In the book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, she discusses the way of life in the South/ North being a Black American. "Being born black is itself a liability in a world ruled by white standards of beauty which the child is a priori in a cage of ugliness (pages 365-366, Smith)." Throughout the book, the reader should see the difference between the blacks and whites. Her experiences throughout the book show the things that oppressed the black race primarily in the South.
" Wouldn't they be surprised when one day I woke out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair which was long and blond, would take place of the kinky mass... my blue eyes would hypnotize them, after all the things they said about " my daddy must have been a Chinaman." Then they would understand why I never picked up my Southern accent, or spoke common slang, and why I had to be forced to eat pigs' tails and snouts. Because I was really white and because a cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too big Negro, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number two pencil (page 2, Angelou)." This shows the mindset of blacks in the 1920- 1950's.
Blacks felt that their color was a punishment to them and that it was only a nightmare that he / she is living through. Also, it shows that blacks were oppressed and that whites had everything that they wanted in life. They did not want their current status be accepted it because they had no choice. When it came to race, blacks always had to obey whites whether or not it was and adult talking to a child, child talking to adult, adult to adult, child to child. For example, "Some families of po white trash lived on Momma's farmland behind the school. [The children] called my uncle by his first name and ordered him around the Store.
He, to my crying shame, obeyed then in his limping-straight-dip fashion (page 22, Angelou)." This show that white children had no respect toward the black elders. Although the children treated them with little or no respect, the adults treated them as if they were adults, not children, also. On another occasion, " the girls tried to agitate Momma but first mocking her and making fun of her aloud. Momma continued to hum and the big girl [of the group] did a handstand expose herself to her. After they left, tears of angry streamed down her face (pages 24-26, Angelou)." This shows that they adults tolerated the abuse from the children. They hid their pain and put up with the unnecessary things that they were put through.
It was not until Maya turned thirteen, she realized that not all white people were not all there to oppress blacks although racism still exist in San Francisco. The things that showed that the racism was a story in a newspaper that was about, " a white woman that refused to sit next a black man in a streetcar after he made room for her. Her explanation was that she would not sit next to a draft dodger who was a Negro as well. She added that the least he could do was fight for his country the way her son was fighting in Iwo Jima. He said quietly and with great dignity, "Then tell your son to look around for my arm, which I left over there." This shows that bitterness that the white woman had toward the black man. She made excuses for not sitting next to the man when all he did was extend an invitation of kindness.
The experience that changed Maya's life was when she went to George Washington High School. "It was there that she had Miss Kirwin as her teacher. Miss Kirwin treated Maya that not as different because she was the only black girl in the class, but she treated her with same respect as others (pages 181-185, Angelou)." Maya finally learns that all white people are not there to oppress her, but to her he through life regardless of race. Maya looked at race completely different by the time the book ended. " Thus the discovered pattern of significant moments Maya Angelou superimposes on the experience on the experience of her life is a pattern of moments that trace the quest of the black female after a "place", a place where no child longer need ask self-consciously, " What are you looking at me for?" but where a woman can declare confidently, " I am a beautiful, Black woman...
(pages 365-366, Smith) .".