RE: “‘Strange Fruit’ – still ripe for debate” (USA TODAY byline, Patrick Ryan).
The article in today’s “Go! Binghamton” section of the Press & Sun-Bulletin (March 11, 2021), was an interesting and inspiring account of jazz singer, Billie Holiday and a new movie about Ms. Holiday on Hulu (The United States vs. Billie Holiday). The wonderful achievements of Billie Holiday are important to point out and that was done quite well by Mr. Ryan of The USA Today network.
When Billie Holiday and this song was presented to a room full of young students of all colors at a Black History Month presentation in the college library where I was a professor, most of the students were weeping when they listened and viewed the “strange fruit” which was represented by black people hung from trees during the Jim Crow era. The author of the article gives a good overview of this. It is very informative to realize that the FBI had gone after Billie Holiday for singing such a song. In other words, a 1930s era FBI of law enforcement which likely would have no disapproval of what has recently happened to people like George Floyd. No surprise, but for a historian, there is a recognition that the events of the 1930s in which there was the FBI which went after Ms. Holiday on the tail of a one-term president of Herbert Hoover and the KKK of those years. The actions of the administration that followed Herbert Hoover, to be able to curtail some of that (but not as completely as it should have been, in my humble opinion) is the reasoning behind hatred of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. After all, the New Deal was about a deal for EVERYONE, not just white folks who rubbed each other’s backs, asked for favors to be restricted within the white community and an expectation of handouts. Without these things, such white folks carrying Confederate flags don’t appreciate what they have received from this wonderful nation over the years.
It is important to teach Americans about the venomous racism of Jim Crow so as to end the systemic racism today which is an extension of a war which was one in 1865 and those traitors carrying Confederate battle flags lost. It was the end of a war, not the end of one battle and invoking more battles over time.
For those who read to the end of the article, they will notice, once again, support of anti-racist ideas is “left-wing progressives.” Never are far-right-wing mentioned with their ties to bigotry and contention with equality of the races. How sad that is. They will also notice the use of the word “reality” to describe what exists, as if to say, “too bad, too bad, there is nothing to be done.” The “reality” is one dictated by wealthy white snotty piggish white folks from groups like Duke’s KKK and the John Birch Society. Folks who refuse to INTEGRATE groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution which rejected black singer Marian Anderson from appearing before an event sponsored by the DAR and for which Eleanor Roosevelt expressed her disdain for the DAR because they refused to acknowledge the fact that ancestors of black AND black/white folks follow a positive “tree” in which they are not hung like fruit. In other words, their “tree” includes their ancestors who DID fight to fight for independence from the Crown.
Same thing with the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) in not allowing black people to become members when they are able to PROVE an ancestry from American Revolution patriots. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that a black man was the first to lose his life when the British first fired on a colonist crowd near Boston. How many of the white people in that crowd which was there to fight the British are members of the SAR or DAR? Then compare whether there are any descendants of the black man or other black people who were fighting for our independence allowed in the SAR or DAR?
Then there are the segregated Masonic orders. And why has the AME not joined with other mixed denominations of religious orders?
Reality is dictated and reality can be changed by helping all of us rid ourselves of the conditions for maintaining a status quo of systemic racism. It is NOT an issue of politics, but an issue with no debate among human beings.
Finally, I have to ask who wrote the headline for this article? Was it the local Press & Sun-Bulletin or USA Today? This headline of “‘Strange Fruit’ still ripe for debate” is inappropriate and meant to sensationalize this article for white supremacist and bigots. Argue as you may about my conclusion. Could the headline been a bit more tempered? Bottom line. This issue is NOT for debate. Learning about what Billie Holiday had to say with this song is not open to debate. I know plenty of conservatives and liberals alike who DO NOT embrace such lousy attitudes about white supremacy. It DOES NOT describe left-wing or right-wing when discussing such matters as “strange fruit.” And if you are one who feels it never impacted you, especially if white, so why care about it, then shame on you for your lack of love and preferred hatred of fellow Americans. Hatred is what it is and there is NO validation for it.