Saturday, April 26, 2008

Maya Angelou Race Traitor?

On April 24th The Hotline reported on a political endorsement penned by Maya Angelou, entitled an open letter to friends. In this letter she clearly affirmed her choice of endorsing Hillary for president.

"I am supporting Hillary Clinton because I know that she will make the most positive difference in people’s lives and she will help our country become what it can be. Whether you are her supporter, leaning towards her, undecided, or supporting someone else, I believe Hillary Clinton will represent you – she will be a president for all Americans. It is no small thing that along the way we will make history together."

While I am not a supporter of Hilary for various reasons, I support the right of Ms. Angelou to publicly declare her choice of candidate.

The current presidential election has forced the nation to open a dialog on race and gender. This is a particularly difficult position for black women, as they must negotiate both, and often simultaneously. This was made even more clear to me when I read the response at Brown Sugar to Ms. Angelous endorsement.

"Sigh. I'm done. I'm so tired of Black folk with slave mentality's I don't know what to do. This is just ridiculous. I supposed if Clinton had called her a Nigger to her face she'd still be talking about, "She is able to look through complexion and see community."

When will Black folk learn."

There are many ways in which Ms.Brown could have chosen to critique Maya's choice of political candidate. She could have expressed her displeasure with the endorsement by commenting on Clintons voting record, statements to the press, or even her actions when she was first lady. Instead Ms.Brown immediately chose to frame the debate in race. Through the use of inflammatory language Ms.Brown sought to create a hierarchy of oppression, wherein black women to avoid being called a traitor must always choose to identify with race over gender. Maya Angelou is both black and female, why does supporting one part of her identity immediately make her a traitor to her race? This attempt at stigmatizing the body reinforces the idea that a monolithic black woman exists.
When a black woman is being beaten by her black husband, is it because of her race or her gender? When a black woman finds herself pregnant with a child that she does not want, is it because of her race or her gender? There are clearly issues that black women must deal with simply because of being born female. Not every issue pertains solely to race. To deny that gender effects us, is to create a one dimensional un-woman. We do not exist as or female, in fact we inhabit both spaces. To deny one facet of ones identity is to limit expression, freedom, happiness and the souls ability to transcend.


Janet Shan said...

This utterly ridiculous to call Maya Angelou a race traitor. Whatever happened to free choice? I started the process in Hillary Clinton's camp and that was because I knew very little about Barack Obama and I felt that he had a lot of empty rhetoric initially. That certainly did not make me a race traitor. This is a free country and Maya Angelou has lived through a lot and to call her that is insulting and just plain wrong. There are many people, specifically blacks, who are voting for Barack Obama for just that reason, he is black. They have no clues on his positions on the issues nor do they want to find out what his positions are.

Renee said...

I am in total agreement with you Janet.

Beverly said...

Historically, loyalties in the black community run deep. "We" never forget those who have been kind to us. As you are all aware, Ms. Angelou was invited to the White House several times during the Clinton Administration and I believe the former President even presented her with an award. Those are things you don't forget and keep your allegiance to the person.

Unfortunately, Angelou and other black Cinton supporters are missing the big picture: political pandering by the Clinton's. The media has failed to jump all over the fact that the Clinton's are now using the same political "fear" strategy that worked for the Republicans: divide and conquer. Hillary is now reaching out to rural, white America to let them know she is the better candidate between the two candidates and she speaks for "them."

She's done it brilliantly here in NC and the media has followed her every move.

Now, for those people who don't mind having a chameleon for the deomcratic nominee, the choice is VERY CLEAR.

Kala Nation said...

