Angry Young Black Male

In one of my classes this semester sits an Angry Young Black Male (AYBM).  Having taught at an Historically Black College/ University (HBCU) and also, at the HBCU, confronting a would-be rapist, I felt no threat coming from my current AYBM.  Yes, he listens to gangsta rap just before class (but turns it off when class starts), often has AYBM opinions during class discussions — but, hey, I’m teaching Argumentation, so it’s not horribly inappropriate — and sometimes steps out of the classroom for reasons unknown.  And, yes, I did make him angry enough earlier this semester that he left the classroom and was gone for a week, but then he came by my office and we talked things through.

But I wasn’t expecting, on my way to class this afternoon, to be called into an office by two campus police officers and seeing one of my other students, a Non-Angry Young Black Male, and a counselor, talking about the AYBM who verbally intimidated my other student just because he asked that the gangsta rap music be turned down.

So that got dealt with.  But I’m at a quandary of how to handle my AYBM, who now doesn’t want to come back to the class anymore.  “I can’t have a run-in with the police, Miss.  I can’t have that, on top of everything else I gotta deal with,” he said to me after class. 

I’m at a quandary because AYBM has a good brain in his head, writes well, and has a heart, even though, just listening to him, it’s been beat, battered, and scarred all over due to whatever he’s keeping within himself.  And I’m not forcing him to tell me.  God knows I can respect a man trying to deal with his own demons.

But I want him to do well because I can see the potential for him to do good things.  But he is so ANGRY.  And I fear that his anger has built a wall around him so thick and so high that nothing — and I mean nothing — will reach him unless someone reaches in there with compassion and understanding.  I can’t extend that, unless he comes to class.

I guess what I’m saying is that today, I’m feeling just how little a teacher can do for a fellow human being.

I ain’t happy about that.


About lizardqueen

If single-mothering were a paid job, I'd be rich. However, it doesn't, so I write (which doesn't pay the bills) and teach (which does). I'm overly-educated in the liberal arts, but that doesn't hinder my ability to be pragmatic and realistic. YAY.
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5 Responses to Angry Young Black Male

  1. Pingback: AYBM: a Resolution « I Am the Lizard Queen!

  2. lizardqueen says:

    DavidD: Good words, good thoughts.

    C: He came back. 🙂

  3. DavidD says:

    It’s not just teachers. It’s health care professionals. It’s social service workers. It’s clergy. I’ve been more than one of these, and the feeling is about the same.

    I’ve never been black, but I strongly identified with the alienation depicted in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Our culture identifies a way out of that for my particular story even worse than it does for a black man, which adds insult to the original injury, which makes the anger as powerful as it is.

    I know things that helped me, but they won’t work for just anyone. Following one’s bliss instead of one’s anger, letting the anger drop off to useful determination, to a helpful canine companion instead of it being a raging monster that gets me into trouble is a tricky business. Some of my bliss is good. Some of it is destructive and hurtful, not just to me. An angry man has to experiment and choose. When it’s my choice, I can work out the anger I have with myself over it better than if someone helpful tries to influence my choice, ignorant as that person must be of my most intimate struggles.

    I wish I could believe that there’s always a way, that things always work out for the best, that God makes life that way or at least the afterlife.

    Instead my experience is that most angry young men of any race never escape their anger that much. Those that do may be lost in denial or may indeed find something truly loving that is that much more precious because of the anger that pushed him to the love. If there is love for an angry young man, he’ll have to choose it. He won’t do that because of the love I have in just being myself. I know I can calm fears or ease shame with my love, if only temporarily, but anger is something I can help only if someone wants me to explore that anger with him, and even then, he has to choose what to do about it. I don’t know enough to know his one best path away from the resentments and deprivation. His resentments and deprivations are different than mine were.

    So one can say, “Leave it alone,” but I know that’s too simple, even if it’s safe. Sometimes I say how I used to be angry. If someone wants to know details, we can go through that as circumstances allow. That was one thing I was angry about. I had no role models, no real father. Then Ralph Ellison fathered me a little through his book, and more came along to do their part. Unfortunately many more gave me useless advice and fair-weather friendship, if that, but time sorts out who is who.

    It’s a lot for even an introductory discussion of anger. So I say, “I used to be angry,” and go from there. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been very angry can help much, whether black or not.

    It’s like tears. It’s not best to ignore them, but not best to stifle them, even with kindness. Helping them to come out in a healthy way is tricky. I can be willing to be helpful to another person in that, but there’s no universal formula for that help and there are lots of days when nothing will help. It’s something of a miracle when any of us says something helpful. I can’t make that happen just because I want that to happen today.

  4. celogo says:

    I’m really sorry to hear about this. Maybe he’ll come back. Hope so!

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