I was stunned the other day when the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium did not include Kate Smith’s God Bless America. It seems someone anonymously contacted the Yankees that the First Lady of Radio had a number of racist songs in her vast repertoire. The one that really was picked out was That’s Why Darkies Were Born. Of course it took only 88 years for that revelation to surface.
And once the Yankees folded, the Philadelphia Flyers quickly followed and the latest PC crisis roared onto social media. The Flyers, by the way, had a statue of Kate Smith erected outside their stadium after she died, but covered it when the dust up surfaced (?) and formally carted it away last week.
Smith has been dead for 33 years, but during her long life, she was perhaps one of the most recognizable faces of the mid 20th century. She was popular on stage, the radio, and television. Her booming voice was her trademark and God Bless America became an alternate national anthem, largely because of her patriotism. During World War II, she helped stir patriotic fervor and contributed to selling over $600 million of war bonds during a series of marathon broadcasts. No other show business star came near her as revenue producer of war bonds to finance the United States’ war effort. Today, that $600 million would be worth over $10 billion.
Now, I don’t condone racism … or sexism … or bullying … or any of the thousand other “isms” that currently offend someone, somewhere, at some time. Our PC sensitivity has run amok. Incidents that happened decades ago suddenly require immediate reparation.
I would be the first to admit I was sexist growing up during a period when women were just starting to find their voice and place in society. I was dismissive — until I got married and had daughters of my own. That’s when my attitude shifted to supportive. I would always tell them how important they were and how they could do anything they set their mind on.
People do change.
That’s why all this feigned offense at the actions of the past annoys me so much. I don’t care what happened 50 or 100 years ago. I don’t believe in revising history. I don’t believe in blaming all the ills of the present on the past.
It comes down to education. The women in my life showed me first hand their struggles, emotional and physical. That prompted me to change.
Pick you “ism”. Don’t tell me how bad I’ve been, how bad society has been, how generations have contributed to the now. Teach me. Show me how you are being aggrieved — without the blame. Take some personal responsibility.
And, God Bless America! I miss hearing it.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The only way we can live is if we grow. The only way we can grow is if we change. The only way we can change is if we learn.