The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom,
While the birds make music all the day.
Stephen C. Foster 1826 – 1864
Steven C Foster, known as the father of American popular music wrote “My Old Kentucky Home” in 1853. Foster was a Northerner yet many of his songs had Southern themes. He only saw the South once, on a riverboat trip to New Orleans, taken the year before he wrote the song.
This classic song is actually a lament, the mournful story of a slave sold “down the river” from Kentucky, presumably to work in the horrific conditions of a large sugar cane plantation where the work was backbreaking and the life expectancy of a slave was short.
Foster’s own life was short. He tried to be a professional songwriter in a world where musical copyrights and composer’s royalties were virtually nonexistent. He died broke at age 37, yet millions of twenty-first century Americans are still able to sing along whenever many of his songs are played.
The state of Kentucky adopted “My Old Kentucky Home” as the official state song on March 19, 1928. This is the kind of thing state legislatures are good at– choosing state songs, state birds, state flowers, etc.; and the kind of thing they should concentrate on rather than passing legislation that tries to limit freedom and run people’s lives in the name of protecting us from some “menace,” or protecting some sort of “rights” that don’t actually exist.
It wasn’t until 1986, when a group of Japanese students visiting the Kentucky General Assembly sang “My Old Kentucky Home” that Representative Carl Hines (the only black member of the House at the time) decided that the lyrics “convey connotations of racial discrimination that are not acceptable.” Later that week he sponsored a bill that changed the lyrics to “‘Tis summer, the people are gay.” Carl Hines was black. Carl Hines was offended, ergo all black people in the state of Kentucky were being insulted and the legislature had to do the important work of rewriting one word from a 133 year old song.
This is exactly the kind of law that state legislatures should NOT focus on. I understand that words can be offensive and I feel badly that Hines had his little feelings hurt, but there is no unalienable right not to be offended. Sadly, this bogus concept is being used every day by politicians, educators, regulators and bureaucrats all over the world to squelch everyone’s REAL right to freedom of speech. The best way to protect individual rights is to do just that. The best way to erode the rights of the individual is to focus on pseudo rights of small groups, and convince people that their rights must be subordinated for the “greater good” of — pick one: Humanity, Women, Blacks, Hispanics, Gay / Lesbian / Transgendered, Illegal Aliens, Muslims, Occupy Wall Street, Acorn, Act Up, The Brookings Institution . . . or any other Liberty destroying group funded by George Soros. Advancing the rights of the collective– any collective, no matter how puny, only results in diminishing the rights of everyone while advancing the power of the state.
The worst thing about these petty tyrant politically correct police is that they now instantly resort to ad hominem attacks. They can’t logically argue their nonexistent case for everyone to jettison free speech lest they utter a trigger word and offend anyone with a bee in their bonnet or an axe to grind or who works in any Department of Women’s and /or Ethnic Studies, so they scream that you are a RACIST! Okay, the Women’s Studies gals will call you a racist, misogynist, raping, hateful pig and a lot of other stuff punctuated with frequent “F-bombs.” But name calling is not the same as presenting a logical argument.
I fully expect to be attacked for writing this blog post by the kind of people who get offended that Stephen C. Foster used the word “darkies” in 1853. They are the same kind of people who are appalled that Mark Twain used the word “nigger” in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1885. Never mind that both men were anti-slavery in a time when standing up for freedom was as dangerous an activity as it is today. Forget the overall message of the song and the book. Someone was or might possibly be offended. Ban the speech! Eradicate the word from the language and crucify the person who uses it. Expel them from school, fire them, take away their basketball team, smear them in the media, have Soros hire protesters to stand outside their homes! Unless, of course, they are Chris Rock or Dave Chapelle, those dudes are freakin’ hilarious.
I say “Bring it on!” Call me whatever vile names you want. Foster and Twain were not afraid and neither am I. If you want to attack me personally simply for pointing out that words like darkie and nigger were once common in popular music and classical literature, go ahead. I’ll just consider the source. Scream about my “white privilege” and I’ll tell you about my dad and how he grew up dirt poor without any electricity or indoor plumbing. Curse me and threaten violence and I’ll pray for you.
Years ago I was working on a video project for a large retailer. The purpose of the video was to promote the use of their in-house credit card. They had already produced some collateral materials to go along with the video. In the initial meeting I was asked to look at a poster supporting the campaign. The middle-aged white guy who was heading the project asked me what I noticed about the poster. It was not well designed. There was a headline, some copy, and the images of playing cards. The proportions of the graphics were slightly off. I wasn’t sure what he was expecting me to say, so I said something about the fact that I kind of liked the playing card motif. Then, smugly self satisfied, he said, “Notice that there are no spades on the poster.” It took me a full three seconds to put that statement in context. No spades . . . get it? He was actually worried that black people might somehow be offended that there are more than three suits in a deck of playing cards. He was actually proud of how sensitive he was being.
Years later I told the story to a black colleague and asked what was more irritating; the fact that there are spades in a deck of cards, or the fact that some moronic corporate executive thought she would be outraged by a poster that had the ace of spades on it. She told me it was the latter. She also told me that she wasn’t offended by the fact that her high school had been named after Robert E. Lee. How can it be that a black woman was not insulted and irreparably hurt by the word spade, or Robert, or Lee? Some professional race baiters and shakedown artists would tell you it’s because she isn’t “black enough.” Trust me, she’s black enough. She named her daughter Sh’Lexus.
The poster incident took place back in the days of VHS tape and the lunacy and brain washing has not abated, it has only increased. Now we live in a time where the conventional “wisdom” has devolved to include the concepts that only white people are capable of racism, and only words that are approved by our politically correct political class can be spoken.
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.