Even though most of us are familiar with Maya Angelou, here's a Wikipedia entry excerpt:
With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. She is respected as a spokesperson of Black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. Although attempts have been made to ban her books from some US libraries, her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide. Angelou's major works have been labeled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics have characterized them as autobiographies. She has made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel.
When I was a high school student living in Austin, Texas, I had to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in honors English. I know many people got a lot out of that book. I wasn't one of them, though.
“I am not writing to you as a black voter, or a woman voter, or as a voter who is over 70 years old and six feet tall. I am writing to you as a representative of this great country — as an American,” she writes. “It is your job to vote. It is your responsibility, your right, and your privilege. You may be pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich.”
After stating that, what does she then go on and do? She writes as “a black voter” and a “representative” of “the black community”:
Angelou goes on to invoke the civil rights movement, bringing up a conversation she once had with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. over the possibility of a black president and reminding readers that African Americans had to fight for the right to vote.
I share in her sense of joy in the realization of what I believe has been a real possibility for a decade or so, even before it happened: America electing the first non-white president of the United States:
I once debated with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about whether an African American would ever be elected president. He believed it would happen within the next 40 years at the time—I believed it would never happen within my lifetime.
I have never been happier to have been proven wrong.
It was a historic, glass-ceiling-breaking moment for America. Of course it was.
She does go on to mention her perceptions of why we should re-elect President Obama, based upon non-racial reasons, but upon the typical beliefs of progressive supporters of the President:
And since President Barack Obama's historic election, we've moved forward in courageous and beautiful ways. More students can afford college, and more families have access to affordable health insurance. Women have greater opportunities to get equal pay for equal work.
Yet as Rev. King wrote, “All progress is precarious.”
And yet the overall tone in her message- the impression that I am left with- is that we must support this president because he is black. Because he fulfills the dream of MLK and millions of blacks who never believed our country would have come this far in racial tolerance and acceptance.
Well, in my honest opinion, the only ones that are really holding this country back now from moving beyond race, are those who align themselves in the Democratic tent.
For Democrats, the color of a person's skin matters. It is of great importance. An obsession.
It is also used as a political means of keeping blacks on the Democratic “plantation”, by slandering the opposition party as the party of racists and bigots who oppose the president not on policy and principle but on matters of race.
For Republicans? I'm ready to celebrate a person's character and ignore the skin-color. Unfortunately, liberals keep drawing attention to the issue and keep reminding me of who's black and who's white.
Maybe Ms. Angelou needs a new prescription for her thorn-tinted glasses?