Marginalisation and Anger

Last week Several months ago because half of this post got buried in my drafts folder for ages before I decided to resurrect/finish it this week, Patrick RichardsFink published a post called Dear Straight People. It was about, among other things, microaggressions and the reaction of straight people to queer anger and frustration- which is, of course, something that can be expanded to speaking of any relatively privileged person reacting to the anger of any relatively marginalised or oppressed person. It sparked off a long and involved conversation over on Facebook, and, to be honest.. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I feel a lot of things about it. It seems to me that when we talk about this- and this is not the first conversation I’ve had this month on the topic- we talk past each other. We all speak from our own pain, reacting to the unfairness that we experience, and it’s tough to listen to others. Especially when, as we’re talking about anger, people are on edge. This post won’t be a conclusive statement or a manifesto on how we should all act towards each other forever. It’s about exploring what I see as some of the different threads and conversations going on, and trying to get to a place where we’re talking about the same things at the same times. I’m bringing in quotes and perspectives from earlier, not because I necessarily agree with all of them, but because I want them to be part of the conversation. Oh, and one note, before we start: Please don’t assume someone’s orientation or identity from what they write, unless it’s specifically stated in the text.

Do marginalised people get to express anger?

This is the most obvious question. Nobody disagreed with this: everyone accepted that marginalised people (we were largely talking about queer people but some referred to other experiences they have) get to feel upset, frustrated and angry, and that attempts to force us to be constantly polite are damaging and oppressive.

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7 thoughts on “Marginalisation and Anger

  1. Great post. 🙂
    I think the only thing I would disagree with is that you should never be allowed to use violence as a reaction, because some oppression is violence, and some people need to defend themselves. Maybe it’s a seperate issue, but it made me think of CeCe McDonald and Marissa Alexander came to mind. I think you meant something different, so I’m possibly overthinking it.
    I also wonder where appropriation of anger falls in the discussion. Like, if you’re a white person and you lash out at white people as a whole, and so forth. You can still be frustrated and angry at the sight of the suckitude that is white supremacy (lord knows it pisses me off), but should we have the same understanding of that anger as we do of a person who more directly feels the oppression? I don’t know.

    • Yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t mention self-defence. Of course violence is absolutely appropriate in self-defence, and both McDonald and Alexander were acting appropriately when they defended themselves. I guess I don’t see necessary actions to protect oneself from immediate physical harm as violence, really- in my mind, the person who attacks someone waives their right to not experience harm until their intended victim is safe from them.

      As for the appropriation-of-anger thing.. dammmn, I don’t know that one either. On one hand I can see how it might be appropriative. On the other hand, I want relatively-privileged people to get angry about the oppressions that don’t directly affect them as well as those who do. And of course there’s the fact that we don’t all live in a vacuum- I (or you or whoever) mightn’t personally live with Oppression X, but people who they love might. You fuck with people I love, you fuck with me, y’know?

      • I agree with you on the violence issue, where violence allows for a proportional response. I imagined you did feel that way, I think I was just reading a little bit too literally. 🙂

        On the appropriation of anger thing, I know what you mean. It’s really nice when someone of relative privilege gets angry about the stuff that affects me. I guess that anger can be just as understandable, especially when it’s something that hurts someone they love. I have seen some people who get angry about an issue on other people’s behalf make it about themselves a bit, too, though. That’s perfectly fine in terms of feeling what you feel, because feelings are personal, but maybe it’s more to do with privilege checking than not getting angry when it comes to public discourse?

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  3. You’ve given me a lot to think about, in regards to how I deal with casual sexism at work. Yes, I’m white – but in Ireland, most people are. We take in refugees, but as a people – white white white. But! I’m not Irish, I’m American. So I get a bit of stick about that, of course – and I’m sorry to have to say that most times I agree with the stereotype they mention. However, no one ascribes it to me as a person, so it isn’t any form of discrimination toward myself. More a matter of defending/explaining the US attitude.

    I’m also a woman, the only woman, working in a warehouse. The hardest thing to learn was that men say horrible things about their workmates, all the time. It’s a bonding thing, perhaps – but the names they call one another and the volume at which they say it?!? Took some getting used to, for sure. If women in the office talked like that there would be a fight, maybe tears, maybe a visit to HR and an official complaint lodged. Me, I’m much happier with the boys.

    But that doesn’t mean that their casual sexism doesn’t hurt me, or make me angry. I try to take it in the spirit that it is meant – only joking around with a coworker. That doesn’t mean I just walk away silent when I hear some sexist bullshit – oh no. But I do have to pick my battles. And that is a shame.

  4. I’ve been reading a lot about this lately in articles from the left, and the concept of lateral policing has come up in many of those articles. The context has always been that focusing on microaggressions and privilege splinters a movement, and makes it focus more on how careful we are all being of each other’s feelings than on what we can do to change each other’s situations and challenge the actual system that is oppressing people.
    Of course, that issue may have been largely decided when we take to talking with one another on the internet instead of going out and encountering one another in the flesh. If I’m using a medium via which I can’t really affect somebody’s physical situation, maybe being punctilious about their feelings is the best I can offer.

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