Strange Fruit
December 4, 2014 10:23 PM   Subscribe

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze (graphic)
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin' eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin' flesh

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
posted by Eyebrows McGee (51 comments total) 126 users marked this as a favorite
 
brb going to cry now. too relevant, EM!

<3
posted by raihan_ at 10:33 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]




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posted by kagredon at 10:39 PM on December 4, 2014


I thought of the Lillian Smith novel when I saw the post headline. Interesting that:
"In her autobiography, singer Billie Holiday wrote that Smith chose to name the book after her song "Strange Fruit", which was about the lynching and racism against African-Americans, although Smith maintained that the book's title referred to the "damaged, twisted people (both black and white) who are the products or results of our racist culture."
From wiki page on the novel.

One line from the book seems apt to me.

"Charles laid down his book.""Whats the matter with this town.""
posted by clavdivs at 10:48 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't play in the park with toy guns and maybe they won't kill you. Don't ask for help after a car accident and maybe they won't kill you. Don't wear a hoodie and maybe they won't kill you. Don't cosplay with a toy sword and maybe they won't kill you...

Twitter poetry by @IjeomaOluo
posted by kagredon at 10:49 PM on December 4, 2014 [12 favorites]


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posted by Jairus at 11:00 PM on December 4, 2014


An excellent post. A horrible situation. A horrible country?

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posted by librarina at 11:56 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


That link about the composer of the song adopting the Rosenberg's children is amazing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:28 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


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Black lives matter.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:36 AM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


U.S. society, fueled by sensationalizing media, has been convinced that the black man's intentions are to rob, rape, and kill. We've feared black men for hundreds of years and kept them under control with whips and hangings.

We shouldn't be surprised that police share that fear and over-react when they encounter a black man selling cigarettes or walking down a stairway.

Are these types of actions by the police wrong? Of course they are. Is the solution to bring the hammer down on policing? Yes, in part, but I don't believe that alone will solve the problem. This fear isn't an opinion that can be changed with the presentation of facts, it's become a deeply, deeply embedded cultural trait that some instill in their children from the day they are born and then watch as so many aspects of our culture and media reinforce and cement that fear.

How pervasive is this fear? Yesterday I was talking to a client. A young, strong, imposing looking African-American man who grew up in Detroit. Life hasn't been kind to him and his affect and demeanor exhibit the toughness he's had to develop. He stated to me that, since I had seen him last (a month and a half ago), he had left his house only to go to medical appointments, that he has no friends that he trusts (when pushed he named two people, one of them being me), and that he was afraid, afraid because of what he sees on the news every day.

I pressed him on that, expecting to hear about Ferguson.

"I don't want to sound raciest", he said, and I wondered if he was afraid his next words would offend me because I'm white. I said "go ahead, say what you need to say".

"There's too many black people around here. Whenever I see one I wonder if he's going to rob me or beat me up. I'm sort of OK if I go to Troy (a white suburb of Detroit), but, if there are black people around, I'm always looking behind me."

And, my friends, that is how deeply we've instilled the "fear of black" in our culture.

I have no idea what the solution is, but the investment and effort will need to be huge and sweeping, we're not changing policy and training, we're changing hearts and minds.

Thanks, Eyebrows, for the well crafted post.
posted by HuronBob at 4:02 AM on December 5, 2014 [37 favorites]


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Black lives matter.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:21 AM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Five ugly and uncanny parallels between lynchings and police killings in America. (Graphic descriptions)

That was a hard, hard read.

And we live in an age of evidence. Everything has evidence. It was on YouTube.

And the evidence isn't enough to secure justice -- an actual recording of the actual event which can be reproduced and verified and transmitted -- that isn't enough?

So in other words, there is no 'enough'. You could transport a grand jury through a time machine so they could physically be there and still it's a shrug and off-to-get-a-sandwich.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:43 AM on December 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee you are to be congratuled for putting together an extraordinarily well crafted post.
This really is Metafilter at it´s best.
In the past many would probably shout "Get your own blog" but Metafilter has moved on a bit and grown up and your blog is here and some of us are very glad for that.
posted by adamvasco at 6:04 AM on December 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


Rong Radio
posted by eviemath at 6:05 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


"He was no angel."

Being black in America is being held to a higher level of expected behaviour, and never given the benefit of the doubt. It also means any single individual becomes a representative for anyone else identified as "black".

See how the exact same mechanism works for women?
posted by clvrmnky at 6:07 AM on December 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


The past couple of weeks have been crushing. Between Darren Wilson not being indicted for murdering a kid and the cops who killed Eric Garner also not being indicted, I want to know when enough is enough. I want to know how many lives it will take before we want to begin to change our systemic racism problem.

