So, a professional hockey team — composed of 13 white players in a league where 95 percent of all players are also white and beat the hell out of each other in front of a 93-percent white audience — is offended by a dead, white woman who sang a song she didn’t write 80 years ago because it is “racially insensitive” by today’s standards?
Yes, folks...we have come to this. Digging up dead singers to see if their songs from 80 years ago might be racially offensive to mostly-white hockey or baseball fans today.
The dead singer was Kate Smith, recipient...by the way...of a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her efforts during World War II. She was credited with single-handedly raising hundreds of millions of dollars in war bonds used to defeat Adolf Hitler.
Kate Smith is probably best known for her rendition of God Bless America, which was written by a Jewish composer named Irving Berlin, who also penned...hold your sensitive ears... “White Christmas.” The New York Yankees started playing Kate Smith’s God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch of baseball games shortly after terrorists took down the World Trade Center towers. They felt fans needed a little patriotic lift and Kate Smith could do that better than most.
She traveled the world singing for soldiers who also were in need of an emotional lift as they fought for our freedom of speech and right to due process. She was 79 years old when she died in 1989, almost 30 years ago.
The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team had been playing Kate’s “God Bless America” since around 1969 and the club loved it so much (they said it brought them luck) they built a statue of her out front of the arena.
Someone looking for something to be offended by sent an email to the New York Yankees expressing outrage that the organization would feature a singer who was obviously racist. Among Kate Smith’s 3,000 or so songs was one titled, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” written in 1930 by Ray Henderson and Lew Brown. It was also recorded in 1931 by a black singer named Paul Robeson, who went on to be a civil rights icon.
Kate was a performer — no different than an actor or actress, or any other entertainer. There was a very good chance she didn’t have a lot of choice in which songs she sang, or didn’t sing. Women didn’t have a real voice in 1930, so she probably sang whatever they paid her to sing.
If we are going to destroy her reputation for performing something 80 years ago — during a period in the South and beyond when the social “norms” were far different than they are today — where do we draw that line? How many movie scripts, or plays, or other songs should we take a closer look at and how far back should we go to satisfy every single emotional “hurt” that may have been inflicted by singers and dancers, actors, artists and other performers?
Or...maybe we keep is simple and just erase history.
The song was considered to be satire, something that may soon see its last days if the “P.C. Police” have their way. Not sure I’d want to be a comedian or radio personality today.
The Yankees have suspended playing of Kate Smith’s God Bless America “pending an investigation.” Since Kate Smith is dead and can’t defend herself, her family has come forward to maintain that Kate was not racist and that she was a wonderful performer with a heart of gold.
“It’s somebody who found the words to two songs out of the 3,000 that she recorded and tried to make a case out of it,” one family member told reporters.
The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t wait for an investigation. Club president Paul Holmgren — who used to knock the teeth out of opponents’ mouths when he was a player and enforcer — ordered the removal of the statute and said they would never play another Kate Smith song.
Think about that, sports fans. There are a lot of things about a hockey game that some might find “insensitive.” Let’s start with the punching in the face, or the red blood pumping onto the white ice. In fact, someone said the only black you generally see at a hockey game is the puck. Since 1967 (51 years), the Philadelphia Flyers have had six black players. Among the National Hockey League’s 30 teams, only 28 of the 600-plus players are black.
That seems a lot more “racially insensitive” than a song performed by a dead singer 80 years ago that was never, ever played at a Philadelphia hockey game.
And...speaking of insensitivity...isn’t it a little insensitive to name a state after a slave owner? Uh-oh...better hang onto those Washington license plates. And...aren’t the Washington Redskins still playing football?
A recent PEW Research study found that nearly 80 percent of all Americans are sick and tired of the handful of people who wield their power behind the guise of political correctness. And if all it takes is a single email to bring two well-known sports organizations to their knees and disgrace to a dead woman who was given one of our nation’s highest honors, “God Bless America.” And...while we’re at it...God Help America.
Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 665-1160 or at email@example.com.