On what Keisha Lance Bottoms said last night

Some years ago, I found myself in an interesting discussion with an African American politician when I described her as "angry." The "angry black woman" was a meme that should be avoided, she said.

Eventually we settled on the word “outraged” for future use.

I was bothered then by the thought of subjecting a specific class of people to emotion-by-thesaurus. I am bothered more today.

“Passionate” isn’t the same as” angry.” Neither is “indignant” or “incensed.” There is a flat hollowness to “angry” that is well-suited to where we are right now.

On Friday night, as the heart of her city fell into chaos, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms rehabilitated that word as a righteously angry black mother. And a somewhat fearful one, too.

It was one of those moments when gender made all the difference. Her tone and language would have been out of reach for a Kasim Reed, Andrew Young, or even a Maynard Jackson. I will say no more, but let the mayor make her own case:

"Above everything else, I am a mother. I am a mother to four black children in America, one of whom is 18 years old. And when I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt.

"And on yesterday, when I heard there were rumors about violent protests in Atlanta, I did what a mother would do. I called my son, and I said, 'Where are you?' I said, 'I cannot protect you. A black boy shouldn't be out today.'

"So you're not going to out-concern me, or out-care about where we are in America. I wear this each and every day, and I pray over my children each and every day. So what I see happening on the streets of Atlanta, is not Atlanta.

"This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos. A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn't do this to our city. So if you love this city, this city that has had a legacy of black mayors and black police chiefs and people who care about this city, where more than 50% of the business owners in metro Atlanta are minority business owners – if you care about this city, then go home. And pray that somebody like Rev. [Joe] Beasley will come and talk to you and give you some instructions of what a protest should look like and how you effectuate change in America.

"This police chief [pointing to a masked Erika Shields, who is white] made a video on yesterday – pull it up on YouTube, where she said she was appalled to watch the murder of George Floyd. This woman did that.

"You're not honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. You're not protesting anything, running out with brown liquor in your hands, breaking windows in this city. T.I., Killer Mike own half the west side. So when you burn down this city, you're burning down our community.

"If you want change in America, go and register to vote. Show up at the polls on June 9. Do it in November. That is the change we need in this country. You are disgracing our city. You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.

"We are better than this. We're better than this as a city, we are better than this as a country. Go home. Go home. In the same way I can't protect my son on yesterday, I cannot protect you out in those streets. You're throwing knives at our police officers. You are burning cars. You have defaced the CNN building.

"Ted Turner started CNN in Atlanta 40 years ago because he believed in who we are as a city. There was a black reporter who was arrested on camera this morning who works for CNN. They are telling our stories, and you are disgracing their building.

"This is not the legacy of civil rights in America. This is chaos, and we're buying into it. This won't change anything. We're no longer talking about the murder of an innocent man. We're talking about how you're burning police cars on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. Go home."