Race-work, Race-love

Racial Anger: the Angry Latina Woman

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 3:00 pm

“Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way, not just the finger.
Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out. Anger points the direction. We are meant to use anger as fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us. With a little thought, we can usually translate the message that our anger is sending us.” — Julia Cameron, Inspirations: Meditations from the Artist’s Way

Angry Latina woman. I have often heard this description about me during times of heated debate around issues of race. I used to feel insulted when I heard this description about me. Today, I view it from various perspectives: anger I have righteously felt, anger that was acted upon me, anger that I have witnessed acted out.

I have witnessed anger that has been acted out. As a woman, “anger acted out” is difficult to avoid. We feel it from different people, well-intentioned parents, policymakers who want to control our bodies, street harassers who desire to shame you for not giving them attention. The examples of how anger acted out on women are endless.

But it is a woman’s response to this anger acted out that is scrutinized. We confuse anger acted out and anger acted upon all the time.

The anger that is meant to be acted upon… when I hear this I think about the many times I have been called an angry Latina simply because I expressed, defined, and defended my racial boundaries. Some examples of this are I experience subtle racism. The older I get, the quicker I am with my responses. But, when I respond, I hear “stop being so angry” or “jeez, i was just kidding, why are you so mad?”.

A response to racism by a Latina is unacceptable, it seems.  The audacity of a response to racism is always scrutinized.

In the moment I experience a racial micro aggression, I think about how many other people the aggressor has the capacity to hurt.  My hope is that if I respond, they will think differently and not be so quick to make racist assumptions.  But I also worry that I just gave the aggressor another stereotype to use: Angry Latina.

Still, the love I have for my people impels me to respond and express my racial boundaries so that other Latinos/as, other brothers and sisters of color, don’t feel what I just did.

And, what I would like to point out is that in a way, subtle racism is an example of racism or anger being acted out by the aggressor. People who commit racial micro aggressions are in some way acting out the generations of racist knowledge they were given. Whether well-intentioned or not, racist assumptions are historical acting out of years of White Supremacist values. We see this when college students throw racist parties or use racial slurs against each other.  Racists and well-intentioned racists act our their racism all the time — And I am being called an angry Latina?

To describe my angry Latina status a little more, let’s take the song “Revolution” by Arrested Development. This song exemplifies what happens when anger acted upon breaks down. After years of racial hostility and violence, our people have fought and struggled for freedom, for civil rights, for the right to live peacefully. The struggle was done through the legal system, through conceptualizing Black and Latino studies, through providing free lunches for low income children, through opportunity programs. And while they are bearing some effect – we still see how systematically we are being incarcerated, miseducated, and now deported. The introduction of the song says:

Brothers and Sisters
Let me share with you some news
As I sit on my plush couch watching the news
There has been a rude awakening
That I have marched until my feet have bled;
And have rioted until they called the Feds
What’s left my conscience said?

What’s left?! We have tried the ways dominant populations want us to be “angry”. Some of us are lawyers, doctors, researchers, teachers, community activists –but I still see my students being told by their professors that they do not belong in that classroom or that college.

The fact that these incidents of racial conflict continue to exist should make us angrier. What’s left my conscience said?

Trust me. You haven’t seen me angry yet.

The song goes on:
Are you doing as much as you can for the struggle? (No)
Am I doing as much as I can for the struggle? (No)
Then why do I cry when my people are in trouble? (Yo!)
My ancestors slapped me in the face and said “GO!”
Harriet Tubman told me to get on up!
Marcus Garvey said to me, bro, you get on up!
My brother Malcolm X, need I say more
It ain’t like we’ve never seen blood before,
Come on, let’s talk Revolution, now!

But now Revolution has been characterized by the Right (and even by some racially conservative Left-ists) as being violent. Angry. A color blind society says that revolution is a “racial thing” – so we have to erase the terms “revolution” and “race” from our vocabulary.

Is it possible to express anger acted upon the racist regime we live in and do it in the name of love?

I believe we can. Love reconciles the ways in which we act out and act upon our anger. Being just angry is one thing. We can ask ourselves – are we acting out our anger or are we acting upon the injustices committed against our people?  So, now, when I am called ANGRY and LATINA – I use it to fuel my race-love. The kind that keeps my consciousness alert, aware, alive — and active. My race-love continues to fuel my race-work.  La lucha continues…

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  2. […] dulls my Racial Divine? What about the academic process is helpful to transforming me from the “Angry Latina” to a Latina with a doctorate? Can I be both? Watch out now – she has a pen, a computer, and a […]

  3. […] world so that other young men can understand how the subtle can build up to the overt and become anger acting out. On the Oprah Winfrey show, Tyler Perry discussed his own anger acting out […]

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