Thursday, September 22, 2011

Strange Fruit and the Execution of Troy Davis

I am numb this morning. I woke up to learn that Troy Davis was killed last night. I know that for a long time black men have been put to death for flimsier reasons than those given for Troy Davis’s execution. I know we still have a long way to go in the struggle against racism. I suppose it was naive of me to think we were past such racial barbarity, even in Georgia. But still the news comes as a dreadful shock.

Author Tim Wise objects to the “I am Troy Davis” meme when repeated by white people: “To most all white folks and folks with money generally, please stop saying ‘I am Troy Davis.’ No, no you are not. Nor would you ever be. If you don't understand that, you understand nothing.” True. There is a great chasm between my experience and that of Troy Davis. I may very well understand nothing. But I still assert that “we are all Troy Davis.” Because to accept the chasm between us is not an option. The things that divide us are temporal and insignificant. The things that bind us together, whether we acknowledge them or not, are eternal. Although my meager ability to identify with such a one as Troy Davis is paltry, my weakness, my ignorance, doesn't change the fact that in truth Troy Davis is my brother. Jesus died for him as surely as he died for me. We are all Troy Davis, because the hatred and injustice and indifference behind his execution diminish us all.

Strange Fruit (lyrics by Abel Meeropol)

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies 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 magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

"Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." May God have mercy on us all.


  1. We are all Troy Davis....if Tim Wise doesn't understand that, HE helps to keep the gulf wide.... "Whatever you do unto the least of these...."

  2. I do understand what Tim is on about, I think. Perhaps many of us parrot such things as "I am Troy Davis" without any real understanding of the circumstances and injustices inherent in the lives of black people and poor people. Tim's statement was written in his Facebook status and may be, at least in part, an expression of his justifiable anger and frustration. Nevertheless, I think the impulse to try to identify with Troy Davis is not a bad thing. Chances are that it doesn't go far enough, but as far as I can discern, that's the worst that can be said about it.