylike Wildcat McCaskill ... and then you can't be angry because you might upset white people ...

    and what is worse, right now, at this time, the only group that believes it has the right to be angry ... WHITE MEN ...they feel threatened, they are so scared that a five year old tape DRUDGED UP and played and replayed on FOX News just before the debate convinces them that Obama is a seething volcano on the verge of annihilating their very existence ...
    so what can we non-white, non-male persons do with our anger?   Outlive them ... outnumber them ... outvote  them and then in his second term, Obama can get angry and show them that the world is indeed ready for 'angry black people'  and hopefully, the people of Missouri will elect a Wildcat .... Peace and thanks

    Give your heart a real workout! Love your enemies!

    by moonbatlulu on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 09:40:13 PM PDT

  •  I'm reminded of my Grandfather's words about anger (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluedust, Bud Fields, Gorette

    He said, "Anger can be a powerful weapon, as long as you use it as skillfully as any weapon.

    And that means it must be entirely under your control, and that it is most effective when it is used as little as possible."

    Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth - Abraham Lincoln

    by Gustogirl on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 12:01:58 AM PDT

  •  Reagan's "anger moment" sank Carter in 1980. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For some reason, he didn't come off as a grouchy codger when he said, "There you go again." Reagan also just acted like whatever he imagined himself to be.

    Two hundred million Americans, and there ain't two good catchers among 'em. --Casey Stengel

    by LongTom on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 04:35:48 AM PDT

  •  You could add the "angry gay" to your list of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OleHippieChick, Bud Fields

    minorities that can't get angry:

    "why can't they just keep it to themselves".

    "don't force your lifestyle on us".

    "I don't care what they do, I just don't want to hear about it".

    Act up basically said "fuck you"  we are here, and we will be in your face.  The AIDS crisis had a positive impact in that one respect.   I think it empowered gay people to stand up and not take it anymore.  Still, the suppression attempts to "quiet" the gay community are strong, but we are now winning that war.

    Expose the lies. Fight for the truth. Push progressive politics. Save our planet. Health care is a right, not a privilege.

    by lighttheway on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 05:51:20 AM PDT

    •  Collective action versus individual action (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Act Up was group action, anger channelled into demonstrative action.

      Civil Rights Movements and Women's Movements are examples of AFrican Americans, Natives, Latinos, Asians and women being angry for a purpose.

      It is the individual Black Man (and others) that is pathologized as not rational, not calm.

  •  I really enjoy your writing, D W. (3+ / 0-)

    I watched PBO's face through the debate and, as I mentioned in another post, I saw not a smirk but a grimace of disappointment, even disgust, when he knew Mitt was just gonna spew bullshit faster and faster and at elevating sound levels.
    As to anger, Angry Black Man Syndrome is a fact. Angry Black Woman Syndrome is a fact. Angry White Woman Syndrome is a fact. The only people excused for their anger are white males!
    Personally, I was angry for 8 years under bu$hCo. My anger alienated, shocked a lot of people I didn't regret losing when I chose to let that anger out. It was suppressed most of the time because nobody likes an angry person, period. But I would hear stuff and steam would want to come out the ears. I'm recuperating from the effects of that now.
    When anyone is legitimately angry, we should be able to show the anger but express it in a civilized manner. I guess that's the hard part. Apparently, only white males are free to express anger from the mildest to the rudest forms, broad-spectrum anger.

    rMoney: Just another jerk, lookin' for work.

    by OleHippieChick on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 06:58:50 AM PDT

  •  Women would be slammed for showing anger too (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gorette, TrueBlueMajority

    Agree with your comments; am white and female. Am one of those Feminazis that drive right wing men nuts. There's a double standard for women as well. We're supposed to smile and be happy all the time; god forbid if we have serious or critical comments. Or question someone's authority. If we raise our voice in protest, then we are labeled bitches, or worse.

  •  You make a very good point. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The "scary black man" stereotype, I think, is a way of trying  to emasculate Obama by forcing self-censorship on him.  We are fortunate to have as president a man who is highly intelligent, very well educated, and utterly unflappable.  I think that the right wing has been trying to goad him into losing his temper, but he is too smart to fall for that.
    While I think that this is a particular problem for black men, and especially for our first black president, it is not a problem limited to black men.  Women also are not supposed to show anger, and, in general, only conservative white men, or those who represent their interests (or are perceived to represent their interests)  get to show anger.
    I remember in the primary debates in 2008, Mrs. Clinton was described as "shrill" when she argued her positions forcefully.  This is an adjective that is never applied to men.  Also I remember when Bill Clinton stood up for himself on Fox news when he was asked whether he had done enough to try to get bin Laden, there were howls from the right about how angry and scary he was.  
    You are right that there is much to be angry about, and I think that part of Obama's brilliance is that he articulates well how we got into the mess that we are in.  But I do not think that Wednesday's performance was his best.

  •  I agree in theory that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bud Fields, Gorette

    Obama ought to get angry for once, let it show and damn the lunatics. However,

    1) I believe that it drives the crazies even further out in space that no matter what they do or say, they keep failing to make him come unhinged, and I take such pleasure in that;

    2) I firmly believe that growing up in Indonesia is the reason that Obama is able to keep his cool; I cannot think of another prominent black figure in government who could have withstood the heat in the same fashion; finally,

    3) I believe that his accomplishments, despite the contempt, disrespect and blowback, teach the greater lesson to the non-lunatic citizenry of America.

