On the Gravity of Trees
I just reblogged this xojane story which has me literally in tears. Apparently, some chairs, in reference to Clint Eastwood’s imaginary Obama, have been hung from trees with signs saying “Nobama.”
This is so far from okay.
The rest of this post may be considered graphic.
I live in Valdosta, Georgia. You might know it better as the deep south. My entire life, I’ve been hyperaware of race because the people here thought that brushing it all under the rug would absolve all the wrongs. If we didn’t talk about it anymore, it would all go away. But it’s not that easy.
Four years ago, my friend, mentor, and poetry teacher, Marty, brought in this article written by Walter White, covering the story of a lynching near Valdosta (Lowndes County) in the late summer of 1918. As Marty read the story to the class, I struggled with the concept that only 90 years ago, men were strung behind trucks and pulled down the roads I drove everyday. That for the murder of one white man, several black men lost their lives. That because a woman said her husband was innocent, she was tortured and killed. That near where I had once lived, that woman had been tied to a tree by her ankles, had beer bottles thrown at her, had the baby she had been carrying for eight moths cut from her stomach and stomped beneath her, and had been shot.
I always “knew” the atrocities that were buried under my feet the way you tell yourself you know something even though you’ve never had the details. When I had the details, I couldn’t accept that no one talked about them. I couldn’t understand why no one explained these things to me before I was 22. I had lived in the deep south my entire life, and no one ever told me how bad it really was. I was also pretty disappointed in myself for never questioning, never wondering, never asking what it was like.
My boyfriend, Stuart, wrote his masters’ thesis on the author Charles Chesnutt, especiallyhis novel The Marrow of Tradition. Part of Stuart’s research had him looking into different race riots and lynchings. He told me through tears of one particular case in which a man was tortured with a corkscrew. The white men screwed the corkscrew into the man to pull out chucks of his flesh.
We like to say that the past is past. That we all have to move on. But then some sub-human person hangs a chair from a tree thinking he is mighty witty with his racism and implication, but all the while he doesn’t understand the severity of his action. We see pictures, we watch movies, and we think we know what happened. We set lynching synonymous to hanging and say the pictures are too hard to look at and turn away. We think it’s just about a body, hanging from a tree. We think it’s just about a chair, hanging from a tree. But it’s not that easy.
You hang a chair in a tree, and all I see are corkscrews.
You want to hate the man? That’s fine with me. Hate him. Vote for his opponent. Tell the whole world how much you think he’s ruined the country. Move. Write him a letter every day telling him that he needs to move. Make buttons and picket signs and bumper stickers telling everyone how much you think he’s the worst thing to happen to this country. Hell, spread the rumor that he’s Muslim and not even an American citizen. Believe completely that the birth certificate is a fake. Give money to the other side to help assure he will never be elected again. Hate everything about him, his family, his time in office. Hate his dog and the fact that he spent so much money on it. Hate all of those things. Hate the man himself.
But do not take us back to that past with that chair in a tree. That chair is more than you can ever know.
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- ayabug said: Beautifully written and I couldn’t agree more. Thank you.
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- squatthatsass said: Omg.. I’m crying.. This..