A lot of people are posting Billie Holliday’s Strange Fruit today, presumably in response to the execution of Troy Davis.
It feels like the “right” or a “relevant” song to post, I’m sure, except for one thing: lynchings ≠ capital punishment. Both are abhorrent, but they are not the same thing. Davis wasn’t lynched, he was executed.
People like Lawrence Russell Brewer committed - and continue to commit - the acts that inspired Strange Fruit. The death penalty, state-sanctioned barbarism, is another matter.
Of course the most awful aspect of Davis’ execution is that it’s very likely he was, in fact, wrongly convicted; I’m certainly not denying that. But the frustrating thing about much of the commentary today is that it’s coloured by a fair-weather edge; people who are against the death penalty… mostly.
If you’re truly against capital punishment, then Lawrence Russell Brewer’s execution, no matter how appalling his crime (and it was one of the worst), is also tragic. As is the fate of the 3400+ people currently on death row in the USA.
Do you care about their lives, too?
You know what, no. Just no. Holy fucking no.
I’ve seen Strange Fruit reblogged many times today on my dash and in all but one case it was by Black women, Black women who are in pain over Troy Davis’ murder in ways we white people cannot even begin to comprehend. I’ve read writing talking about this as a lynching (and by god had you better understand the intertwined history of lynching and the death penaltyin the USA before you go making “≠” declarations) - and it’sbyBlackpeople.
The death penalty is grounded in White supremacy, part of a system of institutionalised racism. “Our results suggest that the death penalty has become a sort of legal replacement for the lynchings in the past” and “during the 1980s prosecutors in Georgia sought the death penalty for 70% of black defendants with white victims, but for only 15% of white defendants with black victims… Notably among the 38 states that allow the death penalty, approximately 98% of the prosecutors are white.” [From the above ACLU and OSU links]
So this, above? Disgusting. We are not the ones being murdered. This is not some objective points-scoring issue of discussion. We are not the ones who get to decide what feels right or relevant or is worth remembering or which terms everyone should use because it makes White people feel more comfortable.
Today is seriously not the fucking day for white chicks to be telling people of colour how to feel. Especially, to be fucking blunt, Australian white women who of course feel comfortable acting from a nice safe distance across the ocean like this is some kind of interesting capital punishment thought experiment they can manipulate from a distance, like it doesn’t involve an actual human being dying because of the colour of his skin under the charade of being found guilty for a crime he probably didn’t commit.
And if, to note clembastow’s follow-up post, the only people she saw reblogging Strange Fruit today were white? Probably says a fuckload more about who clembastow chooses to follow than anything else.
Neil deGrasse Tyson killed it on last Friday’s Bill Maher talking about the defunding of the space program:
“First of all, let’s clarify what the NASA budget is. Do you realize that the $850 billion dollar bailout, that sum of money is greater than the entire 50-year running budget of NASA?
And so when someone says, “We don’t have enough money for this space probe,” I’m asking, no, it’s not that you don’t have enough money, it’s that the distribution of money that you’re spending is warped in some way that you are removing the only thing that gives people something to dream about tomorrow.
You remember the 60s and 70s. You didn’t have to go more than a week before there’s an article in Life magazine, “The Home of Tomorrow,” “The City of Tomorrow,” “Transportation of Tomorrow”. All of that ended in the 1970s. After we stopped going to the Moon, it all ended. We stopped dreaming.
And so I worry that the decision that Congress makes doesn’t factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow. Tomorrow’s gone. They’re playing for the quarterly report, they’re playing for the next election cycle, and that is mortgaging the actual future of this nation, and the rest of the world is going to pass us by.”
To plan for the future, we not only have to envision it, but we have to at least make attempts — even if they fail — to achieve it. We don’t anymore.
I’m not sure if I exactly find NASA alone as a feminist issue in and of itself, but I really think the argument about how saying “we don’t have money” really means “we would rather give the rich tax breaks and put money into the military rather than spend money on this”
It’s a feminist issue to me a) because dreaming is my job b) there are many wonderful women scientists who have their lives and careers invested in looking outwards, and if governments are hamstringing science budgets, they’re hamstringing equality in the sciences.