Maya Angelou is dead and we are told to care.
If you have been through the American education system in the last 30 years, you have been taught that Angelou was our country’s greatest modern poet and a symbol of our new identity as a multi-racial state.
Yes, she was black and discussed race a little too much for the bourgeois Whites who want us all to just be colorblind (unless it comes to picking a neighborhood to live in). But she was amiable enough to be accepted by the mainstream of society – both right and left – and was almost like Martin Luther King reborn as a female poet, except the right only accepts her rather than (hilariously) trying to adopt her as one of their own.
Her incipient and uppity poetry became enshrined in our country’s lexicon and she became America’s unofficial state poet in the 1990s. Her words filled up American textbooks with their inanity and comfy messages of being yourself -- while still feeling guilty that yourself happens to be White.
Like King, she relied on White guilt to become enshrined in our country’s new cultural pantheon and believed in the falsehood that America could one day become a functioning multi-racial state. That made her different from more radical Black poets who spoke of separating from this nation and didn’t even bother to rely to act nice for Whites. They hated Whites enough to not even bother with playing up that factor, but guilty Whites still eat up the works of “artists” such as Public Enemy.
Both moderates like Maya Angelou and radicals like Public Enemy owe their success to Whites’ fetishization of the Negro. Angelou was transformed from just another bad Black female poet into a wise sage because of the image she was able to project that was eagerly accepted by White America. As I have previously written, Blacks are the epitome of the noble savage concept and are seen to have more “soul” and authenticity to our people. Thus, we will disregard standards of art to appreciate the more “real” culture produced by the primal Blacks.
It’s an unfortunate side-effect of being White. And with this fetishization of Angelou as the great Negro poet, we also disregard any facts that might undermine her patron saint status. Similar to how King’s adultery and plagiarism have gone down to the memory hole, Angelou’s dismal comments on RateMyProfessor--where she was portrayed as a bitter, mean, and arrogant hack--were quickly deleted following her death. We can’t have our saints of Monoculture be stained by reality.
In the end, her death will only increase her status as a figure of universal suffering that can only be overcome by Whites abandoning their identity. As Spencer Kornhaber notes in his eulogy for her in The Atlantic, her example can be a shining beacon for anyone who undermines the norms of White civilization in pursuit of the elusive egalitarian utopia -- perfectly depicted in the poem she recited for Bill Clinton’s inauguration:
There is a true yearning to respond to / The singing River and the wise Rock. / So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew / The African, the Native American, the Sioux, / The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek / The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik, / The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, / The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. / They hear. They all hear / The speaking of the Tree.
This would be a ridiculous joke if this wasn’t accepted by so many Americans. Her death will unfortunately not end her legacy and we will continue hear her tripe dressed as art for a long time as it continues to serve the state ideology of Monoculture and White Guilt.