You Can’t Get Sad, and You Can’t Get Mad

A Black commenter notes that either Blacks are more emotional than Whites, or Whites are taught to keep their feelings under control:

Either we are more emotional and excitable as a people or other cultures teach the need to keep said emotions under control. One of these has to be true I think.

I will tell you, it’s been drummed into my head in the most major way, not just in childhood but certainly in adulthood, that one must keep one’s emotions in check.
In fact, it is so bad, that I am now something like a rock. Which is not really good at all, but at least people won’t call me crazy for having feelings. For a long time in adulthood, it seemed that whenever I felt or displayed strong feelings, people would start calling me crazy. I really hate being called crazy! So now I’m afraid that if I show feelings, I’m going to get called crazy. I’d rather be a rock than be called crazy.
The two things in adult White male society are:

  1. You can’t get mad.
  2. You can’t get sad.

The last one is especially tough. A girlfriend died some years ago, and I was sad for quite some time, about a year actually, but it was all OK, but that was a normal and appropriate and real response. It actually felt good because I finally had a feeling, and it was beautiful in a way to have such a wonderful sad feeling. Because when someone dies, you ought to feel sad. Well, within I think a few days or maybe a week, White people were already angrily ordering me to snap out of it. A couple of them ended friendships with me because I would not snap out of it soon enough.
After she died, I cried maybe 15 times over a year or so. I went into this place called The Feeling World where I felt like I was on acid all the time for like 6-8 weeks. It was horrible, but it was wonderful too because it was real.

Please follow and like us:
error0
fb-share-icon20
Tweet 20
fb-share-icon20

44 thoughts on “You Can’t Get Sad, and You Can’t Get Mad”

  1. Musically the Negro has raw blues. Particularly after the rural version got citified it became much more “emotional” in expressing Negro sadness than its White analogue.
    That would be hard-core traditional country, with its common theme of comparatively restrained broken heart stories.

  2. I notice that there is a double standard when it comes to mental illness. If a black man gets angry he is considered masculine and if a black woman gets angry she is considered a strong black woman. If a white man gets angry he is considered psycho and if a white woman gets angry she is considered nutty and confused. And it seems to be white people perpetuating this double standard.

    1. Maybe it is the way White People are taught to express their anger, from childhood onward.
      White folks are taught to be calculated with their anger, and essentially hold it in, to “bite” it. This is essentially the culture of Northern European Germanic culture, but even far more so a vestige of English culture. One need only witness how the English refer to the Irish, French and Southern Europeans, to so what I mean. They see to them as “emotional” and “hot blooded.” That is because such outward expressions of these emotions, is seen as a negative in their culture.
      East Asians can relate to this, in many ways.
      Hence, when White folks in the U.S get angry, they sometimes do it in a way that seems unnatural. That is because they spend so much time trying to “hold it in.” They are not used to just “letting it out” in public.
      Simply put, it is their culture, plain and simple.

      1. Although another cultural ideal would be:
        “His foot should stamp, and his throat should growl,
        His hair should twirl, and his face should scowl;
        His eyes should flash, and his breast protrude,
        And this should be his customary attitude.”

        These things are pretty complicated. I reckon it’s possible British culture (that maybe the US descends from a bit in this) is less accepting of personal and sober anger, rather than anger on behalf of your group, others or based on principles/duty or when drunk, but I’m not so sure.
        I always get the impression that there’s a strong class element to how acceptable anger is, with the anti-middle/upper class poor (working and non-working) seeing anger as relatively acceptable, other working poor and the middle class rejecting is to a greater degree (probably most from the pro-class structure working poor) and the upper class embracing it, but possibly more or less than the anti-middle/upper class poor. But that could just be a stereotype.

  3. blacks simply have less self-control on average. there’s a psych experiment which presents kids with half a candy bar now, or the whole candy bar the next day. black kids consistently choose the half candy bar now more frequently than white kids choose the immediate reward.

      1. No, it’s a real study. The first one was done in the Caribbean in 1959. It’s been repeatedly endlessly since with the same results. Black kids have less ability to delay gratification, is how they frame the conclusion.
        And I think you get small candy bar now or wait a week for bigger one is how it goes.

