Shifting language, ignorance lead to deeming songs racist

Those who claim that Kate Smith sang “racist” songs in the 1930s leave out these key facts.

First, language constantly changes, like fashion and weather. Words like “darky,” “colored” and “pickaninny” are obviously offensive today. But were they back then? Everything I’ve read shows they were part of everyday speech used within most black communities in the 1920s and 1930s. The word “black” was offensive back then!

Many Jews once found “Jew” offensive. They wanted to be called “Hebrew” or “Israelite” instead, as in “Hebrew Old Age Center” (now Seashore Gardens). Should Jews today be offended by words we preferred years ago, but which are not “correct” today?

Second, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” was a powerful call for justice — not white supremacy. The song refers to many well-known Bible verses about ending unjust oppression. They include “the balance is wrong,” “fight that old Devil,” and “shout about Gabriel’s horn.” The final verse offered blacks hope that their suffering would end with freedom and deliverance — as it did with the Hebrew slaves of the Bible. They were born “to stoke that old train that would bring God’s children to green pastures.”

Black civil rights pioneer Paul Robeson proudly sang that same song.

If alive today, Kate Smith could explain why she need not apologize for this, or any song she sang. Instead, we owe her apologies for raising the last three generations of Americans so ignorant of our true history, the Bible and basic critical thinking skills.

Seth Grossman

Atlantic City

Catfish thwarts duckling rescue

Someone told me that baby ducklings were trapped in a storm drain on Devon Court in Galloway Township. I went to see what I could do and saw four or five ducklings swimming around at the bottom of the storm drain. I waited for my husband, Tom, who returned home from the gym in less than an hour. He called City Hall and they replied that they couldn’t come out for two hours due to an emergency they were handling. My husband and I brainstormed to try and figure out how we could get the ducklings out ourselves.

I took our neighbor to the storm drain to see the ducklings, only to find that there was a large catfish in the drain and only one duckling left. I ran back home to get my husband and we went back to the site and together we pulled the storm drain lid off. My husband climbed down the drain and rescued the one duckling that was there and reunited it with its mommy duck.

It wound up being a feel good/not so good story.

Susan Henshaw

Galloway Township

Pedestrians, cyclists make A.C. streets stressful, less safe

I have been a permanent resident in the South Inlet area of Atlantic City for going on six years. On a daily basis I drive from Gardener’s Basin to various locations located on the other side the city by way of Atlantic Avenue. I often find people driving a bike down the middle of Atlantic, going against the traffic headed toward me. And if that is not enough to keep you alert, then you have many people walking across the road whether or not they have the green light to cross, road which in most cases they do not.

People even push baby strollers while talking on their cell phones in the middle of the streets.

I think the police force does an outstanding job overall in Atlantic City, but it’s time to make streets like Atlantic Avenue safe. They should start enforcing jaywalking with fines or more people will start being hit by cars.

The drive through the city could be a lot less stressful for everyone.

Joe Karslo

Atlantic City

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