An Other Strange Fruit

Fruit: Comparing the Struggles of African-Americans for Civil Rights with the Struggles of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Peoples

by Miss Poppy Dixon, 06.01

The word ‘fruit’ has, in the context of this article, three meanings. Billy Holiday’s haunting 1939 rendition of the song “Strange Fruit” gave voice to a nation’s anguish over the lynching of African-Americans. [1]

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.

The word “fruit” also refers derogatorily to homosexuals. A little more than a month after the nation was rocked by the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a black transgendered woman, Rita Hester, was stabbed to death in her Boston apartment. And on the 4th of July 2000, two teenagers murdered a gay African American man, Arthur “J.R.” Warren. He was kicked and beaten, his skull fractured, then driven over by his captor’s car four times. Hester and Warren violated the boundaries of both race and gender. To claim their deaths were caused by one prejudice, and not the other, would be presumptuous.

The meaning of the word “fruit” has bled into other categories.

Finally, I use the word “fruit” in the biblical sense, “…by their fruits ye shall know them,” from Matthew 7:20. The fruits of oppression in the United States have Christian roots; the same Bible once used to enslave blacks is now used to discriminate against black homosexuals, and white homosexuals. – Strange Fruit: Comparing the Oppression of African-Americans and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Communities


4 responses to “An Other Strange Fruit

  1. What an incredible journey, and we still have a long way to go. I say we start revolting in the street – turning cars upside down, burn a few public parks down and we will see if we get our Civil Rights. It has worked in the past, it will work again. Up patriots to arms.

    • Violence did not help the Civil Rights movement. It was the non-violent disobedience that made the biggest impact my anarchist friend. Civil wars leave a country in tatters.

  2. Without violence Great Britain would still be be ruling, Q E II would be on the $1 bill instead of GW. We would probably need to cross a border to go in to Virginia and Georgia, Ceauşescu would probably still in power, so would Idi Amin, Bokassa – just to name a few. When a Government treats a segment of the population differently with less than Equal Rights. Then that segment of the population can result to civil unrest and violence U BET laying low has not worked up to now, PS The civil rights movement was very careful to not include The LGBT in their struggle.

  3. Just to add something else Mr Jump – Civil disorder, also known as civil unrest, is a broad term that is typically used by law enforcement to describe one or more forms of disturbance caused by a group of people. [1] Civil disturbance is typically a symptom of, and a form of protest against, major socio-political problems; the severity of the action coincides with public expression(s) of displeasure. Examples of civil disorder include, but are not necessarily limited to: illegal parades; sit-ins and other forms of obstructions; riots; sabotage; and other forms of crime. It is intended to be a demonstration to the public and the government, but can escalate into general chaos.[2]

    Frequently, participants in a civil disorder are not in agreement about appropriate behavior. As was the case in the WTO Meeting of 1999, most protesters were peaceful, and a small, highly visible minority were responsible for most of the damage. Any civil disorder is a delicate balance of power, and indeed, a political power struggle of some sort is typically the root cause of any such conflict. Often, public demonstrations are viewed as the last resort of political organizations. If the power equation in a civil disorder becomes unbalanced, the result is either oppression or riot.

    Citizens not directly involved in a civil disorder may have their lives significantly disrupted. Their ability to work, enjoy recreation and in some cases, obtain necessities may be jeopardized. Disruption of intrastructure may occur during very severe events. Public utilities such as water, fuel and electricity may be temporarily unavailable, as well as public infrastructure for communication. Occasionally, the disruption of such services may be the original cause of the disorder.[3] More frequently, the cause of such issues is related to economic stagnation, severe inflation, devaluation of currency, disasters man made or natural, severe unemployment, oppression, political scandal, or, in some countries, sporting events. Civil disorder can occur in any country and environment. Switzerland, a country known for its neutrality suffered from much civil unrest in the weeks prior to its October 2007 elections. There were many reports of injuries and destruction and criminal charges are still pending