Monday, September 26, 2016

Powerlessness and Anger

[TRIGGER WARNING: CHILD ABUSE, POLICE BRUTALITY, RACISM]

I've been getting to the heart of some serious issues in therapy lately, and I'm beginning to understand how deeply feelings of powerlessness, injustice, abuse, and anger are linked. I can have such violent feelings, such intense anger that I feel like under the right circumstances I could attack somebody. Maybe even kill them. And it all comes back to how powerless I felt as a child - how for years I felt beset on all sides by people who only wanted to hurt me, who mistreated and abused me, dumped all their negative emotions onto me, and gaslighted me by saying that they loved me and cared about me.

I spent much of my childhood feeling utterly alone in a situation that I couldn't possibly escape. I knew it was wrong to treat me that way and that it was an injustice, even as I tried to justify it by blaming myself and eventually hating myself.

But that was only in my family unit. As fucked up as that is, imagine if the entire society treated you like that. If the police that people keep telling you are there to "serve and protect" regularly mistreat and abuse you, treating you like a criminal even when you've done absolutely nothing wrong. Imagine that you see other people of your skin color being treated like this every day, being attacked and maimed and beaten and murdered, and there's no justice to be found. You're completely powerless in the face of this unjust force that's completely sanctioned by the government and society.

I recently saw a video of some cops questioning some black kids on bikes, filmed by a black man. There were two cops cars with flashing lights and two white officers, one with a notepad out, asking them their names and birth dates. According to the man filming, the kids had done nothing, but police had accosted them for, I guess, being in a group while black. These kids were babies, maybe eight or nine, riding around a well lit area of a city or town at night - somewhere I would consider to be safe for a group of children. They looked scared.

The man filming was angry, telling the cops to leave the kids alone. He told the kids not to say anything until their parents arrived and kept repeating that the kids hadn't done anything and didn't deserve to be treated that way - like suspects.

The cops eventually leave, probably because they're being filmed, getting all pissy at the guy filming, and the black man becomes increasingly angry. He walks away after shouting at the cops a bit about how messed up it is to scare children and treat them like criminals. Then as he's walking away from the area, he can be heard on the video swearing, talking about how angry that makes him, and saying that he has "so much inside him" and talking about a desire to attack the cops.

Some of the comments on this video were therefore of course about how it's not okay for him to swear at/near/about cops and talk about wanting to commit violence upon them and generally expressing his anger. That part of the video touched me. It made me sad. Deeply sad. The repeated "I have so much inside of me" hit me hard.

I can't possibly understand what it's like to be black or anything but white in this incredibly racist country, but I can understand, to a point, that feeling. The feeling of having so much inside. So much anger and pain, so much that it feels impossible to ever release it all. It feels endless and impossible, and it's fueled by the fact that justice feels so utterly out of reach. People in power are hurting you and you don't deserve it and there's nothing you can do to stop them and they'll never be punished for it. There will not be justice.

To involve children in that? If I knew that not only had I experienced that and would keep experiencing that, but children like me would be hurt in the same way? I've felt so much anger and pain it felt like it would drive me to the breaking point - like I would lose control and become a rabid animal. I can't even begin to imagine the rage I would feel if I saw myself in a group of little children, seeing that same hurt and fear and pain and injustice being committed upon them than I suffered and continue to suffer and can't make stop.

Not only do I sanction the filming man's anger and everything he said, I ask my fellow white people how we could possibly condemn the actions of any black people in this country? Protests, riots, property damage, assault, shooting and killing cops. How can we condemn any of it? I can't, understanding how my own experiences of hurt and powerlessness and injustice have led me to fall into fits of rage, screaming, hitting things, even going so far as to fling a glass at the man I love, despite the comparative smallness of my past experiences.

I have little doubt that if my childhood experience had been expanded to all of society, I would be a physically violent person. Maybe I'd already be in prison. Knowing how a deep sense of powerlessness creates not just anger, but a rage and a desperation, a feeling of being cornered and wanting desperately to escape - I'm surprised that all of us white people haven't already been murdered.

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