Black Lives Matter (BLM) has evoked a range of emotional responses from its supporters and critics. The vast majority of BLM protests have been peaceful demonstrations focused on the disruption of public spaces, everyday errands, and white indifference toward black suffering. Still, both BLM protests and the movement itself have been labeled as irrational and dangerous, in part because protestors have refused to hide their anger at contemporary circumstances of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system and beyond. This essay challenges commonplace demands to eject anger from political, public, and popular deliberations over racial inequality and social justice and argues that anger and rage often expressed through BLM activism are appropriate responses to circumstances of entrenched and pervasive racism. I contend that the expression of these so-called negative emotions, when used to highlight racial injustice, have productive and disruptive dimensions. Anger is productive in that it can serve as a unifying discourse that seeks liberation rather than liberal democratic incorporation, and it is disruptive to the hegemony of powerful national narratives premised on the inevitability of racial progress but that actually mask the mechanisms of white supremacy.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.