Regarding Anne Midgette’s April 28 Critic’s Notebook essay, “It’s not about the music, but the symbol” [Arts & Style]:
For 80 years, Kate Smith’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” has been an inspiring expression of American patriotism. Ending the tradition of playing this iconic recording at New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers games because two of the artist’s many hundreds of recordings have lyrics that by today’s standards are racially insensitive seems a very unfocused way to combat the serious scourge of racism.
The American journey, past and present, is littered with celebrated individuals and organizations (including Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League) with far more serious and lamentable records on racial equality. It is also grossly unfair to Smith, a known advocate of tolerance as well as a tireless promoter of war bonds in World War II.
Brian G. Crowe, Rockville
The Yankees have banned “God Bless America” because Kate Smith sang racist songs. I will not judge history by today’s standards. She was a popular singer singing popular songs. How will some of today’s singers be judged in the future? Perhaps baseball should look into its own historical mirror and explain why it should not also be banned because of its racist past.
If we ban history, how can we ever learn from it? What purpose does banning a good song serve just because you do not care for the actions of the singer?
Carol A. Compton, Indian Head