Me, I am so angry right now that I barely know how to write how angry I am. I am so goddamned angry I could spit hot nails and then take a boiling bath to cool off. I am so angry I could make a movie about 10 million black men going out and buying handguns and starting target practice collectives. And it would be a documentary.
That's what happens when six people on a Florida jury conclude that a white man can seek out, pursue, antagonize and then shoot to death an unarmed black boy but not be guilty of murder or manslaughter. While 200 million white Americans, whether they are outraged at the verdict or not, still feel entitled to walk around in public with a feeling of relative safety.
Whether George Zimmerman had been acquitted Saturday or not, most white people would and do still expect to be able to go to the store on any given night and walk down the street with their Skittles and iced tea without being hunted and/or shot, whether by the police or by a wanna-be cop. And most black and brown people, especially black and brown males, do not.
And now that Trayvon is the latest of us to be waylaid with impunity while white people – including those with sympathetic or even passionately empathic intentions – will still get to drop by the convenience store without thought of being racially stalked, I as a black man feel a plume of rage that gives me empathy for your average volcano. Multiply that by millions and you can do the emotional math on what churns in the innards of black males nationwide.
I am angry that any white person anywhere in the United States of America can wake up in their bed this morning and believe that anything about their life as a white person, anything at all, is normal: the way whites can hurry down the highway without fearing that their mere whiteness will get them "accidentally" shot in a car search by a race-conditioned state trooper instead of simply being fined for speeding; the way whites can innocently and thoughtlessly walk through a department store without thinking about how their mere whiteness might get them followed by a race-trained store detective; the way whites can wait for friends in a hotel lobby without any thought of how a race-trained guest might take their mere whiteness as a cue to approach them and ask for help with his bags; the way whites fail to suffer consequences for their whiteness in airport security lines and on planes and hailing taxis and waiting to be seated in restaurants and walking the thin roads of the suburbs and ex-urbs and ex-ex-urbs of an America that has made an industry of perpetual flight from brown faces and brown bodies. I am angry beyond belief at the casual, bloodless manner with which so many white Americans can, with no intent or awareness, stroll through a landscape of brown blood.
And more than anything, I am angry about being angry.
I am angry that I need to write this to you. I am angry that I am driven to take time away from the infinite beauty of being alive – and the preciously finite moments of my life – to respond to a nation that will not leave me alone, a country that forces me into hand-to-hand and eye-to-eye combat for the mere ability to be who I already am. As if being myself is a privilege granted by white consent and not a right. As if entrusting my blood pressure and risk of heart attack and stroke and premature death to the pre-set dials of America's racial machinery is something I should expect and accept. As if my entirely natural rage at this lifelong bloody gear-mashing is the thing that's abnormal.
I am angry that time after time, day after day, year after year, I am called away from the simple and peaceful act of being the person I am by large and small acts of war. "Hey!" says the landcape of white presumption. "Look up from where you're standing in that perfectly burbling trout stream so I can call you 'nigger' from a passing car. Hey! Look away from the sweetness of your dinner date while I march you past nice empty tables and seat the two of you next to the kitchen and force you, once again, to think about race when it is the last thing you want to think about. Hey! Quit feeling unwatched as you wait for the 'walk' sign and I lock my car door at you. Hey! Let me interrupt your casual and comfortable speaking of proper English by letting you know how bizarre it is for me to hear a black man talking that way. Hey! Stop composing that piece of music in your head for a second so I can re-inflame your awareness of how afraid I am that you'll rob me here in this hallway. Hey! Drop those Skittles and stop that conversation on your cell phone so I can chase and kill you because of who I think you are."
I am angry that I have to walk around with a particular and situationally-triggered kind of anger that white people are spared. Take it from one who knows: I wish such anger upon no one. But I am furious as hell at its selectivity, at the way a certain kind of anger can break into my house late at night or suddenly turn a relational traffic light red or bring a scream into any song I write at any given time, while in a certain skin-filtered way a white person can roll over unawakened in bed or drive on through the intersection or continue on with their music uninterrupted.
The very same is true of the anger of a woman to whose experience I as a man am blind. Or a gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered person. Or a Palestinian person. Or a person who is in the United States illegally.
And if you deny the realities behind this anger, too bad for you. Because if you yourself are not angry on this day, you are the one with the problem.