And then the news keeps bringing more unjustified deaths/imprisonments and I realize that it's "nope, sorry, everybody, it's never going to be enough so hey what're you gonna do?".
posted by Kitteh at 6:11 AM on December 5, 2014


The thing that shocked me when I learned about it was the practice, documented by the "Without Sanctuary" project (trigger warning there for corpses and depictions of cruelty), of documenting these crimes on postcards, some of which show that there were huge, enthusiastic crowds at the scene of brutal torture killings. I had assumed, I guess, that lynchings were done by cover of dark, with the local authorities having some kind of deniability, but that was naive of me.
posted by thelonius at 6:12 AM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Chris Rock on the lack of indictment in Eric Garner case:

"This one was on film."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:14 AM on December 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


We built this country with the labor of people we defined as not-quite-human, and we have been unable to escape this mindset. I despair that we ever will.
posted by rtha at 6:17 AM on December 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


Hmm, HuronBob's story made me think of the song I linked to, but on second listen-through, the song talks more about other issues than racism affecting black men's views of themselves. Apologies for the potential derailiness.
posted by eviemath at 6:20 AM on December 5, 2014


There is no one "cure" but it is on us who are not black to take the (small in comparison) risks of reaching out, voicing support, amplifying voices, advocating and protesting, but mostly, not sinking back into the comfy white apathy that is always waiting for us.

And we have to also try to pull fellow white people out of their apathy and that one is harder than all the rest combined. The young ones are generally easier to reach than the old ones, but we're fighting a whole system designed to make white people shut their eyes to what's actually happening.
posted by emjaybee at 6:56 AM on December 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I really really want Time's Person of the Year to be The Unarmed Black Man.
posted by RedEmma at 7:08 AM on December 5, 2014 [41 favorites]


eviemath, I didn't see that song as a derail, thanks for posting the link.
posted by HuronBob at 7:15 AM on December 5, 2014


Disarm Police Now.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:15 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is no one "cure" but it is on us who are not black to take the (small in comparison) risks of reaching out, voicing support, amplifying voices, advocating and protesting, but mostly, not sinking back into the comfy white apathy that is always waiting for us.

Not being black doesn't make you white. I am neither and find it difficult to discuss this stuff because I don't have police brutality stories of my own and am yet also not qualified to talk about privilege because I'm not white.
posted by zutalors! at 7:17 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really really want Time's Person of the Year to be The Unarmed Black Man.

I think it should be Michael Brown, but that's just me.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 7:25 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wish I could say more. Despite a lifetime of social justice activist work I am reduced to silence. Unfortunately, no matter my anguish or my passion, fixing this problem is not mine to do.

For the rest:

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posted by kalessin at 7:44 AM on December 5, 2014


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posted by localroger at 7:44 AM on December 5, 2014


It has been 13 0 days since our last killing of an unarmed black person by police.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:51 AM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


yet also not qualified to talk about privilege because I'm not white.

Hi, brown dyke here; you can totally talk about privilege. In my experience, privilege is not binary, and it's not something that only white male people have, and it's not something that black male people completely lack. There are a lot of contexts in which it operates (and doesn't), and it has many forms.
posted by rtha at 8:07 AM on December 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not black or white but I'm pretty certain it's easy to be able to talk about my own privilege. It's easy. I either write it by typing it or with a pen/cil and paper or a stylus and slate or whatever or I open my mouth and speak.

You will get nowhere letting other people dictate what you are qualified to speak about.
posted by kalessin at 8:23 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


And, my friends, that is how deeply we've instilled the "fear of black" in our culture.

Yes.

Not too long ago, I took an implicit association test that showed me that I tend to associate black males with weapons.

I remember staring at the computer screen for a long, long time, thinking What?! This can't be right, there's no way this is right, this test is rigged!

It was like the words on the screen had formed a fist with a four-finger ring that said "Internalization of Oppression" and punched me right in the center of my forehead.

It's my understanding that when people are made aware of their unconscious biases, they're much more likely to behave in ways that counteract them, but I don't know how you make people aware of their unconscious biases in a way that doesn't come across as shrill and preachy.

What I do know is that we've got a lot of work to do.

Thank you for this amazing, moving post, Eyebrows McGee.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:38 AM on December 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


And, my friends, that is how deeply we've instilled the "fear of black" in our culture.

"We" who? Your friend is simply acknowledging an unfortunate reality, one that even Jesse Jackson recognizes, and behaving accordingly. I've been assaulted three times in my life; every time the perp was an Urban Black Youth. So, yeah, I have very conscious biases when I'm in the big bad city. I'd be an idiot not to. But it's only partially race. Put me in a subway car full of Nation of Islam guys who consider me a devil, or of Jehovah's Witnesses, and I feel fine. With anonymous hoodies - not so much.

"We" indeed have work to do.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:04 AM on December 5, 2014


"We" indeed have work to do.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:04 AM on December 5


What does this mean? That because you say you lack any internalized subconscious racism, you don't have anything to contribute? That because your suspicion of Urban Black Youth is earned because they (all of them?) have victimized you, you are not part of the "we"? Something else? Racism is over, racism is justified sometimes, ensuring that no black youth ever commit crimes is necessary to eliminate racism, what?
posted by rtha at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


I had assumed, I guess, that lynchings were done by cover of dark, with the local authorities having some kind of deniability, but that was naive of me.

