Thursday, July 02, 2009

Reflections on Independence (July 4, 2009)

A History Lesson....and a poem

Abe Meeropol, Strange Fruit (1939)

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body 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,
And 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 a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

In 1937 Abe Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from New York, saw a photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. Meeropol was inspired to write the poem, Strange Fruit.

Later, Meeropol took the poem to Billie Holiday and it was adapted to music (1939). The record the was denounced by Time Magazine as "a prime piece of musical propaganda" for the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).

And this...

Michael Meeropol also wrote the Frank Sinatra hit, The House I Live In.

July 4th....Independence Day....Independence from what???? Were it not for customers wishing me a,"...happy 4th" from the other side of the counter, the day would pass unnoticed, uncelebrated by yours truly. Oh the hypocrisy of it all. America's problems with race hang around the 'house' that slaves built like an unwanted relative. Raid hasn't come up with a spray that will make the 'bug' go away. Americans are infected.

I don't have the time or the inclination to regurgitate the many headlines that bear out the truth of what I say and feel on the subject of Amerika's race problem but the eviidence is there. I live and work in the south. I jokingly refer to it as' the land time forgot.' Tis true. Tis true. The south has a giant chip on its shoulder which has stunted its growth; a residual of having its butt kicked in the big war to save the Union which also by the way freed the slaves.

Consider This:

In 2009, if you are black in Amerika, it's still possible to be referred to by a wrinkled white lady as "uppity." Hmmmm translated; "You don't know your place." By my estimation, I encounter people daily who share this woman's sentiment.

You have as much chance of proving workplace discrimmination in a court of law as you do of winning the lottery. I guess if you can't prove it, prejudice doesn't exist.

Black and brown children in Amerika's schools are terminally illiterate. There's a whole lotta handwringing goin' on but a massive lack of earnest effort to address the problems.

Amerika is a complicated mess and until we change our collective diaper of racial doodum, how in heaven's name are we going to lead the western hemisphere? Are we so smug as to believe the rest of the world doesn't notice, we speak with 'fork tongue?' If I were a Muslim, say, I wouldn't have much faith that a people who can't get their own act together could lead me out of Babylon into a glorious Democratic Nirvana.

Happy 4th y'all. Enjoy the bar-be-cue and the bubble of racial tolerance. It's bursting at the seams.


At 11:36 AM , Blogger Stephen Bess said...

Powerful and true. I'm not sure if America will ever admit to having a problem. So many of our racial stereotypes and words have been internalized and used as catch phrases and American idioms. It's really a sickness that very few recognize. Thanks for sharing this. I hope you are well, Barbie. It's been a long time since we've talked. Peace~

At 8:06 AM , Blogger barbie said...

It's good to hear from you and to know you are still reading. I follow you as well and wish you continued success with your writing and efforts to communicate "Our" story.


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