The tone of the poem may best be summed up as empowered. Angelou directs the poem toward people who challenge, denigrate or look down upon her. Yet throughout the challenges she triumphs by rising up time and time again. It is the essence of the phrase, "It's not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up that counts".
Angelou also implies that the people laughing at her or looking down upon her are angered by her attitude. This ties in with the overall empowerment theme of rising up. She challenges the notions of "sexiness" and "haughtiness" which African Americans were denied. She continually points out that although society may challenge her heritage she will rise above the disdain to be her own person.