Maya Angelou was an internationally know poet and writer, and an honored member of my campus community. So many have written about her recently that I am discovering all sorts of things about her life, ideas, and accomplishments that I never knew. At root, however, if you know why the caged bird sings you have some appreciation of Angelou.
One thing I have always known is that Angelou was a liberal and a huge supporter of Democratic politicians. One thing I never knew was that she, apparently, was also a gun owner and understood the possible need to use a gun in self-defense. A little more than a year ago, in May of 2013, Angelou appeared on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show to discuss a recently published memoir.
One of the questions Rehm asked Angelou, about guns, elicited a very interesting response.
REHM: Now, Vivian Baxter ran a gambling business and a rooming house with her husband, Daddy Clidell. And she was also a registered nurse.ANGELOU: Yes.REHM: She became the first black woman officer in the Merchant Marines.ANGELOU: That’s true.REHM: So you had to have understood her power in that situation. She also owned a gun.ANGELOU: Yes, she did, at least one.REHM: So you grew up with guns around you. What’s your feeling about guns now?ANGELOU: Well, I still feel that a woman alone in a house alone needs some sort of protection, and especially as people are — they’re doing house interventions and house break-ins and taking such advantage. Look at the three women we’re just finding just in the last few days.REHM: Unbelievable.ANGELOU: Unbelievable. I think a woman — for me if somebody wants to come into my house unwelcomed, uninvited, I’d say to the person, I have not bothered you. I do my best for everybody, black or white, fat or thin. I do my best to do the kind thing. And you’re going to come in my house and take advantage of me? I hope not. For your sake, don’t do it, please. No. Because by the time I call 911 and get some help out there I can be already hurt. And I will not do it. I will not take that chance.
Here Angelou nearly quotes a favorite saying of the gun culture, that when seconds counts, police are just minutes away. Suggesting this is not just a slogan, but is based in a reality that many people can recognize.