An Angry Black Man isn’t Always Black

I was blown away pretty recently pretty recently by a scientific fact: that by age 5, the first emotion a child in contemporary society has control over of and can express very clearly (especially in boys) is ANGER.

Of all the emotions on the spectrum, it had to be ANGER. WTF?

It really got me thinking. What the hell are we teaching our kids today?

It’s crazy how aggressive people are getting. I was on the clock last month facilitating a health ed workshop in a middle school nearby the clinic that I’ve been fortunate enough to do on Wednesdays for the last 2 years. It’s always fascinating coming into the building as I usually get there when some of the 8th graders I work with are on recess. They play hard; and often times you can see some interaction in the school yard that if left unsupervised can bust out into to fists, feet, elbows and teeth marks.

Now, in facilitating this class, there are two keys to the bathroom that the kids can take that reside in the classroom. Typically they are allowed to only go out one and at time and have to come back into the class and hand the key off to the next student who needs the restroom. Somehow, the teacher and I lost track and two girls were out in the bathroom simultaneously. I noticed that the girls had been gone for a while and so did the teacher who went to investigate. She brought back both girls sullen and I noticed they didn’t say much the rest of the session – both usually were active enough participants. Come to find out afterwards when checking in with the teacher that she walked into the bathroom a few moments before a brawl broke out!

You should have seen them: one was of typical 12-year-old female height, and the other was petite and spoke in a very quiet voice during the classes! I guess there was some bad blood there that would put some serious fight in the smallest of Chihuahuas. Still, after shaking my head it got me to thinking: WTF are we all so angry about?

It seems like the society rewards yellers and screamers, or people do make a fuss. I’ve got a good friend who is as petite as they come but when she makes a fuss, people cater to her every whim. Every time she is telling a story about some great discount she got, I always interject: “so what happened AFTER you started COMPLAINING?” – and we both bust out laughing. Maybe it’s a matter of standing up for yourself gone a bit too far, but yelling, screaming, threatening and complaining always seem to get people’s attention – and gets shit done for the sake of pacification.

I’m not a fan of unnecessary yelling. Working in social services means that while yelling clients – and in my case, irate teens – comes with the territory, I don’t take kindly of people using me as a bucket to kvetch their frustrations into while I’m on the clock. Sometimes you have those folks who are so good at the yelling that you just want to take them outside the office and put your foot down a throat or up a backside to keep them quiet.

Quite often the yelling as an affront to some of the most interesting issues and makes a very convince cover. My favorite irate client story was while interning at a public assistance program office. Those places are almost as fun as working in the DMV or the post office. I’m minding my business and this woman, who feels she’s been waiting too long, decides to shatter the early morning quiet with a full-blown tirade. So one of my coworkers who is petite (I’m always around petite women it seems, being 6’1”) goes over to calm her down and get ripped to pieces. I’m clearly annoyed myself because I has just sat down to drink some hot chocolate on a cold December day in NYC, and the way this woman is arguing my chocolate will be cold once we calm her down.

So I step outside to start walking over to her. She’s yelling and screaming and dropping F bombs and hollering for the department manager while the other clients watch intently. I was so annoyed with all the noise I gave her a heavy dose of one technique taught to me years ago. I started talking to her, lowering my voice with every sentence as the conversation went along. I kept the voice firm but low and she and NO chance but to calm her ass down and have a seat. At the end, I called her bluff as the manager walked into the building and the client got all apologetic and said it wasn’t necessary. She even came back at the end of her visit and apologized to us staff, talking about how frustrating the public assistance system is since this was the fourth time they can re-opened her case after it was closed.

It just speaks to the aggressive nature of society, where only displays of aggression and power can seemingly get shit done. I guess some people are like the ends justify the means. Still, this whole stereotypical “angry black man” type way to get things done creates more Pyrrhic victories and grave losses than it does successful accomplishments. Perhaps we need to find better ways to express ourselves. While we have the right to express our anger, I cannot help but wonder if I’m the only person deeply concerned by the scientific fact at the top of the post.

As famous NFL coach Vince Lombardi once said: “what the hell’s going on out there!?”. It surely would behoove us to find out and correct it.

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