Strange Fruit, Rotting on the Ground

For the past month or so, I’ve been working on a class on medieval Christianity and before that I was dealing with a full load of four courses. It was my intention to do a number of posts on various aspects of the medieval church, but recent events have caused me to change my plans.

To put it bluntly, this country is sick and has been so ever since the Pilgrims arrived. The sickness is racism and white supremacy, but the patient (i.e., “mainstream America”) refused to acknowledge that she is unwell in any sense. This country had its chance to improve racial conditions after Reconstruction and then after the Civil Rights Movement and squandered it both times. The current BLM movement could be seen as another chance to clean up our act, but I doubt it will happen. Most whites doggedly insist that “All Lives Matter,” despite copious evidence that non-white lives as a whole count for very little according to “mainstream America.”

The only thing that surprises me about the Dallas shootings is that it doesn’t happen more often. Having to put up with all this racist crap day in and day out is enough to make anyone crazy. Peaceful protests have been occurring for almost three years to rectify police brutality and they haven’t accomplished a thing. Groups like the NAACP and the Urban League have been fighting against police brutality and extrajudicial killings for over a century and it not only keeps happening, but we’re constantly being told that it’s the collective fault of the black community. In fact, the number of black men killed by the police in 2015 exceeded the number of lynchings during the so-called “nadir of race relations” almost a hundred years ago:

American society has simply replaced “strange fruit hanging on the popular tree” with strange fruit rotting on the ground in a pool of blood from police-inflicted gunshot wounds.

I suppose some readers might construe this as some kind of apologia for violence against police; it’s not. I’m merely pointing out that the United States is a society created from violence and characterized by continual violence, whether of the systematic variety or the individual type. If some blacks are violent, it’s only because Americans in general are violent. As Malcolm X said, violence is as American as apple pie, and that’s just as true today as it was back in the 1960s. For a country that was supposedly founded without all the aristocratic baggage of the Old World, the United States has shown itself to be peculiarly unable to confront its own problems, from racism to gun violence to environmental degradation. This whole “city on a hill” rhetoric blinds many Americans to the faults within American society, and instead convinces them that the United States is the logical teleological end, not just of secular history, but of the Biblical narrative. The fact that many conservatives put the Constitution up on a pedestal as a holy, inerrant, text only slightly below the Bible also obstructs our ability to solve problems, since we’re supposed to interpret twenty-first century problems with an eighteenth century document. The United States can put a man on the moon, but can’t even be bothered to fix bridges or adequately educate its own children, especially if the children in question aren’t white.

At this point, I have no hope that things are going to get better. “Mainstream America” has demonstrated over and over again that black lives don’t matter, and has no interest in rectifying this situation. If black lives did matter, we wouldn’t have the state of affairs we have today, where large numbers of black people are forced into open air prisons called ghettos, pushed into substandard schools and then into prison, and shot in the streets with no provocation. Despite this, we’re supposed to just take this treatment with a smile, like this is “Gone with the Wind,” knowing that we can never aspire to be as good as our “racial betters.”  As far as I’m concerned there is no future for this country until we rid ourselves of this racial caste system, and since there is no interest in doing that, we have nothing to look forward to but more incidents like Dallas.