Ain’t Nobody Trippin’ But You: How My Thirst For Respect Was Allowing Me To Get Angry Over Small Things (And How I Calmed Down)

April 17, 2013  |  


I come from a long line of angry folks. They’re civilized folks with good jobs, good sense, and a lot of love to share, but they can be angry nonetheless. From my mom, to one of my sisters, as well as both my brothers and my uncle, I’ve watched them go from 0 to 60 in a minute when they felt it necessary, and some of that anger rubbed off on me. We’re what you would call “sensitive.”  And living in New York has made it worse I must say. When men literally let a door slam in my face as they walk through it, bad a** kids throw small rocks at strangers (me, of course) when you’re minding your business walking down the street, and you get some of the worst customer service on the planet, you might have a reason to be a little testy. And honestly, I just assumed everyone around me felt and acted the same way. But that was until I punched a lady in the head last week.

It was an accident of course. During my morning commute, minding my business on the train, I was doing the absolute most to keep my bare hands from touching the very dirty pole next to me, so I proceeded to wrap my arm around the pole instead while I waited for my stop. After changing a song on my phone and in the process of once again wrapping my arm around the pole, I accidentally punched the head of the woman sitting down in the seat next to where I was standing. And it was kind of hard. This woman, white and probably in her mid-20s, slowly pulled her head up in shock, and began to rub the spot that I had just gone all Street Fighter on on accident. I turned and started apologizing: “Oh my gosh, I’m so so sorry. I’m really sorry, that was a total accident.” Expecting her to pop off or at least give me the death face, she just looked confused for a second, rubbed her head some more, nodded as if to say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and put her head back down.

That was it.

And I was surprised. I’ve seen New Yorkers of all backgrounds and colors act a complete fool over less, so I was expecting her to act up. But she didn’t because she had better things to do–like finish up her early morning nap before reaching her stop. But for some reason, her response, or lack thereof, had a big impact on me.

As I went to work, I thought about how I know I would have reacted had I been that woman and someone punched me in my head, even if on accident. I might let out a “S**T!” or “What in the hell!???” so that the person knew the extent of their mistake. I’m both sensitive and dramatic. But she was able to shrug it off like I kicked her bag on accident or bumped into her. And if I had hit any other person, I’m sure I would have received a scathing response. I’ve bumped into an older black woman on the train and apologized, only to find her looking at me like she was ready to slap box because her headphones kept her from hearing me. I couldn’t help but share the story with my coworker, and when I asked her why I, and so many others might react less than peacefully compared to this mystery woman, she pointed out one thing that really stuck out with me: “I don’t know, I think we, especially as black people, see these type of things as a sign of disrespect, and many of us do a lot to make sure we’re getting our respect.” Bingo.

I don’t know about you, but I can see my angry faces over the past year (almost two) of living in New York, and I know that respect had a lot to do with the extent of my “rage.” Like the time an older Hispanic man literally sat on me when he couldn’t sit down before the train pulled off, yet he failed to say sorry or anything else to me for that matter. While I only yelled out “OH MY GOD” when his a** fell on me and crushed my purse, in my head after the fact, angry that I received no apology, I was thinking, “DO YOU NOT SEE ME!??? AM I JUST INVISIBLE IN THIS PIECE???” Or the time a white girl standing in front of me whipped her hair in my face and had no clue. Or when a man stole the seat I was about to sit in, and fuming, I thought to myself: “OH SO YOU GONNA ACT LIKE YOU DIDN’T SEE ME ABOUT TO SIT DOWN!? AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A MAN…” In most cases, if someone apologizes for whatever small thing they’ve done to me, I’ll heat up very fast, but hold my tongue and calm myself down, reply with an “It’s cool.”. But when they don’t, I’m ready to spit fire. A lot of my anger comes from people acting as though I don’t exist or they can treat me like whatever, and I can tell by the faces of those who screech down subway cars “YOU CAN’T SAY EXCUSE ME???” that their anger comes from a similar place. That and a little bit of crazy. But we’ve all got to do better.

To be honest, even before that incident, I was trying to get my anger together. I would let the actions of other people, even the simple comments, get under my skin and literally have an impact on at least half of my day. As my choir director would say, that’s giving more power to man than you do to God. So for some time now, I’ve found myself ignoring a lot of people, channeling my anger into my workouts, and learning to step back and evaluate what I’m getting ready to fuss about, instead of stepping out of my body and acting a fool. I’m still working with my anger issues, as its not something that goes away quickly, but this method has been working. If you have anger issues (not the type that you need to go to anger management for though, that’s a bit more serious) and find your self spazzing out to ensure people are treating you with respect, I would encourage you to do the same in order to calm down. Step back and ask yourself if what you’re peeved about is truly worth letting your day start off or end on a negative note and worth pulling away from your happiness. Chances are, it’s not, and it’s not worth it at all.

