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Subject: Re: New Visa Issues for the US
From: Michael Liebert <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Michael Liebert <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 14 Mar 2017 16:58:49 -0400

text/plain (138 lines)

On Tue, 14 Mar 2017 01:22:07 -0400, Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>I imagine that Maya Angelou knew the difference between "their" 
>and "there", or, did you mean "that there book"?

Your cheap shot here affords me the opportunity to share this letter I wrote
years ago when my daughter was assigned that Angelou book.  I assume that
most here know nothing about Angelou save for her greatness, so read on.

Mr. August xxxxxxxx, Principal
xxxxxxxxxx Junior High School
xxxxxxxx, NJ

Dear Gus,

    First, thank you for the invitation to the "brown bag" luncheon on
Thursday, October 21. I look forward to attending.

    I would like to restate my objection here to the assignment of Maya
Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings as mandatory reading for my
daughter (and others in 9-H) this past summer. I choose to do this in
writing because it affords me an opportunity to organize my thoughts and it
will allow you to consider what I say before we meet. I would hope that this
can be a topic for discussion next week.

    xxxxxxx had to read Angelou's book along with Cather's My Antonia; and
she selected Twain's Prince and the Pauper from a list of titles as her
third summer reading book. No objective educated person would include
Angelou with Twain and Cather on a list of books which ninth graders should
be assigned, except perhaps if it were in connection with a political
science course. But this was not for political science. It was for English.

    After we spoke at Open House, I had an opportunity to discuss this with
Mrs. xxxxxxx whom you indicated was responsible for the summer reading
selections. She told me how widely respected Angelou was and did not seem
interested in my objections.

    My objections did not grow out of dislike for the poem Angelou read at
the Presidential inauguration, though I admit to being turned off by her
praise of every ethnic group save those which were primarily responsible for
building this country and its institutions. Rather the objections arise from
reading selections from her book on three pairs of facing pages I opened to
at random.

    This is a book of black hate. Read the passages with me and see if you
do not agree. (Page references are to the Bantam Books paperback edition of

        I laughed, too, but not at the hateful jokes made on my people. I
laughed because, except that she was white, the big movie star [Kay Francis]
looked just like my mother. Except that she lived in a big mansion with a
thousand servants, she lived just like my mother. And it was funny to think
of the whitefolks' not knowing that the woman they were adoring could be my
mother's twin, except that she was white and my mother was prettier. Much
prettier. [p. 99] 

    " ... jokes made on ... " This is English? But the substance is more
important. Only a bitter, ignorant person would assume that a person's
appearance was the key to being a movie star. Talent probably has something
to do with it, as well as persistence, and the other things that bring
success in any field. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in
ourselves, that we are underlings." This is from material I read and
remember from my high school days, but the Angelous of the world have a
different message which is not the one we should be teaching our children.
We also read about the seven deadly sins. As I remember it, envy was one of
them. Angelou's logic is not very good either. If one person looks like
another to the point of being a virtual twin then it does not make sense to
describe one of the two as "prettier; much prettier." Does it? Also, I
looked up "whitefolk" in my Webster's Ninth and did not find it. I think I
know what it means though but I am not sure about the s' that follows. Will
my daughter learn to write like this in her English class?

        Then I wished that Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner had killed all
whitefolks in their beds and that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated
before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and that Harriet Tubman
had been killed by that blow on her head and Christopher Columbus had
drowned in the Santa Maria. [p. 152] 

    Nice! These were Angelou's thoughts while listening to a Commencement
address at her high school graduation ceremony.

        The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those
common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in the
tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black
lack of power. [p. 231] 

    I have never heard any white male refer to a black female as a "Ho."
But, of course it would be indelicate of Angelou to look to her own people
for the causes of, and the solutions to, their problems. Maybe some of the
problems that black females face are due to being seduced and abandoned by
black males. Does this have to do with a lack of power? I think not. Blacks
had much less economic and political power 50 years ago but as a group they
had a strong family structure. Now after listening to the Angelous their
collective family structure is in disarray. (It is cute, too, that the
egalitarian Angelou chooses to capitalize black but not white.)

    I am sorry I have gone on for so long. But I find these excerpts so
absurd that I guess I get carried away. I wonder if a white woman brought a
similar manuscript to Random House (the original publisher) whether they
have spent more than half an hour with it. I doubt it.

    What was the point of assigning this autobiography? Was it to
demonstrate the artful use of the English language? Was it to serve as an
example to my daughter of how to confront the problems she might face later
in her own life? Or was it to bring Political Correctness to xxxxxxxxxx?

    Alas, I know the answer. And as citizen, father, and taxpayer, I do not
like it. I ask you to review the titles that students at xxxxxxxxxx are
required to read with Mrs. xxxxxxx, and ask her to remove those that are
there for political rather than literary reasons.

Very truly yours,


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