Do We Call On Our Black Anger or Our Black Love?

by on September 3, 2020 · 7 comments

in Civil Rights, From the Soul


by Ernie McCray

I’ve been thinking of how my people have overcome so many things in this country. For centuries.

You name it, we’ve overcome it. But we just can’t overcome the anger that comes with being Black in this society.

It’s a Black anger, if you will, because it’s ours alone, a form of anger that’s always there, beneath the surface, like a low-burning flame that needs a rush of air to get it really going.

And, since it’s usually the actions of angry White folks that gives our anger oxygen, we can’t ever fully relax it because, in our experience, we never know when we might have to react to what a White person has done – to one of us. Or a number of us.

When it’s least expected.

Like you’re seventeen years old, in Tucson, in August of the summer of 1955, trying to beat the heat, stretched out on a couch in front of the swamp cooler with a frosty glass of red Kool-Aid, thumbing through Jet Magazine aka looking for the picture of the “Beauty of the Week,” to get your horniness on.

On the radio The Platters are singing “Only you,” putting you in a mellow mood as you munch on your mom’s one-of-a-kind vanilla pound cake with a “This sho do taste good” look on your face, the telephone close to you in case that fine looking girl you gave your phone number to, might, magically, call you…

You’re the embodiment of “everything’s cool.”

Then, BOOM, a picture suddenly jumps out at you like a charging rhino, chilling your very soul to its marrow, a picture of a Black boy’s mutilated body.

Emmett Till.

I was initially stunned like a prizefighter who didn’t see a vicious left-hook coming, having to shake his head to get his senses back, slowly realizing that what he was seeing was American justice up close and way too personal.

Emmett was seen as an “uppity” Black boy who didn’t know his place and had committed a White-made Black sin, “whistling at a white woman,” a sin as deadly as “reckless eyeballing,” looking a White person in the eye.

When that all struck home my Black anger took over me like a cult leader assuming power over his gullible followers.

And that anger was directed at White people. Any White person: friends, teammates, classmates, my mother’s boss, my boss, Perry Como, Dinah Shore, Santa Claus, White people yet born…

I took to the streets like a zombie on speed, unable to speak, silently despising every White person I could see.

And then, at a red light at the corner of Stone Avenue and Congress Street, a White woman waited for the green light right in front of me as, in my mind, I hated her up and down crazily.

When the light turned green I continued standing as she walked away from me.

I realized suddenly that I wasn’t being me. I wasn’t wired for hating. And I was raised in a respectful loving home that specifically counseled me not to judge a people by the behavior of a few. My pain had nothing to do with that woman – as far as I knew.

My anger slowly faded away, though, and I went back to my life of being a Black teenager: working a couple of jobs; playing softball and working on my basketball and dance moves; hanging out with my homies and my girlfriend; harmonizing with Ira Lee and Tommy Lee; reading practically every book it seemed at the downtown Tucson City Library.

That was many a decade ago but that anger has been rekindled often since that time as the atrocities against my people continue to multiply.

I mean too many of us still go out for a walk or a jog and end up in the morgue because they looked suspicious in a White person’s eyes.

More than enough of us call out “Who is it?” before their front door is knocked down and they’re shot several times.

There’s more than our unfair share on a list of people shot by a cop responding to a neighbor’s call.

To borrow from and paraphrase Marvin Gaye: “It make you wanna holler!”

And it doesn’t lessen our anger when so much extreme out of control White anger dominates our protests, taking up space on our TV screens with scenes of burning and looting and an occasional shooting while just a few steps or a block away people are gathered peacefully, fully committed to the Black struggle.

Along those lines, we have to, in those moments when our anger isn’t too pressing, think about how, after who knows how many centuries of “I can’t breathe” situations, George Floyd dies underneath the knee of a renegade law enforcement officer, and these people, representing all races and ethnicities, have continuously taken to the streets, marching to the beat of “Black Lives Matter!” Finally.

And they have not gone away, a hint that we need to silence our anger as much as we reasonably can and embrace such an outpouring of love with as much purpose and grace as we can.

After all, our pursuits for social justice have always been carried out in a spirit of love.

A most powerful love.

Black love.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

David A. Dean September 4, 2020 at 12:50 pm

It is a privilege to know you Ernie. Thanks.


J Cannon September 6, 2020 at 7:15 pm

Hi Ernie–
Thank you for your ongoing insights, thoughts and experiences during these most strange and awful times. I can only hope that this latest cycle of intensified racial turmoil will result in evolving a more honest, authentic, and respectful interaction among pink and brown people.
Hate begets hate and love begets love.


Dr. J September 6, 2020 at 7:25 pm

Well done. I could not have stated better.

God bless you.

Dr. J


James Guerin September 6, 2020 at 11:03 pm

Thank you Ernie. I love your letters to mankind.


Wendy Ellen Cochran September 7, 2020 at 6:23 am

Oh Ernie, You are truly walking in Grace and I am so glad to know you all these years. We have raised children who stand in the world and just their being and doing is making this a better place. I am here in SD for a few more days. Its been hard to not run around visiting but I am busy! Take care of yourself and keep writing.. Hard times require furious dancing….and we have always done that my friends. Sending love to you and the family!


Paul Carter September 7, 2020 at 11:31 am

Thank you Ernie. Your words always help me understand. We grew up in two different Tucson’s, yet we shared a lot at THS and U of A. And we have learned so much as teachers and educators. We often learned as much from our students as they hopefully learned from us. We both learned about anger, and though a different kind, it was still about injustice and inequality, But Most of All We Both Learned About LOVE, “A most powerful love”.
Right now, if my health and mobility allowed it, I would be on the streets in Coeur d’ Alene or Spokane with the peaceful protesters in the “in a spirit of love”. I am on all the streets in my heart.


Shirley Sprinkles September 9, 2020 at 12:33 pm

CharlieMack, you always take me “home” to the town that we grew up in—Tucson, that magical desert place where we came of age and of awareness that we were “sorted” by skin color. I am thankful that we were not of a mindset to be kept down by unenlightened forces; that we pushed up and out, determined to “be somebody”; to leave our mark on the world. I wish we had been neighbors—we would have been a “force” for change! Love you!


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