A couple of weeks ago I pointed out a curious aspect of the rave review in the New York Times for the new smash hit play in the tradition of Hamilton as being beloved by deep-pocketed Wall Streeters: The Lehman Trilogy. Even though the first act is about the Jewish immigrant Lehman Brothers arriving in Alabama in the 1840s and starting their eponymous business buying and selling with cotton plantations, the NYT review doesn’t mention anything about … you know … slavery.The Lehman brothers owned seven slaves, which sounds positively modest for a wealthy family in the Old South. Far more significantly, the brothers were investment bankers before leaving the South, and were no doubt quite useful to the slave economy which rewarded them so greatly.
Steve calls our attention to the gap:
It’s not like the Lehman Brothers were Kate Smith... Have some perspective, people! The Lehman Brothers just got rich off slavery. They didn’t go so far as to sing songs.I confess I didn't previously know of Kate Smith, the latest casualty of our ongoing cultural cleansing:
The NHL's Philadelphia Flyers on Friday joined baseball's New York Yankees in halting the playing of Kate Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" at home games because of lyrics in other songs the late singer recorded.
The Flyers also covered up a statue of Smith that has stood at Philadephia's sports complex since 1987.
“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.”But watching this video it's hard not to fall in love with her:
A profoundly different country and people.
Turns out "That's Why Darkies Were Born" is actually a lament in the tradition of "Old Man River", portraying blacks as shouldering the burdens of the white man's world while--early example of that favored Trope of the Narrative--teaching him how to be joyous.
You have to wonder if it isn't that "God Bless America" is simply too offensive for the diverse present, and the profiteers have found a pretext. It isn't the imagined horror of the second video, but the unrestrained (by guilt or geld) patriotic joy and vigor of the first that they're coming for, it's that that chills them.
The real measure of privilege in this country is that astounding gap between what's allowed Kate's lineage and what's allowed to the Lehmans and others.