When will we realize that bad things have happened in our history and then decide that we don't need to bury them? Slavery happened but should we hide all the good that was created by those slaves in favor of hiding what actually happened?

Slave culture has infused our entire culture, black and white, more than most people will ever understand. The Blues came from work songs sung on the plantation. This branched off into Jazz. The blues spawned Rock and Roll. (Ask Elvis who he copied. If you can't find Elvis ask Jimmie Page, he knows). The Blues becuase R&B and Soul through Gospel although you might not hear that from listening to J.Lo. or Britney without a trained ear. Rap is the biggest music phenomenon in the world right now. Even our slang, attitudes, fashion and "bling" have a long history in black culture. Many Pentacostal religious services would not be the way they are without black culture. These things have roots that shouldn't be hidden.

So why do we want to bury that reminder of where we have come from? Why can't kids sing "Pick a Bale of Cotton" in a school concert? This is a shared history whether we like to admit it or not and white folks have just as much right to sing it as black folks do. When was the last time you saw Buddy Guy or B.B. King complain that Eric Clapton shouldn't sing the blues? And yet when a predominately white school district sings "Pick a Bale of Cotton" we force them to take it off the concert schedule.

My main beef with it is this. The Blues are about bad things. The lyrics talk about slavery, drinking, killing, etc... And it often seems to glamorize the slave life or even make fun of it. That's what humans do when confronted with a bad situation, they make it funny or they make it overly important. It helps us cope. Well, the blues happened. People did pick cotton. They did sing this song while they worked, it was a work song after all. It is about a hard job that was often made worse by the conditions imposed by white slave owners. But the song doesn't demean black culture, it IS black culture, and by extension OUR culture, so why do we feel we need to bury it?

Now, if the kids were dressed in blackface while performing that is a different story. Then, by all means pull the goddamn song right away! But don't pull it just because of the song, the song isn't racist it is the interpretation that is. How can a song written and performed by black folks and made famous by Huddie Leadbetter be racist? I think we should enjoy the roots of our culture and understand it, not hide it under the rug or hang it in the closet to skeletonize.

Should we stop singing Stagolee, one of the oldest blues ballads, because it glorifies violence within black culture? Did the pimp Lee "Stack Lee" Shelton shoot Billy Lyons on Christmas Night 1896 simply because he touched his Stetson hat and therefore embody todays senseless gang killings? No!!! But the story helps us understand how black and white culture tend to enjoy playing up a good senseless crime. Would "In Cold Blood" have been a popular novel without this public bloodlust, was Capote really that good a writer? No, we just love violence. Why do we sing "On Top of Old Smoky" when we know it is about an Appalacian (probably white) man murdering his lover? Because we like hearing about death for some reason whether the perp is black or white. We like heartache, death, longing, and redemption in our music and in the last 200 years nothing has changed but the scenery.

So don't read too much into the old folk songs. Take them for what they are and don't assume that by singing them today you are demeaning anyones culture. By knowing them you are strengthening black and white culture alike and helping to spawn more cultural innovation from the original source. And learn about them before you try to make them into a basis for a racist argument.