        1. I’ve heard people refer to these studies many times. But they seem to raise more questions.
          Okay, so Black kids prefer, on average, the smaller candy now over the bigger one later. What is the value of this information?

          1. Thanks for linking to that article. It was very good.
            I have always taken for granted that little kids need to know how to delay gratification. And I believe that the ability to delay gratification is essential if you’re going to get anywhere in life.
            I just don’t see much value in looking at this issue through the lens of race, though. Do you?

  4. It’s not as clear cut as Robert suggests. Italians, Spaniards & Jews are not afraid of expressing their emotions. As for blacks, the west Africans (and hence the typical African-American) are very loud and expressive, while east Africans are rather reserved. I suspect that a lot of the tea party weirdness is because some whites can’t get their head around Obama’s east African aloofness, which is so different from the blacks that they are used to.

  5. Robert,
    In your original post, when you say you were taught to keep your emotions in check, do you mean under control or eliminating them? I thought the personal example you gave about your girlfriend dying was interesting. I don’t think it should be considered healthy to not express emotions in these type of situations. I thought grieving was part of the healing process? Why not allow it to run it’s course? Not expressing feelings in the work place is one thing but this I think is just unhealthy. Being balanced should be the goal. Being Vulcan? Not so much.

      1. Ok Robert, so (don’t laugh at me) I tried the whole keeping your emotions under check thing yesterday and I must admit I kind of liked it but it was very hard to do. I see it like not letting your emotions inform your behavior at all (for good or bad). I liked the feeling of control it gave me over my situation/environment. It also seemed to go over well with my White work colleagues who I generally get along with anyway but it was much better yesterday (or at least I thought so). I did slip a few times but for the most part I did a good job :- )
        Tell me, you said you were trained to be this way. How so (as in techniques)?

        1. I was rather emotional as a boy and young man. I felt nervous sometimes, frightened sometimes, felt deeply ashamed and embarrassed, felt guilty, felt sad, like a failure, depressed. I got negative feedback about all that stuff, especially the sadness.
          Later I developed OCD really bad and I went through sort of a neurotic breakdown where I was not in good shape mentally. I acted outwardly normal, but I was cycling through all these wild emotions all the time in my head and body. People hated it to say the least. Women dumped me, my friends all left me, and I got fired from job after job. Mostly what was going on was heavy duty anxiety, painful thoughts all the time and depression. A lot of people were saying I was insane or schizophrenic. It really sucked. I started to come out of it but still had some symptoms like anxiety and sadness. I would almost tear up in public but not quite, you know? A lot of people *really really* hated that, especially older women and Hispanics. A lot of women were practically laughing at me.
          I eventually worked out of most of that, but I ended up like a rock. Whenever I start to feel something, I get afraid people are going to call me crazy again and I say screw that. One thing I lost is my warmth. I used to feel warm a lot, but I seem to have lost that, and I can’t seem to get it back. Sucks.
          I mean, they basically beat it out of me, you know?
          Also, now that I’m a rock, I really feel like a man, so that feels good.

        2. Well, you can feel warm.
          I’m even wary about that though, because when I used to really open up like that, a lot of White people would see that and just open fire on me like I was defenseless. Now I’ve got this wall up like if you talk shit about me, I’m gonna slit your throat as easy as turning off a lightswitch. People don’t say too much shit to me! I think they are afraid to.
          Warm is ok though. Nothing wrong with warm, happy and cheerful.
          I used to turn it off at work and turn it on when I came home. There were some people at work who I totally hated, but I sucked up to them and acted real nice to them all day at work LOL. Then I would get in my car and pull out of the parking lot and think, “Fucking scumbags! I’m going to kill them!”

        3. Wow, you can turn emotions on off on/off just going from work to home like a switch? Ok, I’m seriously impressed!!
          If the average White person can do that, then that is a serious personality upgrade that I need to make! So many possibilities!!!

        4. For techniques, I think you couldn’t go wrong reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Or you could take the Zen/Vipassana approach and try to notice your emotions without attaching value or acting on them, necessarily. If you were watching a movie of someone else going through the same situation you wouldn’t care as much, right?
          Actually, the Zen and Stoic approaches are not so different in some ways. And like with anything, practice makes perfect.