Yes, exactly this. No idea why I would imagine that public enthusiasm for such things would have been of a more distant past, considering that these days it's not only done publicly but with official sanction from law enforcement.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:41 AM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Flowered dresses, blond kids, happy smiles, burned flesh. Party atmosphere.
posted by glasseyes at 10:13 AM on December 5, 2014



yet also not qualified to talk about privilege because I'm not white.

Hi, brown dyke here; you can totally talk about privilege. In my experience, privilege is not binary, and it's not something that only white male people have, and it's not something that black male people completely lack. There are a lot of contexts in which it operates (and doesn't), and it has many forms.


In my experience, when I've talked about Asian privilege re: cops, I've had white people tell me I'm delusional or a cop defender so no, though I agree privilege is not binary, most people do not seem to understand this. This is part of why the CrimingWhileWhite tag bothers me.
posted by zutalors! at 11:12 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm really sorry. Those people are clueless and/or assholes.
posted by rtha at 11:16 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


It seems very relevant to post this here.

In rural eastern North Carolina, an African American high school student was found hanging from a swing set in a predominantly white trailer park. Investigators did not photograph the scene. They did not attempt to preserve evidence on the body. They did not ensure a chain of custody. Evidence was removed from the body bag. Statements made by Lennon’s mother were ignored. Lennon’s room was never searched. No attempt was made to document social history. And the case was ruled a suicide within eight hours.
posted by emjaybee at 11:18 AM on December 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


Jesus christ.
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on December 5, 2014


Jesus Christ. "Ma'am, your son is dead, and it's a suicide. Good day."
posted by benzenedream at 11:47 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a good post, thank you for making it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:48 AM on December 5, 2014


Nina Simone
concurs
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=P8Lq_yasEgo
posted by hortense at 11:49 AM on December 5, 2014


Motherfuckers. And I mean the cops who covered it up and destroyed the evidence, not just the lynch mob in question. If there's any justice in the world they'll all be out of work and in prison, but of course they won't be. I'll give you six to one odds that at least one person on the police force was directly involved in the murder. And of course no real investigation will ever be done, not that there's any evidence to investigate now.

Chris Rock was right, there's no race problem in America. White people were crazy, and despite what progress has been made many are still crazy today. That's all there is to it, white people thinking badly and behaving badly.

We see the crazy in the way most white people are so frightened of black people, how they'll talk about crime as if it were purely from black people, when in point of fact most crime is intraracial. If a person is the victim of a crime the perpetrator is over 80% likely to be of their race. But many/most white people don't even know that, or believe it if they do know it.

I'm as pasty white as it can get, and frankly I'm amazed that more people don't hate white people with a burning passion. I'm amazed and sort of both sad and glad at the same time that apparently basic human decency is so significant a factor that many/most minorities are willing to give white people the benefit of the doubt despite the mountains of evidence that many/most white people are crazy in a way that is harmful to minorities.

Every time you think it might be getting better, new evidence that it isn't comes in. Of course no police were indicted in the death of Eric Garner, that would imply that black lives mattered to the power establishment and they self evidently don't.

My kid is 8, and he's not submissive or cooperative. I genuinely fear for his safety even at this age, and when he gets to be even a couple of years older he'll be triggering that "Evil Criminal Black Male Monster" crazy that apparently infects so many white people. I dread his every birthday because it brings me closer to him being of the age when someone might be describing to the media how my son had the face of a demon and was getting stronger every time he was shot.

I have no idea what can be done to stop this in time for my son to be safe.
posted by sotonohito at 11:56 AM on December 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


For what it's worth, I do hate certain sorts of white people (both the ones who act/speak with unjust minds and those who apathetically or righteously let/encourage them to do so) with a burning passion. But I was made to be a pacifist so all I have are my words and my body to use as a barrier, not as a weapon.
posted by kalessin at 11:58 AM on December 5, 2014


WELCOME TO POSTRACIAL AMERICA!
[
0] Days Since Our Last Police Killing
of an Unarmed Black Man

posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:37 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's my understanding that when people are made aware of their unconscious biases, they're much more likely to behave in ways that counteract them, but I don't know how you make people aware of their unconscious biases in a way that doesn't come across as shrill and preachy.

What I do is a combination of being very precise in my words, and talking a lot about my own privilege. I make it as much about me and as little about the other white people in the room as possible. And I point them to the Implicit Bias Project. So far it seems to at least make people think a little.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:23 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]




Strange Fruit PR Firm Vanishes After Getting a History Lesson From Twitter

Yeah, I saw that this morning as well. I am intrigued by people who present themselves as tech savvy and with their fingers on the pulse of social media who manifestly did not trouble to do a Google search on the planned name of their business before starting operations.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:27 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, worse. They did a Google search and thought it was still OK.
posted by kmz at 5:24 PM on December 9, 2014


I clicked this headline just now, thinking it was for sure an Onion piece:

Whites are more confident than ever that their local police treat blacks fairly

Spoiler: not the Onion.
posted by salix at 1:41 PM on December 10, 2014


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