    And if he really needs to vent, there's always Luther. Key & Peele

    Dear middle finger; Sometimes people really get on my last nerve, but thank you for sticking up for me.

    by Bendra on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 10:19:59 AM PDT

  •  It needs to be discussed openly, with the (0+ / 0-)

    question of why answered! I really want to understand why it is that a black man, in particular, cannot allow himself to be seen angry. I was excited to read:

    this diary is meant to help me understand why in 2012, black people still can't get angry.
    And it was interesting to hear of this reaction you get when raising your voice to make a point:
    When I do it, the recoil from the other side of the table is palpable; the look on his or her face is like I'm about to start taking out my earrings and putting vaseline on my face or something like that.  If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny.
    This kind of surprised me because I would not have expected this reaction toward a female, always assumed it was more toward men.

    But then you go into a very good discussion about why the president should be able to show anger......and all about that. Which is important. I just am left with no satisfaction about the "WHY?" question.

    I hope you do not judge me by these attempts to answer that, but I'd like to know what you think. These are not my own views or feelings, I need to say that. From the time I was a teenager I'd get into arguments with my dad who expressed racist views from time to time. That was during the civil rights movement, late fifties. The answers might include:

    1. Fear of a black man that was fostered in media, movies, reports on black crime etc. which some scared white people.

    2. Legacy from Black Power movements in past decades that scared white people?

    3. Feeling that black persons have a right to anger going back to slavery and Jim Crow etc., and that it's only logical to assume hostility toward whites?

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 11:42:30 AM PDT

    •  That's what i hoped this diary (0+ / 0-)

      would do.  Spur a conversation about the why.  I still don't have an answer but there could definitely be a part 2 to this.  i might work on that today!

      •  Yes, you stimulated a great discussion here! (0+ / 0-)

        Onward and upward, more!!

        You know, last night in FL I saw one Romney ad, it was on several times in a two hour time period on CBS, maybe 4-6 times, paid by ROMNEY, not a pac.

        Ok. I'm upset about it.

        It was awful on the facts, about how Obama has increased the deficit more than all previous presidents combined, borrowing from China, and then saying he "wastes" that money!

        But the worst thing. It started using color pics of Obama, then switches to a profile view of him in black/white. Then gradually diminishes the quality of the image until at the end it is a blotchy picture----making it look as if it is an old, old photo. With a bad feeling.

        This morning I woke up realizing that it is reminiscent of a photo of a slave from centuries past! Really, that was it, I think, the intention and why it felt so bad.

        Isn't that awful? I think it is a racist ad for that reason, but it is subtle and subliminal. I'm very angry as Romney says quietly "I approved this ad," almost as if he doesn't want you to notice he's saying that, sneaky.

        "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

        by Gorette on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 10:11:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Another great diary, with all the win! :) (0+ / 0-)

    I could respond to your diary with a dairy. I may. But, for the sake of brevity:

    1. Welcome to the human race. You are now, officially permitted to be angry. If anyone asks, you may tell them I have authorized it. No problem.

    2. From this point forward, you must always carry a jar of Vaseline in your purse. Use it appropriately.

    Now, while this only applies to those people with belly buttons (because those non-belly button kids are just TOO wild!) you must always remember that:

    A. People will always do what you, in the end, expect them to do.

    B. Use great caution when assigning expectations to people, including yourself. It can be freedom, or a prison sentence. The good news is that YOU get to decide which.

    While you must realize these are limited to people with belly buttons only, if you do have one, they apply to you.

    Change involves choice. Everyone gets a choice. It is not about what you get (or what you are) that matters. It is what you do with what you get (or are) that matters. That's true for everyone.

    I think there is a misleading definition at play here, generally. Some people believe that the opposite of anger is acceptance. That's not true. For anyone.

    The opposite of anger is apathy. For everyone. Look at the cycle, then break it. Everyone. :)

    You're doing a really great job with your diaries. Please keep writing. We're here. We're listening, learning, sharing and growing together. Isn't that just so cool?? :)

    Nurse Kelley says my writing is brilliant and my soul is shiny - who am I to argue?
    Left/Right: -7.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

    by Bud Fields on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 11:58:10 AM PDT

    •  It is more than cool (0+ / 0-)

      IT IS AWESOME!! I love what you've said here.  Please take what I've said and expand it.  I am still looking for an answer to my question - although you may have come the closest to answering it.

  •  Very good diary. (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think Obama, or most people of color (especially African Americans) have the privilege of being angry in public.

    I'm sure Obama knows this at some level; he's a student of politics, and I'm sure understands the very tricky line any black person in America has to walk. He's the president of a country built on white supremacy, where white supremacy permeates and guides our institutions and culture to the present day.

    It's also possible that he's not particularly angry about things. For example, I'm not sure how anyone could see the economic collapse and all the corruption causing it, and not be completely enraged. Instead, he gave the financial industry's biggest cheerleaders top positions in his administration. I know many people on DKos will defend and explain every decision this president makes, no matter what the decision, but it's quite possible he isn't angry about these things.

    About 5 minutes into the Biden debate, already enjoying myself thoroughly, many people were posting that Biden's energy was what Obama was missing in his debate. Please. If Obama had half of what Biden displayed, his remaining support among white people would drop substantially. That's white supremacy. In my classes, I can speak frankly about race and white supremacy, and because I'm white, students might disagree, but they will never take it personally or assume I'm just angry. For professors who are people of color, even the slightest mention of race gets complaints from white students about their feeling "uncomfortable" and "unwelcome" and the teacher is "too angry."

    I would guess probably half the white people who voted for Obama did so for racist reasons. Meaning, they saw Obama as Cliff Huxtable and not as Malcolm X. If he shows even the slightest anger, he's in trouble. That's America, even in 2012.

    Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth. - Lucy Parsons

    by cruz on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 06:49:59 AM PDT

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