Old Video of Maya Angelou Scolding Teen for Calling Her by First Name Sparks Major Controversy
An old interview of civil right activist and poet, Maya Angelou, has caused a heated debate on social media about whether or not the poet was rude to a teenager. The girl addressed Angelou by her first name and got scolded on national television in return.
After a Twitter user unearthed an old clip from a ‘90s interview of Mrs. Maya Angelou, people on social media has been passionately questioning the appropriate ways of addressing elders, teaching young people respect and recognizing when one is out of place.
In the interview, which took place at KPIX-TV's “People Are Talking” in June 1990, Angelou was in the middle of a Q&A when a 14-year-old girl named Kim asked a question about interracial relationships. However, Kim addressed the poet as “Maya,” earning a harsh response from the legendary icon:
“Thank you,” Angelou starts. “And first, I’m Ms. Angelou. I’m not Maya. I’m 62 years old. I’ve lived so long and tried so hard that a young woman like you, or any other, has no license to come up to me and call me by my first name.”
She continues: “That’s first. Also, because at the same time, I’m your mother, I’m your auntie, I’m your teacher, I'm your professor. See?”
The clip, first posted by Twitter user Piérre Phipps, has gone viral with over 2.6 million views and 56k likes. The man, who goes under the online moniker “Mr. Girth of a Nation,” added in his caption: “I can’t wait to turn 30, so I can read one of yall for calling me by my first name like this.”
I can’t wait to turn 30 so I can read one of yall for calling me by my first name like this: pic.twitter.com/ym71DkWCNn— Prince Piérre (@PrinceCharmingP) March 14, 2019
However, Phipps never expected the clip would spark such a mixed reaction among his peers. While most people praised Ms. Angelou for putting the girl in her place and teaching her manners, others believe the late poet was out of place and didn’t have to go that hard on the teenager.
Phipps, a 29-year-old screenwriter, defended Angelou’s reaction. He told Newsweek:
“People fight hard to be respected and to have people address them in ways they want to be addressed. Whether it's a Ph.D. graduate that wants to be addressed as doctor, a transgender woman that wants to be addressed as 'she/her' or a 62-year-old poet that wants to be addressed as 'Ms. Angelou.' We must respect people’s wishes!"
Other users agreed, saying:
Oh please! Homegirl deserved that read. Mr and Mrs is for people you do not know. First name basis is for people you ACTUALLY know. This is elementary school info!— TheMimiWearsPrada (@MimiB1121) March 16, 2019
My grandparents generation haaaands down. No games was played about manners & being respectful to adults and elders cuz anything less could get you beaten or killed. Now kids on first name basis with their parents, teachers, clergy ect.... pic.twitter.com/OL67u5HjLm— 𝔻𝔻𝕄:𝔸𝕝𝕝𝔻𝕒𝕪♌𝔼𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪𝔻𝕒𝕪♌𝟛𝟞𝟝 (@850famuman) March 15, 2019
All these ppl in the comments mad at Ms. Angelou. Yall are exactly why she did what she did. No respect for elders & when an elder demands respect yall wanna get mad at them like they havent lived a life longer & harder than yours to deserve & warrant their demand for respect.— Lucky Luciano (@aNEWvintAGEmind) March 15, 2019
However, some people had a different point of view:
Yea nah that girl wasn’t being disrespectful or anything she was still within her bounds you shouldn’t have to do all that that takes more away than it could ever gain for you that make you not want to listen to somebody anymore— The_Answer_32 (@GaryTheWorks) March 15, 2019
She’s not wrong but she’s more than a little pointed with it for such a young girl. If she’s past 20 or so, I’d get it, but that’s a child. I’d feel like I really insulted her, which wasn’t the case.— Mortimer Goth (@PettyDavis) March 15, 2019
Had Maya did this to me, I would have walked out mid sentence. The disrespect she showed to that young lady far exceeds the pseudo disrespect that young lady showed to her. Wonder if that same energy would have been there had the race or age been different. Lol— Yodo (@rannyran) March 15, 2019
In the middle of the discussion, another user came forward with another part of the original interview where Ms. Angelou addressed Kim again and apologized for her harsh reaction, recognizing that she was caught off guard.
“Let me say, to Kim, I apologize for being so short. I apologize," she said. "I’m not usually so short. It just caught me off guard. I saw you at 14, I thought, oh, well...but I apologize."
Ms. Angelou died in 2014 at 86-year-old. She won acclaim for her first autobiographical memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” where she talked about the racial discrimination she experienced as a child in Arkansas and California.
She helped Malcolm X build his new Organization of African-American Unity, and after his assassination, Angelou began to work more closely with Martin Luther King.
She was an outspoken advocate of civil right and was recognized for her work by Barack Obama in 2011 when he presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Angelou published more than ten volumes of poetry, was nominated for an Emmy for her appearance in the TV mini-series “Roots,” and also had starring roles in films such as “Poetic Justice,” which and “How to Make an American Quilt.”
She also composed songs for musicals and movies and wrote or co-wrote the scripts for more than a dozen plays, films, and television shows.