Daily News writer opens up about Kate Smith racism story
Who says one fan can't make a difference? It was one fan who contacted the Yankees about Kate Smith's racist singing background that caused them to remove her "God Bless America" from the 7th inning stretch which caused Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News to write about it, which also caused the Philadelphia Flyers to not only remove her song but cover up her statue outside Xfinity Live as well. I spoke with Bondy before his Inside Edition appearance.
"I obviously didn't expect the reaction that it got," says Bondy, "but I think it's a sign of the times and a good sign that the Flyers also reacted the way they did."
So was Kate Smith really a racist or a struggling artist trying to get work? "Nobody knows and I think that's still part of the investigation," Bondy said.
"There has not been much as to who Kate Smith is as a person there hasn't been any stories to suggest that she did anything racially insensitive in her private life but there are these songs," Bondy says. "She was born in the south, raised during the time of the Jim Crow laws, it was a racist time, three were different times and some of the things she said would have been racist back then, you still get to pick some of the songs you sing."
Smith was born in Virginia and recorded such songs as "Packininny Heaven" in a video shot at a black orphanage where she sang about "colored children" who should fantasize about an amazing place with "great big watermelons" among other treats. She also had another song called, "That's Why Darkies Were Born," which include the lyrics "Someone had to pick the cotton" The second song was a satire which was also recorded with African American artist Paul Robeson who was from Princeton. Smith also endorsed a doll called "The Mammy Doll" which was a racist caricature of a black woman in the Aunt Jemima vein.
"Both the Yankees and the Flyers have said that we have not made any conclusions about Kate Smith yet but the evidence brought to us is alarming, and we are suspending the song, but they are still open to the idea of bringing back the song pending the investigation"
What does this story do to the song "God Bless America" which was written by Irving Berlin out of love for his country? "The Yankees are still going to be playing the song" Bondy says "Right now they're playing it with an organist and even before they pulled the Kate Smith song they were talking about doing it with other live performances, so the song is not going away just Kate Smith's version"
What about the fact that these songs were recorded so long ago when the times were so different?
"Obviously," says Bondy. "I'm sure it was interpreted differently in 1939 but it's not 1939 and that song is being played to all sorts of people of race color and creed at Yankee Stadium in 2019, so I certainly understand why the Yankees did what they did."
You can also add the Flyers to that list, but one has to wonder what they would have done if it were game seven of the Stanley Cup finals and they played the song before the last three wins.
More from New Jersey 101.5: