Rage: Noun

by J. Wilkerson

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” —James Baldwin

Rage: noun.
:a strong feeling of anger that is difficult to control
:a sudden expression of violent anger
:something that is suddenly very popular

Thank you kindly (and most sincerely) Mr. Webster.
But you are wrong. I do not call you a liar because
you may have simply been unaware
and who could fault your ignorance?
But you are wrong. I suppose that you, Noah,
did not consider me when you determined
the meaning of rage.

Rage: noun.
:Strength. I have controlled my rage ten million fold.
To exist while Black is rage.
Rage against you, when you ignore me
And you, when you beat me
And you, when you kill me
And you, when you steal from me
And you, when you deny me.

When I walk among you and you demand I smile
Or you believe my body is available for your desire
And for your pleasure,
When you invoke me as your friend,
When you rejoice in the death of my brother
I rage.

:Control. I have expressed my anger slowly and politely
Making you comfortable enough to hear it.
Once a woman told me that “Blacks” were happier and more productive as slaves, no offense.
I hated her and she did not feel my anger.
Once a man twice my age and three times my size called me a nigger in a room full of white peers. They were silent then and he had the power of the word. Later the others scoffed—how dare he? They would never use that word around me. But if I could, couldn’t they?
I hated them and they did not feel my anger.
Once a doctor whispered to his nurse that he couldn’t take me seriously and I wept.
I hated him and he did not feel my anger.
Once a boss told me that race was no longer an issue in our community, after a White cop harassed a black kid because he didn’t like his manner of expression.
I hated him and he did not feel my anger.
Once a family friend told me that she saw past my race, patting my hand kindly as she spoke.
I hated her and she did not feel my anger.
I carried the hatred as an albatross, a token of my double-consciousness.
I live and work and exist among them, knowing them as they will never know me, and they do not know the extent of my rage.
Today a woman asked me why Blacks “make it about race” and assured me that we Blacks were racist and if we simply
     stopped saying nigga
     got jobs
     took care of our kids
     wore nice clothes
     chose American White names for our children
     smiled more
     stopped killing each other
racism would no longer exist.
She will tuck her White babe into bed closing her computer
and she will be safe in her ignorance
and she will hide from the reality of my existence
and she will pray to White Jesus for my salvation
And she will thank White Jesus that another innocent persecuted White man will go free.

Later a White liberal will suggest that I consider MLK and promote peace and will ignore me when I point out that peace got MLK shot and me here begging you not to slay another black body.

:Sudden. And yet, I can reach across time to DuBois and Douglass and Truth and Tubman and Equiano and I will know them and they will know me and they will recognize me. And behind us a confident voice will determine for me that I don’t know struggle and that my ancestors would be ashamed and the voice will still and away and I will touch my Black family across time and space and draw them to me and I will know their rage
And they will know mine.
I will attempt to pray and I will wonder what words you use that your prayers are always answered. I will wonder if the god of your prayers looks like you and I worry that he does and is this what milton meant by servitude?

Rage: noun.
:unquenchable thirst and hunger for that which has always been denied
:the willingness to endure hell with the assurance that you will at last know what it means to burn.

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

J. Wilkerson is a teacher. She lives in Georgia with her husband and two daughters