I do not often watch “Black” films. I also avoid Asian movies if there are any white men in them. Why you ask? Well Black films are often chock full of stereotyped Black characters (the trickster, the buffoon, the mammy, the jezebel) and the Asian films, well the white men are always the heroes and always get the girl.
Beyond this, however, is a more substantial reason. When I watch these things, I get angry. Or I should say I am reminded of the anger that steams below the surface of my heart. I don’t like feeling this anger because, well, there is no real relief for it. There is a level of powerlessness I experience in the face of the anger, but even more in the face of the cause of the anger.
I can’t get away from the racialization in this society, I can’t get away from the history; I cannot escape the active and passive racism that has consequences for me and will have consequences for my children.
“In your anger, do not sin,” scripture admonishes us. That is a hard saying, because it is so much easier to simply not be angry, and indeed that is what many Christians advocate. “Just get over it, it was a long time ago.” “We should move on.” All of those things that people say, well intentioned though they may be, are simply wrong.
Jesus does not command us to never be angry, nor does he model it. He in fact acknowledges that anger is an appropriate response to injustice. So then anger is okay, but to not sin in the midst of feeling these very real emotions is much harder.
What are the proper responses then to anger? Many of my Black students alternate between venting their anger and suppressing it (for the sake of survival). Black anger has been used sinfully as a power tool in relationships and in politics. Many of my AA students simply don’t actively deal with their anger (as far as I can tell). It is merely internalized into additional self-blame/shame and as fuel to work harder & smarter than the dominant culture while all the while seeking assimilation and accomodation as quickly as possible. This response is similar to that of Black people in the pre-civil rights era. At least that’s my humble observation.
Both of these responses are sinful; neither confronts the injustices of the system and neither honors Christ. If we are to be people of authentic reonciliation, we must learn to live in the tension of being angry and not sinning.