The Art of Waking Up

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The New York Times is working on a project to right their obituary gender and racial bias called Overlooked No More. In looking back over the generations of obituaries, they noticed that the obituary page rarely featured a successful or interesting female or ethnicity other than caucasian. In a time when our culture seems to be “waking up” to the forces that have limited the success of women and minorities, they are trying to set the record straight.


I found out about this project on The Daily, my favorite podcast for understanding the daily news. On Friday, they told the story of Ida B. Wells, one of the first investigative journalists of our time – an African-American woman who was born a slave. When she was freed, she lived through a time when African-Americans saw hope to make a living and be a part of society. But, then Jim Crow came along, and white anger turned into violent secret rage. She covered the lynchings.

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I’m not going to tell her story here because it is told much better in other places, but I will tell you that I was horrified to hear her descriptions of lynchings. I always thought there was a subset of evil Klansmen who turned out for this sort of thing. Whole towns turned out and cheered them on. I knew the places where many of these lynchings happened. I’d been there. I had lived in some of them. My romanticized view of the south – which has been in decay for a long time – took another hit. And my first thought was about the rage. No wonder there is so much repressed anger in this country.

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I know about rage. Repressed anger eats you alive. Growing up in a culture where children are supposed to be seen and not heard and where women are supposed to be nice and sweet and subservient, I’ve eaten my anger for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it doesn’t go away. It festers inside and eats me alive. It seeps out in depression. It explodes back-handedly in sarcasm. And, occasionally a violent, blinding rage erupts to the surface.

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I lived in a state of repressed anger for about 40 years until yet another abusive relationship caused me to crack wide open and wake up. Fortunately, we have help available today. When the mountain of rage within me finally crucified my spirit, I sought a variety of ways to deal with it, and, most of all, I leaked it out in a safe and supportive environment. Anger, I know now, is a healthy emotion. Rage is a different animal altogether.


Our culture is blowing up with rage. And this won’t be pretty. Women and minorities have repressed their anger and fed their rage for centuries. We as a culture are having a reckoning. This is who we are. This is who we have always been. The sick structures that have been in place to enrichen the upper class, silence the minority and keep power in the hands of the majority are being exposed. I’m not sure what will happen with all of this, but I can assure you it will continue to be quite a show. America is in the process of waking up. Buckle up. This won’t be comfortable.

Here are some links on articles I’m reading on this subject:

What the World Would Look Like if We Taught Girls to Rage

Ida Wells Biography

Is Repressed Anger the Real Reason Your Life Feels Stuck?

The Daily: The Women We Overlooked

Ida Wells Obituary in the NYT

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