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  • Meyaka

    Best post I read on here yet. I used to be the same way,I felt like I had to give my opinion and demand that it be respected,until I realize it’s worthless to waste my breath on people that don’t deserve it,and then I calmed down. They call me the ice queen now… Ask me if I care.

  • Great article. So true. I had no choice but to let God step in to take care of my anger issues when I found myself spazzing out on not only my peers and colleagues, but my own family as well. Over insignificant things. All because I thought I was being “disrespected.” I think what irks me is, for example, when people can dish it but can’t take it. If things seemed unfair, I would call out anybody on it, including elders or anyone above me. Bratty and disrespectful, I know.

    I’ve been told once awhile ago: “You can’t change people’s actions, but you can change your REaction.” As soon as I embraced that, work-related stress has declined dramatically (side note: I work for a school district lol), the number of arguments with family and colleagues are dwindling, and there’s finally peace within. I may still have my moments, but I’m finally learning to be rational and take things in stride, and that sometimes silence is golden. It’s all about accepting people for who they are. I mean hey, people gotta put up with us right? Why not return the favor lol.

  • Akiko

    Sometimes people do get angry over every little thing, but then there is also such a thing as microagression…

  • MissBeautiful22


  • scandalous7

    sorry, but I gotta say a lot of black women I know need to read this article. Too many black women are guilty of this. Way too many, black men too.

    • SheBe

      Dang you beat me to it! I TOTALLY agree with your comment.

    • TRUTH IS

      Theres hotheads in every race…enough black woman this and that…..after what they do to us during slavery and is still trying to keep us down…we have all right to be angry…FOH

      • Yvette

        Our ancestors went through the unthinkable and for that I will always be grateful and never ever forget what they sacrified and had to deal with just so we can live free in today’s society. Having said that, I don’t believe they would be happy to hear that over 400 years later folks are still angry about slavery to the point of being bitter when they themselves didn’t endure it. No one is keeping me down because as long as I have breath in my body and a portion of health and strength I will push ahead. Is it still racism? Of course! Am I gonna let that deter me? Absolutely not! I am living my life like it’s golden! If my life is not what I want it to be that my fault not “the man’s”.

  • hollyw

    *ooh wee!* You are speaking my life in this city! I agree, living in New York City, you really do become the “typical NYer” after a number of years, ESP. if you have a stressful job on top of that. I’m a child therapist, and though I love my clients, a bad day of upsets, regressions, and tantrums ON TOP OF a man taking my subway seat on my commute home has been enough for me to scowl a ninja DOWN. I feel so bad afterward, but a little, irrational part of me does feel vindicated somewhat…wooosaaaah

  • sammy

    once you’ve gotten a mastery of controlling your anger, up the ante and
    work on deciding to have an abundance of happiness in your life,
    because happiness is, indeed, a decision.


    with other single black, white girls and men in your city.. It is

    my favorite club for mixed love….

  • sabrina

    That was a hilarious anecdote!

    As for me, I’m very slow to anger, and I’m not a big fan of confrontation. So if you would’ve knocked me in my head, I probably would’ve laughed or shrugged it off and went on about my day. But some of my friends and family would’ve reacted like you described…angry and feeling disrespected. I often questioned if I needed to get angrier at people like others do, but I realized there’s no need…I actually seldom feel disrespected. Maybe it’s because of my positive outlook on things?

    And oftentimes, it’s really not that serious.

  • feather

    This is an excellent article.

    This is an area that I wish African American Women could benefit from. What a man (woman) thinketh therefore they are. If you are always thinking and ready to check someone. Then this is what you will attract. But if you are always thinking and ready to receive respect, love, positive affirmation, then this is what you will attract.

  • Drew Smith

    This was an excellent post, Clarke. You truly open yourself up to enjoying life and dealing with stress much better when you refuse to let trifling sh*t register. And once you’ve gotten a mastery of controlling your anger, up the ante and work on deciding to have an abundance of happiness in your life, because happiness is, indeed, a decision. Furthermore, a joyous mindset is a dangerous playground for pervasive ideas that can change the world in a positive way. Good for you!

  • Lauren S. Clark