Why Is Some People's Political Anger Considered Real While Others' Is Not?


There are some people in this country who are mad as hell. Armed with a delegate vote, they are using that vote as an expression of their anger at American politics. If you doubt their anger, FoxNews.com contributor, John Fund, wants you to know that their anger is real.

In describing reasons behind Donald Trump's recent win in Nevada, Fund's latest article reads: "Trump wins Nevada: Voter anger is real, and it's propelling The Donald forward." According to John Fund, these voters are angry at wage stagnation, immigration paralysis, and phony politicians.

These voters are Trump supporters and they have not been hiding their anger from us. So it was not a surprise to read 'voters', 'anger', and 'Trump' in the same article. What was surprising to read was an acknowledgement that some group's anger was real.

It's been a long time since I heard those words. I honestly do not remember the last time I heard those words.

During the recent protests against police brutality as well as protests against racial injustice on college campuses, protestors were indeed angry. Protests are usually motivated not only by a desire for change but anger at injustice. But I don't recall many articles describing the protestors' anger as 'real'. Criticisms of the anger of Yale students protesting the racial climate on campus consisted of referring to their anger as irrational and their feelings as 'sensitive'. Their anger was not described as real. Richard Lowry, a contributor for the National Review, claimed that the rioters in Baltimore weren't angry at all. Instead, they were having the times of their lives.

Describing someone or some groups' political anger as real is more than a headline or a property of an emotional state. It is an acknowledgement that the anger exists AND perhaps we should pay attention. It is recognition of a group as well as recognition of their concerns. To say that someone's anger is real is to say it is not imaginary, made up, or something used to irrationally justify actions. Instead, this acknowledgement conveys the judgment that this is something we all should take notice of and even perhaps do something about. It may even lead to acknowledging our own complicity in the injustice.

If anger arises out of self-respect and recognition of a moral wrong, acknowledging the realness of that anger acknowledges our fellows as humans who may have reasons to be angry. In a liberal democracy, acknowledgment and recognition is not merely lip service but they are civic virtues that build trust and friendship. The question is, are only certain groups worthy of that friendship?

What has been problematic about the use of anger in the media these days is the asymmetry that exists: we tend to view the anger of privileged groups (whites or male) as real and the anger of disadvantaged groups (women and minorities) as irrational or imagined. This is not new but part of a long history of emotional dismissal and the privileging of different groups to feel outlaw emotions (i.e. anger) while policing and shunning other groups (usually minorities) for feeling the same.

When only some people's anger is acknowledged and others are not, we fail at offering civic responsiveness to those whose reasons align with our country's democratic values. Instead of showing that they are our fellow comrades whose anger is not simply in their heads, we show them that they are not worthy of being acknowledged nor worthy of our concern.

I cannot wait for that day when we consider all of humanity as well as their anger at injustice, as real. For now, I will be watching Caucus outcomes as well as the general elections. It seems that anger these days are only considered real when its expressed in the voting booths. As a result, I predict that the new stage for angry protests will take place not on the public streets but behind a veil at your nearby public school, library, community center, or firehouse.

It may be the case that after it's all said and done, certain people's anger will still be considered unreal. The media may credit the victory of Clinton to women voting for women and not because of women's anger at a republican party who believes its their right to control women's bodies. They may credit the victory of Sanders to Jews voting for Jews or young women voting for Sanders in order to please boys and not because of an anger at wealth inequalities and a criminal (in)justice system.

Some people's anger may never be acknowledged as real but this will not change the truth that it is. For just as Morpheus says to Neo in describing the real: " I didn't say it would be easy... I said it would be the truth."

You may have to value the truth of your own and your fellows' anger for now. When the political matrix no longer succeeds at blinding others from the content of marginalized and oppressed citizens' anger, the acknowledgment will come.

Just don't hold your breath. We need you alive and in the voting booths on Election Day, mad as hell.