Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Processing Anger and Race - The Work Must Continue

As black fists are raised, anger is assumed. A decision is made, and anger actually blooms.  Anger and race have been close partners in the American experience.  More than any other issue in US society, the matters regarding race have gnawed at the soul of the nation.  Curtis Mayfield’s musical declaration that American was undeniably [his] country asks the still pertinent question, “Shall we perish unjust or live equal as a nation?”  Where is the injustice? It is found in freewheeling, undisciplined, unprocessed and ill-placed anger.

The Bible issues many warnings about anger.  It distinguishes between righteous and unrighteous anger – “Be angry, but do not sin” says the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:26.  In James 1:19, 20 followers of Jesus are warned, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” 

In America, one of the most challenging manifestations of human anger is found in conversations and conflicts surrounding the subject of race.  There is minority anger over centuries of injustice that have left a thick residue that coats our landscape in heavy, abundant layers even to the present day.  There is majority anger due to perceived changes that seem to threaten a sense of stability and comfort seen as essential for prosperity and freedom to endure.  These and other related expressions of anger routinely clash, sometimes nearing the precipice of violent conflict as wills collide and misunderstanding thrives.  What can be done?

There must be a recognition that denial of the anger or pretense that every problem has been sorted out are not helpful approaches.  Ownership of one’s emotional state is critical and the processing of one’s emotions is necessary. This usually means venting, reflecting, sorting, and evaluating one’s feelings with trustworthy and wise friends.  Trustworthy and wise friends are essential because these individuals will also assist in the preparation of one’s responses to conflicting ideas, difficult situations or even traumatic occurrences.  One’s responses to conflict are of equal importance to the conflict itself. There must also be an acknowledgement the work of addressing racial issues in the land is never-ending, thankless yet absolutely necessary for the survival of the republic.

Because of the necessity of this work, there must be a commitment to continue to engage it by building lines of communication and seeking to understand even the most perplexing points of view.  Our anger must not lead to ugly ranting or destructive and abusive verbal spewage. Instead, our emotional upheavals should remind each of us of the incredibly personal and important nature of the work of racial healing and the constant need for brave souls to speak up with truth, conviction and love at the risk of being misunderstood, unappreciated or attacked once more.

The persistence of setbacks and painful experiences in pursuit of racial harmony can wear the best people down and cause the most stout-heated individuals to lose hope and to give up the cause in utter frustration. It is at such times that Curtis Mayfield’s refrain speaks powerful truth to our hearts that should quicken the resolve of all who seek to help our land live up to every element of its creed:

Too many have died in protecting my pride
For me to go second class
We’ve survived a hard blow and I want you to know
That you must face us at last
And I know you will give consideration
Shall we perish unjust or live equal as a nation
This is my country.

Remembering the price that has been paid by those who have gone before, we do not allow our anger to define or overwhelm us.  Rather we feel it, process it, purify it, and redirect it into meaningful action that engages the issues at hand, faces any ugliness that might be present and in turn, apply truth, righteousness and beauty to the situation with diligence and persistence, carrying the torch of truth until change comes.  In our anger, let us not sin. Remembering that is is our country, let us face us struggles together, telling the truth in love, sorting through the ugliness, working without restraint to see that righteousness, understanding and beauty prevail.  The results will not be perfect, but we can make some outcomes better.  This is my country and I’ll work towards it’s healing until the day I die! 

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