I think how black people wear their anger determines how far they go. I’ll speak of those I know. East Africans will tend to wear their anger six layers beneath the skin. They are afraid of its power and potential for radical change. They have also been taught to be ashamed of it, to see it as an uncivilized emotion.

So they replace it with its fermented form– contempt. Kenyans are masters at contempt. It is served hot or cold to those who trouble the waters, those who choose not to bury their anger beneath layers of skin. If someone speaks truth to power, they are confronted with contemptuous snipes like “why are you so bitter?”

Mostly, Kenyans are masters at silence and pious supplication. It keeps anger buried in the bone marrow, allows for a false sense of calm and dishonest dignity. For there is nothing honest about the places and faces of indignity so many are forced to ignore. Buried anger is a fire that eats its victims quietly, without ceremony.

I have come to love black people who wear their anger on their sleeve. They will immediately scream and stomp when you step on their necks until you hear them, however long it takes. They will scream at the pain of memories that arise from unaddressed trauma. Over the years of struggle and relentless demand for dignity, they have mastered the use of anger as fuel that got them to rise from ashes and build ways out of no ways. But there’s a catch.

The problem with wearing anger on one’s sleeve is that it sears you with its heat. You are its first casualty. Your enemies will see the victim of anger and not the fighter. Black people constantly need a place of healing, even the most accomplished of us– the leaders, the scholars, the builders, the diviners, the teachers, the storytellers, the soldiers– they all need a place to transform the fires that sit on their skin into energy that shifts the grounds we walk on. Find that place, but don’t bury that fire.

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