When Anger Points to Racial Reconciliation

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By Allison Harrell

While scrolling social media on September 7, I find out that a man named Botham Jean was murdered in his apartment by an uniformed off-duty police officer the night before.

My mind swirls.

So many headlines grab my attention. I read through a few articles, but nothing makes sense. There are clearly holes in the story. What we know is that Botham Jean is a black man, and the officer is a woman. I go to the pages of Women of Color that I have come to trust, and I listen. I listen to their pain and cries of lament. I listen to their anger.

***

I grew up being afraid and ashamed of anger. Anger was this big, volatile, overpowering, uncontrollable thing. I was afraid of it swallowing me whole and being unable to survive its wrath.

As a child, when I expressed anger, it was called a tantrum. My tears were a very natural response to the fear, shame, and embarrassment I felt as I experienced my own anger and the anger of others. But I was told to stop crying.

As a woman, I learned early on that I had to be calm and sweet before being listened to. When I showed anger, I was dismissed as irrational and too emotional.

As a Christian woman, I was told not to be angry, but to put on longsuffering instead because the ultimate expression of “biblical womanhood” is being selfless—completely void of self.

For years I have discredited and denied my anger out of fear and shame. I viewed it as something not to be trusted and snuffed it out at its initial spark.

By denying my anger I was trying to escape the pain that came as a result of a wrong done to me. But that pain was undeniable.

In the aftermath of having three kids in four years, I could no longer extinguish the spark. So many of my coping skills and strategies just didn’t hold up. It became clear that I didn’t know what to do with anger when I would explode at my toddlers over their expressions of anger leaving me in a spiral of shame and passing my pain on to my kids.

Because I didn’t trust my anger, I started to believe that I deserve pain. If I believe I deserve to be hurt, then there is no one to hold accountable. With no one to hold accountable, everything is my own fault.

Now, thanks to a couple years of counseling and taking the time to really pay attention to my anger, I am no longer afraid — I have gotten quite comfortable with it. I have learned to dance with my anger. I have learned that it can be trusted. That I can be trusted.
My anger is always trying to tell me something. Sometimes it takes me shouting to realize that anger is saying, “Pay attention! Something here is not right.” It leads me to a very specific and precise point of pain — pain that God is wanting to heal.

Anger is my signal that a boundary has been crossed. It dissipates once that boundary has been reinstated and respected. Then healing can begin and Peace can be restored.

As I have listened to my own anger and become comfortable with it, I have also been able to pay attention and really listen to the anger of others—specifically to the anger of Black Women.

***

On September 9, two days after learning about Botham Jean, my news and social media feeds are full of opinions on Serena Williams’ display of anger at the U.S. Open.

It is clear that women and men have different rules in American culture. Based on race, those rules change and are enforced differently. As a white woman, I am not penalized as heavily as people of color for breaking those rules.

Serena showed us what it looks like when we embrace all of our emotions, and stand firm in our Divine Humanity. It starts by stating, “You owe me an apology”.

***

If I can trust that my anger is pointing to a place that I have been hurt, mistreated, or abused, I should be able to trust that theirs is also. How can I fully embrace my anger as a part of my Divine Humanity but deny Women of Color theirs?

I can’t anymore.

My pain was not my own fault. It was a result of a wrong that was done to me. I have to identify that before I can get to a place of healing.

In the U.S., we have to identify the wrong we have done and continue to do to people of color before we can get to a place of Peace.

Botham Jean was killed sitting in his own apartment. A white female police officer walked in and shot him. His death was not his fault.

My anger is pointing me toward racial reconciliation. It is a place full of tremendous hurt, but one I wholly believe that God wants to heal.

_______________

About Allison:

I am “just” a stay at home mom, living in Dallas, Texas. I spend my time wrangling my three children while trying to find the Divine in the ordinary. I tend to go deep, and I am always asking what there is to be learned about myself, about God, and about other people. 

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