  6. By the way Robert, it is sad to hear about your girlfriend.
    I know what you mean by people ending relationships because you “can’t get over it.” That is actually very typical in White America. It is unfortunately seen as a sign of weakness by others, and as you yourself intruding your own problems onto them. They do not see you as simply being sad, and in a way, a victim of what life, which we all ultimately are.

    1. It’s worse than that. You’re reminding them of death! Of course people do not wish to be reminded of that inevitability.
      I think traditional cultures may be better at this sort of thing. I have heard that in traditional Greek culture it was perfectly normal for a woman to wear Black and mourn for 5 years after her husband died!

  7. I have always taken for granted that little kids need to know how to delay gratification. And I believe that the ability to delay gratification is essential if you’re going to get anywhere in life.
    I just don’t see much value in looking at this issue through the lens of race, though. Do you?

    White kids don’t have such problems with this though. They call it time preference. The theory is that maybe Black adults, and not just Black kids, have issues with time preference. And some suggest that Hispanics have time preference issues too. If you look at a lot of racial data, it seems that they might.
    Inability to delay gratification has all kinds of issues all across the board and all through life. Think about it. Why are people criminals? Why do guys beat their wives? Why do people not go to college? Why do people leave early for work? On and on and on.
    I would like to see these studies between Blacks and Whites for IQ though. That would be interesting. Seems like time preference has some relation to IQ.

    1. I totally understand the importance of the ability to delay gratification. But I’m trying to understand what the people who emphasize these racial differences want. What do they hope to achieve by emphasizing them?
      I guess I’m sort of approaching this from the POV of someone who taught and worked with children for a long time. Knowing the outcome of these experiments wouldn’t have changed anything about the way I dealt with kids. Regardless of race, kids need to know how to delay gratification.
      Some of them won’t be as good at it as others, but I don’t think dividing kids along racial lines is of any practical value.

      1. Yeah, no one talks about these studies other than some pretty hardcore nasty White racist types. Often White nationalists. They have an agenda for publicizing these studies, but it’s not one that benefits Blacks. I think they want to promote the idea “niggers are inferior.” At worst, they want to say that Blacks are incapable of living properly with Whites as a result of these findings, hence a segregationist take.
        Knowing that Black kids have issues delaying gratification could indeed have ramifications as far as teaching Black kids. Perhaps we could design education and curricula in Black schools taking this more into account, but I don’t know how you do this. Demanding that they delay gratification all the time might be a recipe for failure

        1. Yes, this is problematic, because in any group of Black kids, you’re going to have some that can delay gratification pretty well. So some kind of race-based curriculum along these lines wouldn’t work.

  8. I think it might have something to do with extroversion. Growing up with a lot of White extroverts, it’s clear that they have all sorts of issues with delaying gratification. I suspect that Asians can delay gratification best of all.

  9. Do American Blacks express sadness more than American Whites? I’m not sure that’s the case, at least in my experience.

    1. Traditionally, Africans were pretty expressive people, but they also got over stuff sooner.
      There’s the blues, you know. That’s Black people’s sadness compacted right into musical form.

      1. That’s true. But even blues music has a certain liveliness to it. Then again, I was born after the Blues Brothers movie so it’s possible that my view of the genre is skewed. I don’t think I’m wrong about this, though.
        To continue with the theme of music, look at, say, rock vs. rap in the 90s. Members of Alice in Chains and Nirvana, arguably the biggest grunge bands, eventually committed suicide. Which 90’s rappers did? I’m sure it happened, but the famous deaths were Tupac and Biggie.
        Emo music in this decade? White.
        I’ve seen the same sort of emotional expressiveness you’ve been talking about in the Caribbean, so I know it’s not just an American thing. But I can’t say I really saw lots of sadness, even though there was a lot of poverty. They were living in the tropics so that’s hardly a profound observation, but I really think that West African expressiveness doesn’t extend to sadness.

        1. I’ve seen interviews with older Black women who lost their sons or daughters and they were still sad and crying 20 years later.
          In the less assimilated Blacks like in the Caribbean, if someone dies, say, Blacks will wail and cry like banshees for a few days , then they get over it.

