The Cross and the Lynching Tree
From the 12th floor office of the Oakland Post newspaper at 14th and Franklin, one can look down the block to a tree at 14th and Alice. Chauncey Bailey was lynched near that tree, although it was not in the tradition of a white lynching, but in the neo-America, his lynchers were black. And although the suspect is a young black man, there are witnesses who say the killer was an older person. Does it really matter, except for the fact that we are now doing the work of the KKK. We wear the hoods these days, and the fad is to wear gear with “stupid” designs, including skull and bones, thus signaling to the world our deathly intentions. We have become death angels, as sinister as the suicide bombers in the Middle East, although we have no purpose, no mission, except to kill another black, for of the nearly 130 killed in Oakland last year, not one white man was killed by a black. And for the most part, this is true throughout America. Our youth exhibit an animal consciousness as opposed to their spiritual consciousness. No, they do not use the mind God gave them, as my mother told me to do, but they seem motivated by a demonic spirit of hatred of self and kind, causing them to perpetuate the internal violence Dr. Franz Fanon wrote about in Wretched of the Earth.
photo Gene Hazzard/Adam Turner
Mao Zedong told us some deaths are higher than Mount Tai, some deaths lighter than a feather. At least Chauncey gave his life for the cause of truth, no matter that we did not always agree with his abrasive attitude, who can deny the man was dedicated to seeking the truth? We all have defects of character, but are we fulfilling our life’s mission as Chauncey was doing? Are we trying to inform the blind, deaf and dumb, to educate the ignorant? Many of us say let the blind stay blind, and that the youth are a lost cause, yet we saw in the film the Great Debaters, youth will do the right things when guided right by sincere and dedicated adults. The only excuse for youth behavior is adult behavior!
The tree at 14th and Alice stands still, a monument to a fallen soldier. From the window, our eyes zoom down to the tree, eyes full of tears and heart full of sorrow. Bill Moyers asked Rev. James Cone the meaning of the cross and the lynching tree. He said they are one and the same, for on the cross Jesus was crucified and on the tree the black man was done the same. And just as Jesus transcended the cross, the black man must rise above his self crucifixion and ascend to spiritual consciousness. The crucifixion ends when the resurrection and ascension begins. We must rise up from the grave of ignorance, from the lynching tree of hatred, jealousy and envy. We must heal from the wretchedness that allows us to kill another brother at the drop of a hat, yet never approach the real enemy. And perhaps the real enemy doesn’t exist except inside of our selves. White supremacy/lunacy has no power over us except when we allow it. As Rev. Cone explained, the lynching tree has no power over us because in our crucifixion comes resurrection and ascension.
Paul Cobb observed how white women can jog pass West Oakland’s Campbell Village housing projects at night without fear. No one dare harm them because they are white and thus sacred. To speak harshly to them is a terrorist threat, to harm them is a hate crime that qualifies for the death penalty. But there is no crime for speaking harshly to another black, and killing another black does not qualify as a hate crime, although most surely it is the absolute essence of hate, self hate.
And so we dig our own grave these days. We put the noose around our necks, as some rappers have demonstrated. We killed our brother Chauncey because he was just another nigguh, therefore worthless, in the imagination of the killers, whoever they are. And then perhaps they recognized his importance and were instructed to eliminate him, for writers and journalists are killed around the world, simply for their dedication to telling the truth.
But we see after the thousands and thousands of words written about him, we see death has no sting, it has no victory.
On a horrible day last August, the tree at 14th and Alice gave forth a strange fruit that shall rise from the earth and give blessings from high heaven. Because Chauncey lived, we shall be a better people, a people who shall one day fulfill our radical tradition and destiny to free ourselves and the world. The attempt was made with the Oakland branch of the Pullman Porters, and it was made with the Black Panthers. Chauncey extended that tradition into the present era, for he gave his life in the cause of truth, freedom, justice and equality. Yes, he transcended the lynching tree. His death was not lighter than a feather but higher than Mount Tai.