“To be Black in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” — James Baldwin
Before I found this quote, I often wondered why I had this feeling of anger inside of me. I could be in my happiest moments, but deep down, I was not okay. This controlled rage as I journeyed through college. What it means to be Black now had a new meaning to me.
I’m from Detroit where most people are Black. I knew about Black History Month, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. I knew Lincoln “freed the slaves” and that Jim Crow was “a thing of the past.” I was spoon-fed a very superficial history of who I was. I never really thought about race because everyone around me looked the same. I was led to believe that everything is fine. Things certainly are not fine, at all.
As a freshman, I quickly noticed that I was a rarity on campus. In many of my lectures, I was the only Black man. This was surprising to me because I come from a high school in Detroit where many people who looked like me excelled in school. Where was everyone? Maybe I was lucky to be here. Maybe I was here to fulfill a quota. I don’t know. I do know that the Black population was not what I expected it to be. Sure, I could blame myself for not paying enough attention to the demographics of the University before I came here, but that does not change the fact that the Black population is low and had been decreasing at an alarming rate before I was here.
As I began to be involved in social justice organizations on campus, this strange feeling in me began to grow. I could not put my finger on it. I made a lot of friends, was accepted into Organizational Studies and joined an improvisational comedy group. I had been provided a lot of opportunities here, but I was upset for some reason. I realized I had this silent anger within me. But why was I mad? For the life of me, I could not figure out why.
I stumbled upon the James Baldwin quote above during the tail end of my junior year. Things suddenly started to make sense. Throughout my time here, I have learned in many classes and events about the stratification of resources in this country and the decimation of Black bodies abroad. Sometimes, I felt my anger was not justified. Maybe I was overreacting. I shouldn’t care this much, right? I’m at one of greatest institutions in the world.
I should be mad. I should be angry. I should be pissed. My conscious mind has created this rage and I will be unapologetic in it. This rage will be controlled in three ways: passion, skills and knowledge. I will use it to fuel my passion to advocate for Black and brown folks from the neighborhoods I am from. I will build the skills necessary to support them in all that I do. And I will continue to spread the knowledge I have acquired here to the best of my ability.
Michigan in Color is the Daily’s opinion section designated as a space for and by students of color at the University of Michigan. To contribute your voice or find out more about MiC, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.