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
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.
This essay is not intended to minimize in any way the unique sufferings endured by African-Americans due to racism in this country. The purpose is to show that the full rights enjoyed by white Americans are denied to both blacks and homosexuals; and that the crossover between these groups frustrates efforts to pit them against each other.
At BASH-IN, an event sponsored by Yale Political Union's Queer Caucus and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Cooperative, the floor was given to opponents to express their views on homosexuality. Julian Austin's thoughts mirror those of many conservative Christians.
When people try to compare black oppression with homosexual oppression, I think there is something wrong. Black people are born the way they are. And you can't hide the fact that you are black, because that's what you look like. But with homosexuality, you can hide it if you desire. 
And in its online magazine "Ideas and Energy for the Next Generation," the conservative Christian organization Family Research Council courts the assent of African-American football player/minister Reggie White.
Homosexual activists try to compare their "struggle" to the civil rights struggles that black Americans went through in the 50s and 60s. In the minds of true minorities, this argument is dead on arrival. Reggie White is offended by the comparison of struggles of homosexual groups to those of blacks. "Homosexuality is a decision. It's not a race," he said. 
Family Research Council welcomes Reggie White to speak not on the topic of Christianity, or sports - topics common enough on their web site and on which Mr. White has expertise, but only on the category of race as it relates to homosexuality.  That Mr. White's expert opinion is confined to the issue of homosexuality suggests that the FRC views him as nearer in status to the homosexual than to the Christian. The organization further reveals its implicit racism in conferring on "black Americans" the dubious honor of "true" minority.
OPPRESSION: POINTS OF VIEW
The perceived division between African-Americans and the lgbt (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) communities is a political construction, based on a foundation of white heterosexuality. This construction assumes several things; that both whiteness and heterosexuality are the norm. It assumes that African-Americans are heterosexual, and that homosexuals are white, and therefore have nothing in common. The carrots of 'normalcy,' heterosexuality and whiteness in this case, are dangled before each community as incentive to deny commonality with the other.
But crossover exists. There are African-American lesbians, gay African-American men, African-American bisexuals, and transgendered African-American women and men. For these people the issue of gay rights IS an issue of civil rights.
There are also African-American heterosexuals who share in the struggle of the lgbt community for civil rights. Representative John Lewis of Georgia marched beside Martin Luther King, Jr., in the Civil Rights marches of the 60s. In his speech to Congress in 1996 against legislation of the "Defense of Marriage Act" Representative Lewis said,
I will not turn my back on another American. I will not oppress my fellow human being. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. 
The crossover between the black and lgbt communities blurs the boundary between them. The boundary, such as it is, is a white heterosexual construction benefitting that power structure.
Lesbians and gays have been adversely affected by the law for most of American history. Police have commonly raided bars and organizations they've frequented, denying the right to lawful assembly. And lesbians and gays have been denied police and medical assistance, as evidenced by the death of Tyra Hunter, a black transgendered woman,  due to criminal neglect by police and medical officials. Hunter's mother was awarded $1.75 million in a wrongful death suit brought against the District of Columbia.
These injustices were condoned by many Christian churches at the time.
Even after slavery was abolished African-American marriage continued to be restricted. African-Americans were not allowed to marry "outside of their race," or more specifically they were denied marriage to white people. During his presidential campaign George W. Bush spoke at Bob Jones University, an institution that only last year (March 2000) dropped its ban on interracial dating.  And only last year (Nov 7, 2000) did Alabama finally strike from its constitution a law banning marriage between African-Americans and whites, though the decision is being appealed. 
During slavery blacks created their own rituals to recognize and honor marriage and family, one borrowed from the African tradition of "jumping the broom." Still today many African-Americans are legally denied marriage to the man or woman that they love; if they happen to be homosexual.
So is it homophobic, or racist, for the state to deny marriage to an African-American lesbian or gay man? The history of "marriage definition" in the US is full of brutality, hate, and shame, and its racist roots are not erased because it is now being extended to cover a broader target of oppression.
Now, as then, these injustices are condoned by many Christian churches.
Black people are born the way they are. And you can't hide the fact that you are black, because that's what you look like. But with homosexuality, you can hide it if you desire.
While Mr. Austin's may be a common sense assessment of both race and gender preference, his statements are not supported by reality.
In truth there are no definitive biological markers for race. The "black" race is constructed from a crude set of physical characteristics implicitly agreed upon by white society.  White people who share in these "black" characteristics, in essence abdicating their whiteness, may likewise be discriminated against, or dismissed by white society as "white trash," "whiggers," "nigger lovers," or as Senator Robert Byrd explained last year, "white niggers." 
Similarly, there are no definitive biological markers that identify one as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or for that matter heterosexual. Laws that criminalize homosexual activity reinforce existing fears and prejudices, and these are played out on the bodies of those assumed to be homosexual whether they are or not. Sissies, tom-boys, butches, fairies, and often simply studious, intelligent, athletic, weak, or sensitive children and adults, suffer from discrimination and sometimes violence directed towards homosexuals. Contrary to Mr. Austin's view, it's not that easy to hide from another person's misconceptions.
And finally, Mr. Austin's statement suggests he believes black people are tolerated only because they cannot help being black. If the situation were to change, and black people were able to become white, they would be expected to do so.
While some within the black and lgbt communities are granted an identity "off the rack," the same rack used by whites and heterosexuals; the couture identity formed within the constraints of otherness will always be stronger and more long-lasting than an identity that is conceded. An identity forged in the face of constraints based on prejudice better weathers the changing fashions of normalcy.
For one able to repudiate white privilege and its concessions, identity is based not on the "norm," but on individual interests, in community, and the diversity in which she or he finds embrace. Boundaries remain fluid, ever changing. Rather than exhausting and straining a tightly moored identity, the traitor to race, gender, and other social constructs, sails on a bracing sea of difference.Miss Poppy Dixon is the founder of Adult Christianity - a Christian organization defending the rights of the un-bornagain. She is also the editor of the online journal of Adult Christianity which examines the intersection of popular theology and contemporary culture. Most recently she was interviewed by World of Wonder, UK for a documentary on the history of masturbation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES and BIBLIOGRAPHY
1) According to Stran ge Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights, "Strange Fruit" was written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher best known for adopting the children of convicted spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg after the the couple was executed in 1953.
"Between 1880 and 1930 there were at least 2,018 separate incidents of lynching, in which some 2,362 African-American men, women, and children were murdered. These lynchings often became ritualistic affairs, where victims were mutilated and burned at the stake in a carnival-like atmosphere." Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994, by Deborah Gray White.
"Most of the lynchings were by hanging or shooting, or both. However, many were of a more hideous nature - burning at the stake, maiming, dismemberment, castration, and other brutal methods of physical torture. Lynching therefore was a cruel combination of racism and sadism, which was utilized primarily to sustain the caste system in the South." The Neg ro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States, 1980-1950, by Robert A. Gibson, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.
has collected vintage photographs of lynchings in America. Many of these
images were originally distributed as souvenirs, and postcards. Though his
motives have been questioned, his compilation WITHOUT SANCTUARY: LYNCHING PHOTOGRAPHY IN AMERICA, Twin Palms, February
2000, is an important archive chronicling America's treatment of blacks.
4) If you type the word
"football" into the search engine at the Family Research Council web site,
your first result will be a link to Reggie White's speech in which he claims "..
.the modern homosexual rights push can't be equated to the civil rights
movements of the 60s that advanced racial equality." At the time of this
writing (2.01) Reggie White's name is not associated with any of FRC's
other articles on student-led prayer at football games, the problems of
sports and gambling, or the drug testing of student athletes; areas of
Christian, but not necessarily African American, concern.
5) The Defense of Marriage
Act, House Resolution 3396, by the Honorable Congressman, John Lewis. [Congressional Record: July 11, 1996 (House)] [Page
H7441-H7449] I highly recommend reading the entire speech which is very
7) Racial Disparities in
Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions 1988-1994 Staff Report by the
Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights Committee on the Judiciary,
One Hundred Third Congress, Second Session, March 1994, prepared with the
assistance of the Death Penalty Information Center.
8) Tyra Hu
nter Lawsuit Settled in D.C., DataLounge, Friday, 11 August 2000. Tyra
Hunter was seriously injured in an automobile accident on August 7, 1995.
When paramedic Adrian Williams discovered that Ms. Hunter was a biological
male he joked with the crowd saying "that ain't no bitch," and withheld
treatment. Ms. Hunter died later at the hospital where an emergency room
doctor also withheld treatment. Hunter's mother received a $1.75 million
settlement from the city for wrongful death. The paramedic and doctor who
failed to treat Hunter are still employed in their respective positions.
11) Race Traitor "The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them."
Implicit Association Test from the University of Washington
and Yale University. "[The Black-White] IAT requires the ability to
distinguish faces of European and African origin and basic fluency in
English. The Black-White IAT may be our most distressing test because it
indicates that most Americans have an automatic preference for White over
12) Free to be Me, Race Traitor 1994. "Several female students at North Newton Junior-Senior High School near Morocco, Indiana, who call themselves the 'Free to Be Me' group, recently started braiding their hair in dreadlocks and wearing baggy jeans and combat boots, a style identified with Hip-Hop culture... Whites in the town accuse the group of 'acting black,' and male students have reacted by calling them names, spitting at them, punching and pushing them into lockers, and threatening them with further violence."
"Whigger," a joining of the words "white" and "nigger," is used by white supremacist and Christian Identity groups to indicate white people who do not comply with the conventions of their race. That white people are perceived as being able to choose, or reject, their race further supports the fact that race, at least for whites, is a social construct.
Cedric Muhammad of BlackElectorate.com suggests that
when Senator Byrd spoke of "white niggers" during his Fox interview, he had
President Clinton in mind. Early in the interview Byrd made it clear he did
not respect Clinton much. Muhammad bolsters this theory with the fact that
many people view Clinton as the country's first black president.
A Deeper Look :
On Senator Byrd And "White Niggers", by Cedric Muhammad,
BlackElectorate.com, March 12, 2001.
Copyright © 2001 by the author
All Rights Reserved