You will need to forgive me. Somehow I didn’t get the memo suggesting that Black folk should NEVER allow ourselves to become upset. To the contrary, I believe there exist some incidents/situations/acts so vile, egregious and reprehensible that it is our responsibility to become upset by them.
Naturally corporations, and their spokespersons/defenders (politicians and government officials) work hard and spend vast amounts of money to maintain an ignorant and indifferent citizenry. In their ideal world, we would all walk around buying and using their overpriced products and services and singing “Hakuna Matata” while viewing any number of shamefully idiotic “reality” shows. As we remain in this indifferent stupor, violence, poverty, zenophobia, militarism and imperialism would continue unabated I guess.
Not all of us accept such patronizing bullshit. I for one find myself seething with righteous indignation about a number of things and I pray this article will inspire some of you to become equally incensed with me convert this anger into sustained resistance and liberation movement to that we can improve our collective condition.
I can already hear some of my spiritually grounded friends and colleagues: Feelings of anger are innately negative and self-defeating.
I agree that we should avoid immature and self-destructive forms expressions of anger just as we should not become angry over everything.
Psalms 7:11 “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”
For clarity’s sake, The anger I hope to instigate here is “righteous indignation“the type we feel when confronted by acts of wickedness and injustice, for example. In Biblical terms, this is the anger referred to in Psalms 7:11; in historical terms, I’m referring to the same anger felt by Gandhi, DR. King, Socrates, Malcolm X and every person of conscience who struggled to make life better for humanity. Perhaps if more of us and our “leadership”, were righteously angry enough, we would have a national movement addressing social injustice right now.
Sadly this is not the current state of affairs. Most of us are not sufficiently angry enough to challenge our oppression, lulled to sleep as we are by the myriad distractions of pleasure, comfort, fear and indifference.
Allow me then to arouse your righteous anger and inspire you to action by revealing things we should be angry about.
- The fact that Black people have the same chance of receiving an excellent public school education as Bill Gates has of dying broke. Did you realize that we pay for public education from our taxes and then often have to pay a private school tuition for our children because their public schools are so bad? How unjust is that? And did I mention that 25 of these 50 states have graduation rates for Black boys that are below the national average? My home state of New York has the lowest Black male high school graduation rate in the country with only 25?% of young brothers graduating from high school. As a former schoolteacher I can assure you that the majority of our children that do graduate and do so on time, are disturbingly unprepared for college and the working world. In fact, despite tons of school reforms and reports, our children typically perform way behind other groups in math, reading and writing. At the same time, an increasing number of our school children find themselves suspended, expelled and introduced to some level of the criminal justice system – a phenomenon referred to as the “school to prison pipeline.”. This is not just matter of low-performing schools. Too many of our ill-prepared students who desire a college education but don’t have the academic preparation are forced to attend community colleges and training programs that overcharge them and still don’t adequately prepare them to work or lead! The only way to describe this segregated and chronically failing system is “criminal!” If there ever was an issue we should be outraged over, it’s this!
- Black people are the most negatively stereotyped/perceived group in this country! In fact, an entire mythology exists with Black people occupying the lowest rung, and much of this nonsense finds promotion among Black people! I’ve heard it all, from “Latino men are more publicly affectionate to women than Black men,” to “white girls are more supportive and less confrontational than Black girls.” Absolute stereotypical nonsense, but widely accepted as truth by many. Black people STILL are victimized by the most vicious and ongoing set of rumor and innuendo imaginable – and to a large degree, we cloud our own minds with such distortions of truth: (Black women are goldiggers, whores, uneducated welfare cheats…Black men are liars, cheats, gangbanger, jailbirds, violent thugs and deadbeat dads). Certainly our families, relationships, businesses and organizations suffer if WE believe the worse things about ourselves, and allow others to believe the same, right?
- According to a report issued by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a Black person is attacked or killed every 28 hours by white police officers or self-appointed white vigilantes in American cities. This reality repeatedly occurs despite massive protest, media coverage and “police sensitivity training.” Despite all the “progress” we’ve made, our lives are not weighed equally with others, and as incident after incident shows us, cops kill us with impunity.
- Although we represent about 15% of America’s population,Blacks represent more than 60% of the prison population. According to professor Michelle Alexander, author of the groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, incarceration is a socially legitimized form of selective punishment and the state-sanctioned exploitation of Black labor. In fact, Alexander notes that more Black men are currently incarcerated than were enslaved in the year 1850! Interestingly, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution allows for this dynamic by justifying the enslavement of convicted criminals!
- Despite all this talk about America being “post racial,” one’s probability of incarceration, poverty, educational attainment, professional development/advancement, and physical and mental health, are too closely aligned to one’s racial classification. Thus, racism is alive more than ever and causes us great suffering in more ways than we can imagine!
- Corporate control and the illusion of choice. As I indicated in another article, six corporations control 90% of the newspapers, magazines, television/ radio stations and consequently, 90% OF most of our news, information, and perspectives. The same monopoly control exists over our food, water, and the American political party structure. Mega-corps like Kraft, Coca Cola, Nestle, Pepsico, P&G, Mars, Kellogg and Johnson&Johnson make just about everything we eat and drink. Any concentration of power in so few hands obviously invites corruption and conflicts of interests. Perhaps this explains genetically modified food. Making matters worse, the only people corporations are responsible to are their shareholders. So long as their priority is to produce profits for investors, ethical, environmental, and social concerns take on little significance. Equally frustrating is the fact that this means the concept of consumer “choice” is a cruel joke. And where one has little choice, one has little power. These corporations are led by CEO’s who live above the law, are never punished for their crimes, and avoid paying taxes. They sell us tainted food, medicine and other products without regard for our health while spending considerable sums of money brainwashing us to believe we need such items. These often insensitive, callous and greedy people select our political candidates, create laws protecting their rights, decide what information and entertainment we receive and get away with egregious negligence and abuse we cannot imagine.
- United States acts of imperialism against the African Diaspora. All over the world, the U.S. government starts wars, sets up dictatorships, creates debilitating trade agreements and generally destabilizes our people. And for the last 8 years, they’ve used a Black man to do so.
I truly hope I’ve inspired some righteous anger and outrage among you, and that this anger will inspire you to get involved to do something and become a change agent in your city, school, neighborhood, job or organization.
And please don’t feel bad about being angry with oppression, ignorance, poverty, or injustice, feel bad about making peace with such things. Righteous indignation does not contradict spiritual belief . Our spirituality should NOT be disconnected from our politics nor any other aspect of our lives. In fact, our views about peace, inner harmony and the god force in ourselves should motivate us to challenge those forces, policies, and practices that make this world a living hell for most people. Being self-empowered is one thing. Being self-absorbed and in denial is another thing altogether.
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment.
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.