“Everywhere you look in American history, racism coexists with something noble.” This is the conclusion of Michael A. Fletcher, senior writer at the race-baiting blog The Undefeated, a subsidiary of ESPN. What prompted his dismissal of America as the land of the free was the recent news that the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Yankees have dispatched the traditional playing of Kate Smith's “God Bless America” based on the unearthing of two race-related songs she performed the better part of a century ago.
In the early 1930s, Smith (whose statue in Philadelphia was covered up and since removed) recorded the Jim Crow era song, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.” Among the lyrics were: “Someone had to pick the cotton, someone had to slave and be able to sing, that’s why darkies were born.” In the movie Hello, Everybody!, Smith sang the song “Pickaninny Heaven,” which also featured racist language. So the hockey team and the baseball team banished Smith's voice from their playing venues....leading to Fletcher's indictment of America as overtly racist:
“I like baseball and, despite so much, I love my country, but I’ve never been one to stand and belt out 'God Bless America' at the ballpark. Somehow, it always feels like some intolerant attitudes are lurking behind the beautiful ode to our nation, especially when it is being sung by 40,000-plus beer-drinking revelers.”
Fletcher said he felt the same wariness when he walks past homes displaying the American flag, or when he sees a pickup truck bearing the flag. “When layered thickly, displays of patriotism can feel threatening, especially if you’re black.”
These inflammatory remarks weren't sufficient enough for Fletcher to make his point, so he linked to a 2016 NPR story displaying a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from 1976 capturing a desegregation protest in Boston. An African-American was attacked in that scene by a white man wielding a U.S. flag.
The Yankees had been playing Smith's “God Bless America” since 9/11 and it was more than half a century for the Flyers. They did what they had to do, Fletcher added:
"I am more interested in seeing teams create an inclusive present and future — by hiring more diverse front-office staff, doing business with a more diverse mix of vendors, investing more in the cities they play in — than in the endless task of trying to exorcise racist demons from a past littered with them.”
“Everywhere you look in American history, there is racism both flagrant and internalized. More often than you might think, it coexists with something noble,” Fletcher wrote, using this isolated story to make a larger case about a so-called “racist” nation.
Part of that history included President Woodrow Wilson trying to resegregate the civil service and FDR opposing an anti-lynching bill. Fletcher also blames African-Americans for contributing to racist attitudes, including “Paul Robeson, the star black athlete, turned singer, actor and activist who was woke long before the term was coined[.]” He also recorded “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.”
Fletcher says we're no better people today than those from days past. “One thing we do know is how pervasive overt racism was at the time, and how much its progeny continues to infect our society today.” His version of God Bless America is one where people are swearing allegiance to a land that is not free and the "storm clouds" gathering are those of racism.