In the story, Dee seems to have developed an appreciation of her racial heritage at the expense of her personal and familial heritage. Though she is named after her aunt, who was named after her mother, who was named after her mother, and so on back for generations, Dee changes...
In the story, Dee seems to have developed an appreciation of her racial heritage at the expense of her personal and familial heritage. Though she is named after her aunt, who was named after her mother, who was named after her mother, and so on back for generations, Dee changes her name to something that sounds more African—Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo—perhaps in order to fit in with the growing appreciation for one's blackness that was developing in the 1960s and 190s. In a sense, Dee misses the forest for the trees. She is so taken with the idea of heritage as something that is dead and past and must be preserved that she fails to recognize the importance of family stories and memories, as well as the fact that she selfishly wants to take items that her mother and sister use on a daily basis. She tells them,
"I can use the chute top as a centerpiece for the alcove table [. . .] and I'll think of something artistic to do with the dasher."
It's as though she wants to show off this evidence of her heritage. She seems to want evidence of some past to which she is not really connected—Maggie knows the stories, but Dee does not. Dee even wants to hang the quilts on the wall, like at a museum, and she calls Maggie "'backward'" because Maggie would actually use them as blankets. Dee is hardly a sympathetic character; Walker seems to want us to side with Maggie and Mama. When Mama refuses Dee, perhaps the first time she's ever done so, it becomes clear that Walker condemns Dee's priorities. Mama even compares the feeling that inspires her to refuse Dee to the feeling she gets when she's "in church and the spirit of God touches" her; it's like a divine clarity. We should then, as Mama and Maggie do, view heritage as something which must be kept alive, not preserved like a fossil—something dead. Real appreciation for one's heritage includes knowing the stories, learning the traditions, and sharing the memories of one's family, not just one's race.