By Joe Rector
Well, the latest installment of the absurd occurred today. Sports teams have banned the playing of music and removed the statues of the performer for racist actions. Before you stone me for such insensitivity, realize that the performer is Kate Smith and what “sins” she committed took place in the 1930s.
Smith recorded “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” in 1931 and “Pickaninny” 1933. The first verse of the first song is offensive if it is taken alone. In totality, the first verse tells of the terrible conditions of slaves. However, other verses laud the strength of those same folks and declare that they are the ones who lead the rest of us to the promised land. These individuals are to be held up in places of honor, not looked at as second-class humans.
The second song can be much more offensive in its language and references. Still, In the movie “Hello, Everybody,” the song is presented to black orphans. It is a song that offers hope for poor children who face long, hard, and poverty-ridden lives. It also says that the mothers of those children who were taken by the Lord will be waiting for them with open arms.
No, we don’t accept such comments or references in today’s world. We’ve learned a different way; we know the equality of all God’s children is our goal. However, the absurdity comes when today’s folks place the same standards on a culture and population that lived 90 years ago. The plain truth is that segregation and inequality were rampant in the 1930s. Civil Rights marches and equality demands didn’t exist. At that time, those two songs that Smith sang offered a kind of hope that was otherwise not a reality.
So, Kate Smith sang songs written by others. She was a performer. She didn’t write the lyrics. Let’s forget the part she played during World War II. Let’s overlook the fact that she helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the war effort. Don’t give a passing thought to the fact that she was held in high enough esteem to have been awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan for her artistic and patriotic contributions. Tear down her statues and never again play her rendition of “God Bless America.” We can’t have a racist like that receiving any kind of credit, right?
No, that’s not right. This country’s population might do well to tackle two major problems that face us. One is to stop wearing our feelings on our shoulders. Quit looking for something offensive. Live life with joy and commitment each day. Second, stop looking backward for injustice. Instead turn toward today and tomorrow and work to make sure that racial bias ends and that hate groups that promote it are dissolved.
By constantly looking in the rear-view mirror, we will one day say that we didn’t see the truckload of present-day problems that crashed into us. Accept that times were different; recognize people for the good that they’ve done. That is the best way to wipe out unfairness in the future.