Maya Angelou was a former madame in a whore house,years ago.I am a student of her work, but she like so many Black women are being manipulated by this gender non sense.Only Black women fall for this.This has its roots in a history of self hatred and division in our community.Women who never knew what it is like to have a good man, so they make up their mind there are none.This is happening with Barack.There are some young Black girls who cry when they see Michelle Obama with her husband and say that is what I want.The older Black women refuse to believe there are such things as a good man so they have written Barack off.It is hatred toward their own men.It is not unusual for women to be this way,it is the men who are territorial and loyal to the race as a means of survival.But what many cant understand with Black women being the leading receivers of abortions,norplant,and HIV/Aids infections,why have they given up on reproducing,marrying and carrying on?It is because they bought the feminist lies about marriage= oppression.Trouble is White women grow out of this and marry and bring blond children into this world.It looks like our women want us to disappear.

Renee said...

Response to Kala:

Your commentary assumes heterosexuality. Not all black women of dream of meeting the perfect black man, living in a house with a white picket fence and producing the obligatory 2.5 children.
Black women are not the only women of color who must confront the race/gender binary. While feminism has not always been an inclusive place from women this does not detract from the fact that WOC face issues that are directly related to their sex. Choosing to identify with gender over race in certain instances does not make one a race traitor. Ms.Angelou is not denying that there are issues in the black community, no where has she denigrated her race, unlike Bill Cosby for example, and she continues to be an an excellent role model for young women.
Finally your claim that WOC that choose negotiate gender in their lives hate black men is far from accurate. Clearly you have equated feminism with hatred towards men whereas feminism is about empowering women. How does empowerment equal hatred of men?

JJ said...

Through the use of inflammatory language Ms.Brown sought to create a hierarchy of oppression, wherein black women to avoid being called a traitor must always choose to identify with race over gender.

Obviously you don't know much about me or my writing if you think I believe that black women should be called "traitors" because they side with race over gender.

They should be called traitors if they continue to endorse a candidate that has shown their contempt for their race, and has shown nothing but disloyalty to a group that was staunchly loyal to them to the point of calling thier husband the "first Black President." Though he did very little for black people and sought to throw them under the bus when it became politically expedient for them to do so.

This isn't a fender issue. This is a race issue. And you notice I did not chastise Maya and say, "shame on you for voting for a woman over a black man," It was, "shame on you" for voting for a racist.

Renee said...

"Sigh. I'm done. I'm so tired of Black folk with slave mentality's I don't know what to do. This is just ridiculous. I supposed if Clinton had called her a Nigger to her face she'd still be talking about, "She is able to look through complexion and see community."

Those were your words JJ...what exactly do you expect people to infer when you use terms like slave mentality? In my reading of your commentary Maya is perceived as a race traitor for her support of a white female candidate. If you had meant something different you certainly could have written a more detailed explanation.

I would also like to point out that the term race is a social construction. Though people may share the same skin color it is erroneous to assume that we should all speak with the same cohesive voice.

JJ said...


Where you keep making your mistake is that you assume Clinton being white and female wast my issue.

My issue isn't with (like I said) Clinton's femaleness. It's with the racism her and her husband have been spewing throughout the campaign.

So yes her being White is a factor (hence the slave mentality), her being female is not.

I never mentioned her "femaleness." You're making an issue out of her being white and female.

I'm making an issue out of her being RACIST.

I don't believe Black people are a monolith. But if you choose to back a Racist candidate and are Black, I will have something to say about your "choice."

Kala Nation said...

Here we go again it is ashamed that the strong power Black couple image and in fact that the Obama's project are being undermined by race traitors.When I say race traitors I am not simply talking about all Clinton supporters.I would be wrong.What I am talking about is this self hating,victim hood that too many sister rapped themselves in.It comes from a history of disappointment in her man that comes from a history of racism in America.I feel sorry for Maya Angelou.She probably never have loved a man in her life.I notice something recently,Hilary still is with Bill even after all his disrespect and cheating but yet she wont leave him.Why do you so called feminist still have her as your poster child?I am not buying your empowering women crap.This is about hating men,your words about notall women want a White picket fence proves it.Why not?Most women that is what they eventually want,to bear children and reproduce.That is nature,it is in the Bible.The White females grwo out of this feminist crap,and find prince charming.Where is the Black women?In the club at 50 with a 29 year old thug.Michelle Obama strikes the imagination of all Black men.It is the image of womanhood we want to rebirth into Black America.Hilary Clinton should be an embarrassment to women,but this is your hero?Over Obama?How deep is your self hatred?

