The Floater just received another five-star review, for which I am thrilled and extremely thankful. In it, the reviewer characterizes Norma’s boyfriend, Oscar, as “a bit of a hothead.” This got me wondering, is it no longer acceptable to express anger in an honest and appropriate way?

Oscar gets pissed when (among other things) (1) Norma slams the bathroom door on his hand; (2) the firm where he’s worked as a supervisor for 14 years demotes him to mail runner; and (3) Norma’s sister, Inez, beats her 19-year-old daughter. He’s never violent—unless you consider bursting into the bathroom to wrap his swelling fingers, or yanking Inez off her daughter and restraining her arms behind her back, to be improper conduct. Mostly, he “growls” while candidly expressing his annoyance.

So I’ve got to ask, does Oscar come off as a “hothead” because he’s Black? Wouldn’t this same character be considered “appropriately assertive” if he were a middle-aged white man? Is someone automatically branded an “angry Black man” (or woman) simply because they happen to be Black and don't quell their frustration?

Putting aside the racial question, I realize there is a certain need for diplomacy and decorum in our public dealings, and for a measure of restraint in our private ones. But have we taken this notion of “self control” a bit too far? Since when has “anger” become a bad word? In my opinion, American society has become so phony—and its permitted sphere of personal expression so tamped down—that a misguided code of deportment has stifled this essential human response to an unhealthy degree. It is now considered virtually taboo to speak one’s mind, whether you’ve been wronged by the person cutting in line at the supermarket, or affronted by the government curtailing your Constitutional rights in the name of a “war on terror.”

I daresay that learning to constructively express one's anger is a fundamentally important interpersonal skill (as is knowing how to maintain your own composure when facing someone else's wrath). To do anything less practically guarantees passive-aggressive behavior in our interactions with others (best case scenario), until we eventually blow up and behave inappropriately. Worst case, we react violently when all that accumulated anger inevitably becomes unmanageable and turns to rage. Personally, I think we all might take a lesson from Oscar.