Confessions of a Formerly Angry Black Man

The term "anger management" comes up every time we hear about stars, like Chris Brown and Mike Tyson, flying off the handle. But do you know what it involves and why so many black people need it? I do; I've been there.

Chris Brown; Mike Tyson (Getty Images)

One of the few things I remember about one of the worst moments of my life is that I wanted to smash the driver's-side window into the cabbie's face. I remember that I didn't want to hit him, but I did want to watch the glass scatter all over his body and into the street. I was standing in the driving rain on a lightless corner in the middle of Brooklyn, N.Y., and I was lost. My girlfriend at the time was crying behind me because I'd promised her I wasn't going to do stuff like this anymore.

Just a few minutes before, we'd been in the cab over which I now loomed, tired after a fun night of cocktails and dancing. But I'd somehow gotten the impression that the driver was trying to hustle us by running up the meter with a bunch of unnecessary turns. In retrospect, he very well might have been authentically lost -- this was before all New York City taxis had GPS, and maybe it was his first day on the job -- but at the time I didn't think about that.

The driver and I had words, my girlfriend asking me time and again to relax, and I eventually demanded that he pull over. As I leaped out of the car, I didn't know where we were, it was 4 in the morning and I was shivering, not from the chill outside but with anger. I was going to show this bastard what was what.

I raised my fist, fully ready to break my hand and suffer the consequences with no health insurance, but then, for some reason, I hesitated. To this day, I thank whatever powers-that-be for that hesitation, because it allowed me a single moment to see how terrified the cabdriver was, his eye's huge with fright, his torso bent back to avoid the impending glass shards. It was at that moment that I'd never been more ashamed.

I'd ruined a perfectly good evening; I'd made a middle-aged man cower in fear, his trembling hands inches away from a photo of his children; I'd made the woman I loved scared and upset, yet again. Before I could drop my hand, the cabbie sped away, leaving us stranded in the darkness.

I didn't sleep well that night, and the next day I went to find an anger-management therapist.

For years prior to the cab incident, I'd always brushed it off when people said that I had "a temper." "Who doesn't?" I'd think to myself. "Everyone gets a little angry sometimes." I thought everybody got into shouting matches with jerks at restaurants. I thought everybody punched the dashboard when traffic was bad. I thought everybody threw housewares at the wall when they got into arguments with their significant other.

By the time I was 25, I'd been knocked out more than a few times in fights that I may not have started but I'd gladly escalated (alas, my mouth has always been bigger than my biceps). For me, rage was something that just happened; it was as natural as my hair or fingernails growing.

I think about that time in my life often when I hear about such-and-such celebrity flipping out or getting violent with someone. It used to be Mike Tyson and Naomi Campbell; more recently it's Chris Brown. I imagine what might have happened had I not sought help, and I shudder to think what I might have become.

Rage in Silence