Renee said...

One cannot speak about Hillary Clinton without acknowledging the fact that she is white and female. I will not allow it to be the unspoken elephant in the room. Gender is as much an issue in this election as race is.
I feel at this point I should make it clear that I support neither candidate. You are more than welcome to your opinion JJ, I do however feel that deem someone a race traitor when there are more issues at play than race is a rush to judgment. In fact the very term race traitor implies a unified black community. Of course no such unity exists. How can she betray a non existent community?

Renee said...

Reply @ Kala Nation. Your conception of gender is extremely essentialist. It is based on the understanding that ALL women want the same thing. Gender is not experienced in the binary format that you project rather it is lived as a spectrum. If this were not the case you would not find women now currently inhabiting traditionally male roles.
You can save your pity for Ms. Angelou as she has experienced love. When I say that not everyone wants the white picket fence that is very true. You are assuming that ALL women identify as heterosexual, this of course excludes queer women. Even among women who identify as heterosexual many purposefully choose not to marry and reproduce. It is a perfectly valid decision to make and using the Bible as justification does not make your opinion any more valid. In fact I could not think of a more patriarchal document to choose to support the idea of why women are choosing not to participate in the traditional patriarchal family.
Finally I would like to add again that I am not a supporter of Hilary Clinton nor does she represent my idea of feminism. Feminism is a label I specifically refuse to identify with, and instead have chosen to advocate for womanism. Finally if you have something to say about my political position your are more than welcome to have your say, however in the future personal attacks, "how deep is your self hatred", will not be published. Simply disagreeing with your position does not in any way mean that I do not love and respect myself. If you expect others to validate your opinions you need to offer the same respect.

Kala Nation said...

I am not a complete Neanderthal you know.I understand there are woman who are Lesbian,I know a few.But my problem as you want respect from the rest of us,the you need to start respecting the majority of our people who want morals and values.We believe in the Bible and we have the right for that to be respected.I here you but we are not ready for the so called womanist to be anything but a very fringe part of our culture.Now I have to ask something personal since you brought it up.Do you come from a stable Black background?I've notice that Blackwomen who come from broken families with no roots and heritage pased down tend to believe like you,when you said there is no such community.Look at the Black businesses,churches,fraternities,colleges,communities,online communities ect.We are a people and we resent people who want us to not be one.Look at the coming out for Obama,the Clintons thought like you and look where it got them.

Renee said...

Reply @ Kala Nation
I have not challenged your belief in the bible. You are entitled to believe as you see fir, however holding anyone else to your standards is problematic. We live in a secular society and there is a separation of church and state for a reason.
You, may not be willing to own your unearned male privilege but that in know way means that black women are content to be subjected to sexism by the black male patriarchs.
No black people are not a community as you profess. There is no monolithic "true" black identity. There are those that will participate in communal exchange using race as a common factor, however that in no way indicates that there is one cohesive voice speaking on behalf of all POC. Finally we are at a time anomie is more prevalent than ever. Social institutions that used to function to uphold cohesion are defunct or have reduced services.
My parents have been married for 35 years and I have been in the same relationship for 19 years. My background is quite stable. I simply choose to employ an intersectioal approach to all of my analysis. When you problematize the essential situation it allows for the examination of an event or series of events from a point that reduces the effect of personal frame of reference. To truly understand one most acknowledge personal privilege, own biases and except the fact that the truth of another is equally valid.

Kala Nation said...

