After link to racist songs, sports teams give Kate Smith the boot

At one time, Kate Smith pretty much was America. Times change, though, and the legendary — and dead — singer of her signature “God Bless America” is out at no less an American institution than Yankee Stadium.

Smith became popular again in the ’70s when she was the good-luck charm for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. She’s out there, too.

“God Bless America” — a better national anthem than the “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and Kate Smith are inextricably linked.

But now Smith is linked to something else: racism.

The New York Daily News says the Yankees have replaced Smith’s version of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch because she also recorded “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children.”

She also recorded, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.”

The Yankees said as soon as they were made aware of Smith’s history with these songs, they acted.

“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesperson said. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”

For the record, the songs have been around for more than 80 years.

Smith’s statue stands outside the arena where the Philadelphia hockey team plays. It’s now been covered.

“We have recently become aware that several songs performed by Kate Smith contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organization,” the Flyers said in a statement. “As we continue to look into this serious matter, we are removing Kate Smith’s recording of ‘God Bless America’ from our library and covering up the statue that stands outside of our arena.”

  • Barton

    While not necessarily opposed to this, will we also be boycotting Bing Crosby for singing similar songs? And absolutely anyone who sang “Mamie” or “Way Down Upon the Swanee River?” Admittedly, I can’t watch some of my old favorite black and white movies anymore because of so many cringe-worthy stereotypes and language used to describe non-European characters….

    Education and acknowledgement are important, but this also feels like ignoring the past by just tossing it in the corner (or throwing a tarp over it).

    • Mike

      Yep, it’s all a part of an effort to whitewash history. By erasing historical figures from public consciousness, we can pretend that our history is better than it actually is.

      The pc burka on Kate is unintentionally hilarious. That which yesterday was mundane is now so awful that it must be covered with a black tarp. Cultural Stalinism at its finest.

      • Rob

        It’s the whitewashing of history that’s been the problem. Kate Smith will still be remembered, but she’ll be remembered with an asterisk. There’s nothing PC about a warts n’ all treatment of historical figures; very few people deserve monuments – as this situation clearly attests.

        • Mike

          Covering a statue of someone who occupied a place of honor just yesterday is not a “warts and all” treatment. It’s public relations panic for the dumbest of reasons: ignorance of the pervasiveness of things like racism in our past.

          Smith was guilty of nothing more than the garden-variety racism that was deeply rooted in the America of the not-so-distant past. By singling out individuals from that past for not living up to the standards we deem acceptable today, we are engaging in crass, ahistorical revisionism. It would be much more intellectually honest to leave the statue as a reminder that all things human are fallible.

          • Jay T. Berken

            “It would be much more intellectually honest to leave the statue as a reminder that all things human are fallible.”

            That is why there are Hitler and Mussolini statues all over Europe “as a reminder that all things human are fallible”…which there are not. This country cannot and will not come to grips with their past and would rather wash over having a conversation with the idolization of having a statue of a person with a checkered past and removing it. I do not know this lady nor do I care to learn about someone which is truly insignificant as she is, but if I were an organization of a sport with a very spotty past of racism, I applause them for at least looking to be open.

      • wjc

        //Cultural Stalinism at its finest.

        I’m not sure this is quite the right comparison. Invoking Stalinism would imply that this is happening because of the person’s political unsuitability, which isn’t the case. Adding “cultural” attempts to modify that, but I’m not sure that works.

        Personally, I have no problem with jettisoning the casual racism of the past. I don’t have to watch Holiday Inn ever again.

        We are not erasing this stuff from our past. We are seeing it, evaluating it and realizing that this person should not continue to be honored. We are adding to the history, not deleting it.

        • Mike

          Covering and removal is not addition. It’s deletion.

          Addition would be adding a plaque noting that the standards of Kate Smith’s time are not the ones of today.

          • wjc

            So you would require that the Flyers keep the statue even if they want to get rid of it? That doesn’t seem right either. Get rid of the statue and just have a plaque?

    • John

      “will we also be boycotting Bing Crosby for singing similar songs?”

      I think we should have the conversation, yes. I don’t know where the line should be – as a middle class white dude from MN, I’m certainly not qualified to be the deciding vote.

      I do think that ignoring the past would be to leave things as they currently are and keep having her version of the song sung, pretend she hadn’t made some blatantly racist recordings (historical context aside). Covering with a tarp, as an acknowledgement that this discussion needs to happen doesn’t seem unreasonable. It’s not removing the statue in a permanent way – that may or may not come later, depending on how the discussion goes.

  • chlost

    Ironic that the statue of her is covered with some sort of black material. smh