America’s Strange Fruit

More than 4,000 Black people have been lynched in the United States of America, and those states have largely stood united in terrorizing and demonizing Blacks since its inception. These lynchings have been an acceptable part of American society. This foundational mentality has sought to justify, rationalize, and legitimize this behavior throughout the course of time.

Some have shielded their faces and turned away in shame and disgust, still, others have celebrated these lynchings as the central draw for family outings and picnics directly following a church service where these events might be announced, reiterating their advertisements in a local newspaper. Some were done under the cover of darkness by a smaller group of cross-burning, hooded individuals, and others in broad daylight before thousands of attendees.

Family photos were taken with the corpse dangling from a tree, while souvenir body parts were sold to happy enthusiastic customers. Church, baseball, and lynchings of Blacks became a very Americanized pastime.

It sounds like something from a very disturbing horror movie, but this is very recent in our beloved country. In fact, so recent that, many of those attendees (whom may have been children in some of the photos) are still walking the earth today. Others are just a generation away. Although many might like to believe that this demonic mentality has left us, the disturbing reality is, it has only changed forms.

Today, we see it in the snuffing out of lives on cell phone cameras with such victims as Freddie Grey and Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, and George Floyd. This growing list is also rationalized by the same mentality that justified the long extensive list of victims hung from trees like Christmas ornaments. It’s merely the savage continuation of America’s acceptable brand of strange fruit. This method only gives the appearance that we have progressed toward civility. America has only recently made lynching a federal hate crime by passing the Emmet Till Lynching Act.

It’s the die-hard mentality that still ripples through America at one level or another. It is what has ushered in and allowed the continuation of racism/ white supremacy to exist among a segment of our population. The spirit of lynching is manifest in various forms. Its sub-objective is to “keep POC in their place” by maintaining an atmosphere of fear and intimidation via the police, (see Karens and Kens); self-appointed guardians, (see Ahmad Aubrey and Trayvon Martin); and an imbalance in the judicial system. This is also manifest by methods such as, railroading innocent POC with tactics of plea bargains, and issuing them longer sentences, in contrast to their “white” counterparts.

It’s the continuation of a lopsided educational system, which champions and revises the history of America and those classified as “white,” while blatantly ignoring, dismissing, or watering down the vast accomplishments of POC in our educational system. It’s the practice of erasing from our history, the evils of our “Founding Fathers,” while celebrating them as super-patriots alongside the traitorous Confederate soldiers of the Civil war. The Daughters of the Confederacy proliferated our national landscape with their mass-produced images, paying homage to white supremacy, which continues to be defended and promoted.

It’s the continued flying of the defeated Confederate flag in the south and the north, which often took its place in the presence of a burning cross, or a hate crime, and was recently paraded around the Capitol Building last year on January 6.

It’s the push back against legitimacy in education with allegations of promoting CRT and a socialist agenda while embracing and defending a Russian dictator. It’s the cult movement of Trumpism of “taking our country back,” taking it back where? To a time when POC had even fewer rights than they do today?

Yes, I think that has been made very clear during the previous administration, from the moment America’s wannabe dictator descended the escalator in Trump Plaza to announce his run for the presidency. “Mexico is not sending us their best. They are rapists, murders…”

Rally chants of “Build that wall!” sent a message to all of those considered outsiders, non-white, would-be Americans, that they would not be welcomed.

It is the push back against the installment of the first Black female, overly qualified, Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and being told that she was setting her sites too high when she expressed an interest in attending Harvard. This is unfortunately a sentiment all too commonly shared by teachers when their students of color share their ambitions for greatness, dimming the lights in their hope-filled eyes.

These are all forms of the residue that continues to flow from America’s Strange Fruit. The tree that bears this fruit must be cut down and destroyed once and for all in order for a healthy nation to emerge.

By Tobias Houpe

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