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NJ mayor defends Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America,’ says the song will still be played on the boardwalk: 'Everyone wants to rewrite history'


Not backing down

Waring Abbott/Getty Images

Wildwood, New Jersey, Mayor Ernie Troiano refused to back down when confronted with news that some tri-state neighbors were canning Kate Smith's version of "God Bless America" because of Smith's purported ties to racism.

Wait, what?

Last week, the New York Yankees announced that Smith's version of the song would no longer be played during the seventh-inning stretch.

The Philadelphia Flyers also removed a statue of Smith from outside of the team's arena for the same reason.

The 1931 song, "That's Why Darkies Were Born," is one example that many people perceive as racist, boasting lyrics that read, "Someone had to pick the cotton, someone had to pick the corn, someone had to slave and be able to sing, that's why darkies were born."

People questioned the song's history in the past, with some critics calling it outright racist, and others saying that the song was a satirical take on racism and white supremacy.

Smith also recorded "Pickaninny Heaven," directed at "colored children" who fantasize about frolicking in a place with "great big watermelons," according to the Daily News.

Smith died in 1986.

What is the mayor saying now?

Troiano told "The Dom Giordano Program" Monday that Smith's version of "God Bless America" will continue to play at Wildwood's boardwalk every morning at 11 a.m. local time during the summer months.

"It's an Irving Berlin patriotic song that has nothing to do with anything other than America," Troiano said. "I can assure you that my conversation with the mayor of North Wildwood, Patrick Rosenello, is, we have no intentions of removing it."

"I'm just a small-town mayor and I look at what's happening to the world, and it's amazing how everyone wants to rewrite history," he added. "No one wants to allow history to be an educator to help us improve in the future. We're going to change history and what we don't like, we're just going to erase."

Troiano pointed the finger at the overly politically correct world.

"[T]he world's gotten so politically correct and so afraid that they're going to offend somebody," he insisted. "The song is greater than anything. So you know what? It'll continue to play in Wildwood."

July 4, 2012 11:01 AM Kate Smith ~ God Bless America ! 19th St. N.Wildwood N.J. Boardwalkwww.youtube.com

What else?

Some area residents and visitors to the Jersey Shore beach voiced their support for Troiano's decision.

Philadelphia resident Ronald Watt told KYW-TV that he didn't feel Smith "was racist at all."

Carlissa Bell told KYW that he who is without sin should cast the first stone.

"If we hold her to the stake for her songs from something that was in the 1930s — and even now; she's dead and gone — then we're going to be held accountable when all is said and done," Bell said. "It's like you're casting judgment on her just because you may sin differently."

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