The uses of anger in the political climate

  • When we think of the Black Lives Matter movement often many stereotypes come to mind; some more useful than others. A common reoccurring theme surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement seems to revolve around the theme of anger.


    When we think of anger, less useful stereotypes can often come to mind. Anger can be thought of as a pervasive thought, something that should not be used in the political climate. But various scholars beg to differ, arguing the uses and necessity of anger as a political tool and force.


    Anger is often described as a dangerous and wild emotion, counterproductive to the political movement. And yet, anger is an indispensable tool behind the great political powers (Lyman, 2004).


    The great Audre Lorde is quoted as saying ‘every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger, potentially useful against oppression, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being’ (Lorde, 1984, p.110).


    Even prolific writer bell hooks (2014) discusses the topic of anger. She notes how often feminism was littered with discussions on anger, noting ‘it was anger at injustice that was the impetus for creating a women’s liberation movement’ (hooks, 2014, p.2). So for hooks anger was a productive and revolutionary force used to galvanise women into creating a liberation movement.


    This is interesting to note, as the dangerous and wild emotion that is anger has it’s uses. In a recent interview for the podcast with Arnesa Buljušmić-Kustura, whose podcast you can find linked here,Arnesa discusses how she is a pacifist but understands the uses that anger, and to a certain extent, violence can have at galvanising movements into action.


    This is in line with much of Marxist theory which proclaims that anger and force is thus necessary to achieve an overthrow of the capitalist infrastructure of society.


    When thinking of the Black Lives Matter movement often, for better or for worse, anger comes to mind. In a recent article by the Independent, it was reported that the anger of the Black Lives Matter movement can be used to hold businesses to account for the effects of structural racism within a capitalist society (Independent, 2020). This is not gratuitous conjecture, as famous scholar Angela Davis (2015) comments upon how capitalist regimes seek to subordinate the most vulnerable and marginalised within society, which is often women and black people.


    Anger fuels the mechanisms used to combat institutional racism. As the Black Lives Matter movement has demonstrated, institutional racism can often arise from institutions such as the police. Within this framework we need to ask ourselves epistemologically, where these misconceptions within the police force comes from. Davis comments from an ideological perspective that ‘all Black people [are] subject to the ideological link between Black people and criminalisation’ (Davis, 2015, p.33).


    This is where the question as to whether anger can be used as a productive force or a hinderance arises as it appears that anger seems to fuel resentment, and this can be seen in the institutional and ideological link between black people and criminality.


    Is it then just to tackle the issue of anger with more anger? I can’t provide the answers, but I can look to other questions and solutions. Often anger is not an innate response to racism and police brutality but rather a label assigned to those within the most marginalised of communities.


    It is important to also note that as the passage of time elapses, attitudes and responses to anger can change as anger can get redirected onto other individuals. This is most astute within bell hooks’ analysis of how as ‘contemporary feminism progressed, as women realised that males were not the only group in our society who supposed sexist thinking and behaviour…anti-male sentiment no longer shaped the movement’s consciousness’ (hooks, 2014, p.3).


    What we can conclude from this is anger has its uses as a political force but what is important to also note is it also has its missuses too.



    Sources used:


    Independent, (2020) ‘The anger from the Black Lives Matter movement can be harnessed to hold businesses to account’, Accessed on 28thJuly, 2020, Available from


    hooks, b (2014) ‘Feminism is for Everybody’ New York, Routledge.


    Lorde, A. (2015) ‘Your Silence Will Not Protect You’, UK, Silver Press.


    Lyman, P. (2004) ‘The Domestication of Anger: The Use and Abuse of Anger in Politics’, European Journal of Social Theory, 7(2), pp. 133–147. doi: 10.1177/1368431004041748.