The Red Mist: how to channel anger for positive change

Co-founder of Sixteenbynine, Elizabeth Anyaegbuna, says recent events have got her blood boiling, but stresses that losing the plot gets you nowhere

Anger. You think of that word and you think negatively. It conjures up irrational, sometimes dangerous behaviour. Someone completely losing the plot. Not thinking clearly, lost in a red mist of rage. Likely to regret actions once the mist has cleared. But what if that plot isn’t lost and the anger was used positively? Channelled with deliberate purpose, as a force for good?

You could argue that there is a place for anger. I think of figures and events of the past and imagine that anger played a part in changing the course of history for the better. I can’t imagine Rosa Parks was mildly perturbed when she finally made the decision to sit at the front of the bus after years of segregation.

How anger is then channelled in itself is not absolute — Nelson Mandela, after years of incarceration, opted for reconciliation and forgiveness as a way to beat Apartheid. Mugabe, it could be argued, became consumed with the red mist from built-up resentment and disillusion as Zimbabwean independence did not work out quite the way he hoped, despite his compromises. The suffragettes fought for women’s rights as they marched stoically, silently furious at the inequalities they had endured, leading the way for us to follow. 

Recent events have definitely got my blood boiling — George Floyd, Child Q, Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, the news of an 11-year-old who lost his finger after being subjected to racist bullying at school. The mum describing her daughter’s hair as ‘normal’ — suggesting my daughter’s isn’t. The countless stories of micro-aggressions experienced by people of colour at work — too many to tell.

The instinct is to react with emotions high, but if history is anything to go by, losing the plot gets you nowhere — or even killed — particularly if you have to layer on the angry black woman trope.

However, anger channelled deliberately — that’s a way to go. It’s easier said than done, though, as I’m sure Will Smith will attest. I can’t speak for others, but for me, learning to take a deep breath for just a moment to clear the mist, subconsciously playing out the scenario if you do lose it — and the consequences! — and holding on to the anger, using it to react with purpose, positively, is powerful. It’s a bit like when I tell my kids to channel and embrace their nerves before a competition or recital, using the energy to fuel their performance positively.

As we argue for channelling anger positively, though, we have to check the privilege of those who can take that stance without fear of prejudice (or less prejudice, as women are often deemed ’emotional’, after all). I don’t hold that kind of privilege. I’m a black woman, with big hair and a penchant for lots of arm waving when I’m talking passionately. 

What it does reinforce though, after years of practice, and so much accumulated resilience as women who have spent their lives struggling for equality, is the need to take that deep breath, see through the mist to frame our story and change the narrative. Because ultimately, that is the way we will effect change.

To hear more from Elizabeth on a panel on chanelling anger for positive change, head here to get your tickets – The Red Mist event is on Thur 26th May, 7pm.

Featured image: Prince Akachi / Unsplash

Elizabeth Anyaegbuna, Co-Founder of 16×9 Media and President of Bloom UK

Elizabeth is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Sixteenbynine, an indie media planning and buying agency. With over 18 years experience gained from commercial, operational and management roles in the TV and digital advertising industry across the UK and Africa, Elizabeth has a proven track record in providing high value commercial solutions and growing business across TV, Digital, Social & Branded Content within the broadcast industry.

All articles