You see why I am not buying what you said.First you came out defending women and Maya Angelou,now you are trivializing the strong male patriarchy.The reason our community is failing is because people think that maleness =evil and oppression.Woman right now have more opportunity than any other time in human history,yet you still complain about being oppressed.That sounds like old male hating feminism to the extreme,my young sister,not womanism.I know there is no monolith in Black America but of us want to be a nation and a community.We have a distinct heritage and the more we build upon that the more we will gain.I've noticed something on the internet,why do most Black women check either black/other,mixed or bi racial,or trini,carribean/latino in the boxed next to race.Are you going to tell me that is not self hatred also?Black women have to face up to the self hate and stop feeling inferior to the white woman.She considers race first gender second,you sisters are the ones who are going to be left in the cold with no one.

Renee said...

Response @ Kala Nation
Yes I responded to your clearly sexist diatribe, but that does not make me against black men. In fact I recently wrote a post entitled why black men matter and perhaps you should read that before you assume that I hold a hatred for men.

The fact of the matter is ALL men are born with unearned privilege. How that privilege is negotiated mitigates the degree to which a man exploits women. Even in the most egalitarian relationships women still do the majority of the child rearing, elder care, and housework. How does that not equal female oppression? Women still earn 75 cents for every dollar a man (the gap is larger for WOC, BTW) makes, how does that not equal oppression?
A black man may be oppressed by racism in the outside world and still come home and beat his black wife.
As for how people choose to identify, that should be up to the individual. Simply because they do not choose a category that makes you comfortable does not make them a person who self hates. In fact it is presumptuous of you to suggest so. Why should someone not acknowledge all aspects of their heritage?

Kala Nation said...

What do you mean by unearned privilege?Who is it that will die on the battlefield to protect a country?Men.Who is it that comes up with inventions?Men so could it be that you are fighting a losing battle against nature and God?Also you said people should embrace all their heritage,but just before you said you don't believe in race at all.You want me to take you seriously be honest and consistent.

Renee said...

Response @ Kala Nation
There is a difference between culture and race. Race is a social creation that supports difference so that segments of society may be exploited. Culture is the acquired knowledge, behavior and belief patterns of a group of people either separated by geography or religion etc.

Unearned Privilege refers simply to privilege that men receive in society simply because they are born male. For instance, notice that children immediately learn to use the feminine as a pejorative whereas everything associated with maleness is taught to be a positive.
When you refer to nature and God, what you do is cast yourself as a gender essentialist. Globally there are no particular behaviors that are consistently performed by males, what changes is the prestige given to the task based on who performs it.

Kala Nation said...

I don't know what are you just spewing what you've been brainwashed with or you really think like that.If so you need help.You problem is not with men it is with yourself,deal with that first then talk about helping women with female issues.Right now females are more valued in America because the American women allowed their sexuality to be exploited for gain and attention.Girls now have better college acceptance than boys,girls are easily more adoptable than boys.That happened in the last 30 years.You see the American male is being told his muscle is no longer needed so he is useless.Look at the new sports,men are seeking to find the masculinity through mixed martial arts,cage fighting,gangs,thuggery ect.We men have issues and we feel society let us down with the elevation of women.Nothing is wrong with that it is now many men Black and White are told their masculinity is wrong and being a boy and doing boy things is wrong.So it is everyone stop feeling sorry for yourself

Renee said...

"Right now females are more valued in America because the American women allowed their sexuality to be exploited for gain and attention."

I am supposed to believe that you are not sexist?

"Look at the new sports,men are seeking to find the masculinity through mixed martial arts,cage fighting,gangs,thuggery ect.We men have issues and we feel society let us down with the elevation of women.Nothing is wrong with that it is now many men Black and White are told their masculinity is wrong and being a boy and doing boy things is wrong."

Gender essentialism yet again. There is no specific behaviour that can be linked to gender outside of socialization. There is no norm or natural. Your problem is that you resent the releasing unearned male privilege. This is no different from racist who resent the progress of POC. Relations between men and women are far from equal.