"Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees."

Few lyrics elicit such vivid and horrid images as those penned by Allan Lewis for the song "Strange Fruit," popularized by jazz icon Billie Holiday in 1954. Holiday, like many Black performers of her time traveling the segregated South and Midwest, witnessed the lynching of mostly young black men and other racial terrorism by White supremacists.

The song is based on the Abel Meeropol poem "Strange Fruit" which was inspired by the killing of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana in 1930, as depicted in the above photo by Lawrence Beitler.

The noose has become a painful symbol, a reminder of those lynchings, and a very dark place in our history. It is no wonder that a rope, tied in a fashion to resemble a noose, would evoke a reaction when found in the garage of Black NASCAR racer Bubba Wallace, particularly during a time of racial distress.

But the FBI determined that it was a garage door pull rope and not a noose in Wallace's garage and that it had been there since at least October of last year, long before anyone knew Wallace might use the garage for a race this month.

We should take a collective sigh of relief that this was nothing more than a misunderstanding and not a hate crime of intimidation. Let's take a step back from the edge and agree that this is a teachable moment as things are not always as they first appear. Let this incident serve to de-escalate the tension by accepting that there is another view that is not as clear as we believe our first impression to be.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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