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 binaries...black 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.