I chose this morning’s word because I was reflecting on things that are unique in the American struggle with race. In that reflection I realized that part of what has registered for black Americans with the Zimmerman trial and verdict is a throwback to lynching. The US government sat on its hands for 100 years while thousands of blacks were murdered by groups of white vigilantes. Blacks were held on trumped up charges and then casually turned over by local enforcement officials to angry mobs who hung, burned, castrated and mutilated blacks as a public display and a threat to black communities. The current Federal law on ‘lynching’ is not explicit to the act and is fairly deeply buried in the Civil Rights Act (Housing Rights Act) of 1968. In 2005, the US Senate officially apologized for not enacting anti-lynching legislation when it was most necessary. But by this point, lynching and the mentality that allowed it, was already part of our cultural DNA.
There is no mistaking that shades of the inaction on lynching are evident in the public vindication of a vigilante who decided to tail a 17 year old without provocation…other than his appearance.
By Abel Meeropol (Recorded by Billie Holiday)
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
scent of magnolia
sweet and fresh
then the sudden smell of burning 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
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