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E-Letter To The Washington Post and Richard Cohen: Leave Maya Angelou Alone

Mr. Cohen, every self-respecting Black person should view your arrogant, condescending and disrespectful column, "Blemishes On The Holocaust Museum", as a personal insult. The manner in which you attempt to discipline Ms. Maya Angelou for simply attending the Million Man March and for co-authoring a beautiful poem with Minister Farrakhan, which you mock, demonstrates either extreme paranoia on your part, for which you may need to receive medication, or outright hatred of Black people.

The premise of your fallacious argument is that Maya Angelou, if she is to win the acceptance and friendship of Jews in America and abroad, and be worthy of a spot on the board of the Holocaust Museum, is supposed to somehow, on a daily basis, put the concerns of the Jewish community above and beyond the concerns of the community from which she comes and which supports her.

That is the paternalism and arrogance displayed by you and so many others outside of the Black community who lecture "third-world dictators" and the developing world about democracy but who ignore the various Black leaders who receive support by a significant percentage of the Black community. By ignoring Black leaders who receive the support of significant portions of the Black community, you are really dismissing the legitimate aspirations of Black people and ignoring their will.

It is always interesting to see that the Whites and Jews who don't approve of Minister Farrakhan and the Blacks who deal with him don't have his track record of working on behalf of the Black community. They don't even come close and wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, the illiteracy, poverty, health problems, gang violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, and broken families that the Minister and those with him work to overcome on a daily basis.

Furthermore, we would think that by now, almost six years later, that you would be able to accept the fact that the Million Man March was a success - a wonderful, even miraculous event - that many men who attended, credit with positively changing their lives. To ignore this at this late date in history is to demonstrate severe denial or worse.

We really don't see how the Jewish community could consider Maya Angelou to be their friend if she wasn't a friend of her own community. Maya Angelou recognizes the good that Minister Farrakhan has performed for his community and others and she certainly recognizes the Minister's relevancy and the respect that he has earned in Black America. If she were to ignore this for the sake of winning the favor of those in the Jewish community how could Jews trust her or even respect her?

Or maybe, Mr. Cohen, you and others who share your spirit don't respect Ms.Angelou or Black people at all. How could you if you consider a Black woman's demonstration of inclusiveness, inside of her own community, as a disqualifying factor when considering whether or not she is a friend of the Jewish community? The mere fact that you dismiss the poem that she wrote, with words added by Minister Farrakhan, which dealt with the abuse of children shows how little you care about Black people and also how sick you really are.

Your questioning of whether or not Maya Angelou is the right type of Black person for the Holocaust museum really does us all a service as it should show most, that in reality, the problem for many outside the Black community has never been Minister Farrakhan but, in fact, has always been the people he represents.

By refusing to accept Blacks that deal with Minister Farrakhan you create a litmus test and cover story for not dealing with Black people at all. It is a very clever technique that many in Black America haven't even been able to detect, yet.

Some outside of Black America have never been comfortable with a Black man who speaks his mind, and goes wherever he wants without seeking the permission of Whites. We gather it is even harder for some to stomach a Black woman who does the same.

You even openly question Ms. Angelou's intelligence and worthiness of being on the Holocaust Museum's board when you write:

"Maya Angelou doesn't belong in its board room. She belongs, instead, in the museum's exhibition rooms. She has lots to learn."

As your comments indicate, for many, the only acceptable role for Blacks is at the foot of others - waiting for instructions. But unfortunately for you and those who think like you Mr. Cohen, Blacks just aren't cooperating according to this worldview, like they used to.

We understand your frustration at this but ask that you find somebody else to act like your slave.

Leave Maya Angelou alone.


Cedric Muhammad

Monday, March 5, 2001

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