        2. That’s exactly my point, Alpha. Of course people of all races feel sad, but the expression is different culturally(or maybe biologically? But I think cultural differences should be explored first). Blacks express anger and happiness in a way that can seem exaggerated to White Americans, but I don’t think the same is true about sadness.
          It’s interesting to note that Asians(I mean culturally, because I know some very depressed ethnic Asians) tend to think Whites are overly expressive. If an Asian expresses anger he’ll lose face. Southern Whites are similar, in a way. There’s a concept of honor that just is not present in other parts of the US. Well, maybe parts of the Midwest are like that too. If someone’s honor is violated they NEED to respond. I think there’s something similar going on in Black ghettos but different things will trigger a reaction.

        3. OK, this discussion piqued my curiosity. I googled “suicide rate by ethnicity” and found some interesting things:
          http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/183/2/100
          “The suicide rate in White Americans is double that of African Americans, but this is largely accounted for by the disproportionately higher rates in older White men. Native Americans (including those in Alaska) have rates of suicide that are at least 50% higher than the White population. East Asian American women have the highest suicide rates of all women over the age of 65 years in the USA. Hispanic Americans are half as likely to complete suicide as White Americans, but there are significantly higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in young Hispanic Americans at high school which are now being reflected in their suicide rates. Changes in suicide rates have also been reported in African American youths aged 10–14 years: between 1980 and 1995 there was an increase almost double that for the White aged-matched population (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2001)”

        4. One of the few rap artists (or is it hip hop?) I like is Common, esp. his song “The People.” Anyway, one of the lines in that song is “my daughter found Nemo.” When I first heard it, I thought it was “My daughter found emo.” What greater disgrace could there be for a rap artist lol.

  10. Wow, you can turn emotions on off on/off just going from work to home like a switch? Ok, I’m seriously impressed!!
    Sure, worse than that. Sometimes at work I had to go in to see those hated people. As soon as I walked in the door, I would go into this mode like, “I love you! You’re my best friend in the whole world! You’re wonderful! I worship you!” Like that. I don’t know if they believed it or not, but it seemed to work ok. Then as soon as the interaction was over and I walked out of the room, I would move right out of it and be like, “Fuckin bitch…Goddamn I hate her…”
    It’s like being an actor. You’re just playing a role all the time.
    I still do that. There’s people around here who I hate. But if I have to deal with them for some reason, or I need something from them, I move completely outside of that just to get through the encounter ok. Then I turn away and walk away muttering under my breath.

      1. LOL, not really. Lots of White people do that. But it’s a little taboo to bring it up in White culture, because people get nervous and start wondering if maybe you hate them or are not being up front with them

        1. That’s why I like this site Robert. I can get real/honest answers here I think. Thanks for all your hard work!

        2. One more question on this. If all what you say is true, how do Whites no know who they can really trust and who their real friends are?

        3. I’ll take this one. Chances are you don’t have any. Most friends, lovers, family, even spouses will find excuses to cut you loose when things get tough. If even one doesn’t, count yourself lucky. Just assume, as Lily Tomlin (a feminist whackjob to be sure, and mostly unfunny, but sometimes insightful nonetheless) said, “We’re all in this alone.”

  11. “they basically beat it out of me, you know?”
    Stop crying or we’ll give you something to cry about.
    My German relatives (our most recent immigrants–1926) were the only ones in the family who were comfortable showing strong emotion. (FWIW, they weren’t blond, blue-eyed-Nordic-looking folks, they l0oked Northern Italian–short, plump, big round eyes, reddish-brown hair.) My grandmother would shout (often!) or cry in front of everyone if the mood struck her, without shame. A few days after my grandfather died, she pulled me close, hugged me tight, and cried, “Oh, he’s gone…he’s gone!” Which was OK!! It felt like I was helping her just by being there. Which is wonderful. But my mother let out a little noise of annoyance–and later complained about her behavior, as if my grandmother had some reason to be embarrassed, and was traumatizing me somehow by letting that pain show. What utter B.S.
    (Of course I learned to bite down, deflect, defuse, & clam up like most of us do. )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *