Written by Hilda Fish (February 6, 2006)
This post was written by "Hilda Fish" on a Mudcat discussion thread entitled "Responses To Racism" http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=88950. Hilda Fish" is the screen name for an indigenous female from Australia who also used to post on Mudcat, an international online Blues & Folk music discussion forum.
I consider Mudcat to be a rich resource for lyrics and information about many songs from those genres & some other genres including my primary interest "children's playground rhymes". Members & guests routinely discuss other subjects besides music in that forum's BS section. I was an active poster on Mudcat Discussion Forum from August 2004-December 2009, but I rarely post there now.
Hilda Fish gave me permission to include this post in a book concept that I've since put aside. Unfortunately, I've lost touch with Hilda, but I don't think that she would be opposed to my publishing this post on this blog. Also, the owner of Mudcat (and my facebook friend) Max Spiegel, has given me permission to repost forum members' comments as long as I have prior written permission from them.
“Freda” is a White Australia woman who is a Mudcat member, Hilda Fish’s close friend, and also is my online friend. “Strange Fruit” is a Billie Holliday song about lynching.
I started that "Responses To Racism" thread in the hopes that members of that forum would discuss others ways to respond to racist posts except ignoring them. In one of my posts to that thread I wrote that it’s important for Black people and other People of Color to know that “someone's got our back”. What that saying means is that when people find themselves in a difficult situation, it helps for them to know that they can count on support from other people regardless of those persons' race/s or ethnicity/s.
I just can't see that there is a problem saying THAT IS OFFENSIVE - THAT IS RACIST - IT DEMEANS ME - IT DEMEANS YOU - IT DEMEANS WHAT IS HUMAN IN US ALL. IT IS NOT RIGHT. IT IS NOT SOMETHING I'M PREPARED TO LET GO BY UNCHALLENGED. IT IS CRUEL, DANGEROUS AND MURDEROUS AND IF I WAS IN YOUR FACE YOU'D CERTAINLY FEEL HOW I FEEL ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING. GET THIS INTO YOUR HEAD - RACISM IS AN INSULT. I AM CALLING YOU A RACIST. GO AWAY!!!!! To name it and attack it is a good start I think.
A story - I was once at a pub with a friend. It was a social meeting between a big group of people of like mind. Various people were getting up to talk about things. It was all pretty progressive and 'good'. Then this guy got up and in response to an article in a newspaper stated that Aboriginal people were more aligned with animals than human - that white people were superior and it was time that Indigenous (Black) people got the picture. And so on. Everyone listened politely while I started steaming. Oh dear I thought, waiting for my 'friends' to rip him to shreds one way or another. They didn't. There was a lot of polite discussion about how what he said was unacceptable. Un...f...acceptable! I was dying there by what he said and I was dying there because no-one (here you are Azizi) was watching my back. Here we go again I thought. I have to stand up and name this crap and condemn it because no-one else is gonna. They don't even see it. Or they believe in 'freedom of speech', 'politeness'. I thought for a minute and realised no-one was going to listen so I launched myself out of my chair and gave him a mighty smack in the mouth. Everyone grabbed me but I did get a good kick in. I was hauled out of the pub and banned. Well. I was shaking and in a shocking way but I felt good - not belittled or victimised - but good.
Now those who know me know that I am pretty mouthy sometimes but not violent. The worst I mostly do is getting into a swearing frenzy and walk away but truly, mostly I am polite, ladylike, blah blah blah. Some Koories* in the front bar came out and sat with me. We sat together and then various people including my friends came out and condemned me at first for being 'violent'. We talked and basically I said they were gutless for not naming and challenging it - they said they had left that to me. Why me? They saw it too. Why always us to deal with this stuff? Everyone knows about the lynchings and the shootings and all the terrible stuff that is given permission through racist words and racist deeds. Sometimes I am beyond words as my people are sometimes so beyond words that all we can do is scream, go mad, and yes, smack someone in the mouth. The guy said he'd never speak like that again in front of me if that is the result. What did I care what the racist creep thought. He hadn't cared about me or my blood. All I can say is name it, challenge it, reject it in all its forms. Its not a polite discussion you know. Good phrase Azizi - "need to know and see is that somebody's got our back". I'd like to rely on that as one human being to another. Life has shown that I can't - yet.
And yeah, come to Sydney Azizi and stay with me or Freda. You can see how Australia practises its racism!! There are many forms (just joking heh heh). Oh, the first time I heard "Strange Fruit" was in Melbourne at a folk club such a long time ago. Everyone thought it was a terrific song - I was the only Aboriginal there and I cried and cried and cried once I got what it was about. Everyone thought I was drunk!! How awful and sad is that song? What can I say?
Rest in peace all my brothers and sisters on this planet who no longer walk the earth because someone did not like your skin. I honor your short lives and your suffering and will not forgive so easily and well not let racism have a healthy life wherever I meet it. Rest in peace. That's the bottom line isn't it?
* "Koories" is a self-referent for certain populations of Australian indigenous people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koori
Here's a video of Billie Holliday singing "Strange Fruit":
Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit
Uploaded by MonsieurBaudelaire on Nov 25, 2006
Rare Live Footage of one of the first anti rascism songs ever.
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