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RIP Walter L. Scott. I thought of "Strange Fruit", from an older era of terror and violence. Its writer, a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx, had been disturbed by a photo of a lynching; the unbearable yet borne image had set loose the desolate verse and brooding strain that Billie Holiday, born 100 years ago, popularised in nightclubs, sometimes to her peril. FBI director Harry Ansliger ordered Billie to stop performing it. He hated black people, he hated jazz, he hated jazzmen. Billie refused.

Afterwards she was punished for her resistance: stalked, busted for drugs, imprisoned; barred from nightclub gigs b/c of her conviction; arrested for drug possession and handcuffed to her hospital bed as she lay dying of cancer; breathed her last under police guard. Rest in power, Billie.

This is old news: the persecution of black people, women, addicts, dissidents, everything that is repugnant to the status quo. "You know what it looks like by now," writes Teju Cole in response to Scott's murder. "You can take it in by now, whatever it is. You are cool, wise, unshocked, your sorrow steadied by familiarity. But, no. The surprise can still come at you like a blow. And there you are at your desk, fighting back tears."


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