Yankees, Flyers wrong to condemn Kate Smith before investigation (Opinion)
This is the United States of America and as far as I know, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Someone should tell that to the New York Yankees who have removed Kate Smith's version of "God Bless America" from the seventh inning stretch, which was put there to comfort fans after the attacks on Sept 11, and the Philadelphia Flyers who not only removed the song but covered up the statue of the woman who is part of the fabric of the team while they investigate claims that Smith was racist.
According to Daily News writer Stefan Bondy, a phone call was made to the Yankees alerting them to 2 songs that Smith recorded. One a song parody called "That's Why Darkies Were Born", a satire also recorded by African American singer actor Paul Robeson which became a top 20 hit when it was recorded in 1931, and another in "Packininny Heaven" aimed at "colored" children who should fantasize of a place with great big watermelons.
Looking at this through the eyes of today, this is totally unacceptable and if this were today, they never would have been written or even suggested. We've evolved as a society since 1931 when Kate Smith was a 24-year-old woman 5 years into her career. She was just hired in radio. Think about this, we're talking about a woman in the 1931, when women's rights were much different than today, 5 years into her career during the depression ,who just got hired in radio. She's told to record a song that she didn't write at a time when society was accepting this kind of material to the point of making it a top 20 hit. It's also satire which mocks racism. The song was also used in a Marx Brothers movie "Duck Soup." Are they racists too? So what else has Smith done?
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced Kate Smith to King George VI of England, he said, “This is Kate Smith. Miss Smith is America.’’ BTW - Kate Smith was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Also, during WWII Kate Smith traveled nearly 520,000 miles to entertain troops and sold a record $600 million in war bonds in a series of round-the-clock radio appeals. One of these, a 24-hour marathon on Feb. 1, 1944, raised a record $110 million in pledges. Her radio, television and recording career would span five decades. She died on June 17, 1986 and now this American icon has being labeled a racist hanging over her head while these teams conduct their investigation.
So what exactly will this investigation be? Kate's family is heartbroken by these allegations. They claim their Aunt Kathryn did not see color. Suzy Andron told USA Today, "She didn't see a person's color. She was very in tune with a person's character. I've always thought that was a model, to not see a person's color but to see their character. And this is why I'm incredibly sad."
If someone who knew Smith comes up with tangible proof that she was in fact a racist, that's one thing. That hasn't happened. When I spoke to Stefan Bondy, who broke the story in the New York Daily News, he told me:
"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."
I think this investigation is nothing more than putting it out there and watching their phones, emails and social media, then making their decision on that. I'm told that the YES switchboard has been flooded with calls complaining about removing the song. I've spoken with many Flyers fans this past weekend who are also upset about it.
What both teams should have done is quietly investigated, then if they actually found proof that Smith indeed was a racist, then you drop the song and remove her statue, you would think if such proof did exist, it would have been out there by now, and these teams would have known, but to damage Smith's legacy based on an accusation is not something you do in America. Like Kate says, "God Bless America."
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