In second year, introduction to Equity Studies I had a reading that still moves me till this day. Unfortunately I do not remember the title of this article or who the author was but the gist of the reading was that the author was often labeled as the “angry black woman” and she felt that people in social justice and human rights advocacy weren’t angry enough because in her opinion anger was the very thing that ignites change.
Now as somebody who has trouble staying angry even when I know I should I found this idea particularly moving. Not being angry often means people take advantage of you, they don’t make an effort to remain on your good side, they are not respectful of the things that offend you because they know you will let it go and carry on like nothing is wrong. For these reasons you need to be angry and you need to be explicit about your anger. Being passive aggressive will get you nowhere.People aren’t mind readers and they surely wouldn’t know that you’re upset if you carry on masking it with loaded statements and subliminal messages. Be verbal, be expressive, let the world know without a shadow of doubt that you’re angry. Bask in it.
Here’s where things get tricky however, I don’t feel that you should speak in anger. With biblical support (James 1: vs 19-20) I can say that speaking in anger will not edify you. In your anger you say things that you may not really mean, you will be hurtful and cutting, you will burn more than you heal. So what is a girl to do? You can’t ignore your anger and you shouldn’t speak in anger so it seems like you’re pretty stuck. Except you’re not.
What I have come to understand is that we need to learn to use our anger. Using your anger means that you detach yourself from the heat of it and channel that energy to effect positive change. This means unpacking your anger. Ask yourself a few key questions; why am I angry? am I justified in my anger? what can be done about it? Often times, I discredit my anger on the second question because I try to think of why the other party would have acted as they did and its usually more difficult to stay angry when I do that because I realize how imperfect we all are and how I could have acted similarly. This should however not stop me from acting. Just because we are all imperfect doesn’t make everything okay. Sometimes we need to be called out on our imperfections in order to grow.
Basically, whether you are upset at a situation or a person you need to use your anger to create the change you want to see. That change may start in you or it may come as a result of you speaking about it. I wish I remember who the article was by just so I could re-read it and fully appreciate the wisdom in that piece. Nevertheless it caused me to think and consequently learn.
Its the start of yet another semester, with its tests, papers and readings. At the risk of sounding cliche, I will say that I still remember my first year. I came into university with a strategy; read and regurgitate. Unfortunately university required a teeny bit more than that, it required me to understand and apply. This realization was fine of course until I took classes that I thought should require me to not just apply but create and then school and I reached an impasse. Don’t get me wrong I was very impressed with the new way I was learning. Never in my learning career had I been pushed to truly understand the subject matter in the way that I was being pushed and it felt amazing! (Yes I’m a nerd..deal). I guess that feeling made me greedy. Its like this, if all I ever knew was vanilla ice cream, I was fine with that but now that I’ve tried cookies and cream, its kind of made me wonder what the other possibilities are.
What framed this for me was a conversation I had with a few people not too long ago. the general consensus was that essays were a trap. You’re asked to say what you think “and as long as you defend it properly there’s no right or wrong answer”. The truth however is that there is a right answer which is what was taught in class, then there’s the objection to the right answer which is a bit of a wild card cause your answers still have to line up to what the professor thinks the objection should be. The wrong answer in an essay is any opinion that veers too far off from the professors ideas, and while your thought process may not be wrong, it doesn’t conform so boo-hoo boo boo, you get a C for effort.
I’m not saying that this happens all the time but sometimes it feels like you have to give up expressing what you really think for an A (not that your A is guaranteed anyhow); but you know what really grinds my gears? Its the classes that are supposed to be “liberal”. The ones that focus on social justice. They are great if you want to learn about the social issues that plague us everyday but the minute you try to talk about solutions, somebody throws you the vaguest possible term “activism”. Then you try to lift the veil on what activism really means because its all well and good to know the problem but where do we go from here? But you find nothing concrete, and when you even try to suggest that we need to think of new ways to implement social justice, they grunt and carry on. Nothing changes, we keep flying the pretentious flag.
You see the problem is that we need to evolve. University should be about much more than regurgitating and reapplying concepts the same way Marx, Kant or Foucault did, not that we should discard their works of course. University should be about creating; new ideas, new theories. Maybe some other person feels completely different but I require more from my classroom. If university intends to work me to the bone, I need more than grades, I need value.