Oprah Talks to Maya Angelou
Oprah: They try to demean you.
Maya: Reduce your humanity through what Jules Feiffer called little murders. The minute I hear [someone trying to demean me], I know that that person means to have my life. And I will not give it to them.
Oprah: It's an assassination attempt by a coward.
Maya: Yes. Some people don't have the courage to just walk up to you and pull the trigger. If somebody just walked up and said "Boom!"—well, there you go. Bye. But when a person commits these little murders, and then you catch him or her at it, he or she might say, "Oh, I didn't mean it." But make no mistake: It is an assassination attempt.
Oprah: What about when a person makes a mistake and says, "I need a second chance?" Do you give them a second chance?
Maya: Well, I have to say yes.
Oprah: But when people show you who they are, believe them!
Maya: Now mind you, some men have told me, "Maya, you always take it to the max." But if someone tells me, "Oh, I like your slacks," and the man I'm with says, "I don't. I wish she wouldn't have worn them," I say, "Oh, my dear—here are your keys."
Oprah: Because you see rudeness as a little murder.
Oprah: And you also don't allow anybody to say anything negative about anybody while in your home.
Maya: That's right.
Oprah: I've seen you put people out of your house for telling a racist joke! And you are not the least bit embarrassed about disrupting the whole room.
Maya: I believe that a negative statement is poison. The air between you and me is filled with sounds and images. If that were not so, how is it that I can turn on a television right now and see what's happening in New York? That means sounds and images are in the air, crowded, jammed up like bats. And Oprah, I'm convinced that the negative has power. It lives. And if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over. So when the rude or cruel thing is said—the lambasting, the gay bashing, the hate—I say, "Take it all out of my house!" Those negative words climb into the woodwork and into the furniture, and the next thing you know they'll be on my skin.
Oprah: The same is true with the positive spirit.
Maya: I believe so.