[Dixielandjazz] Re: Darktown Strutters Ball

LARRY'S Signs and Large Format Printing sign.guy at charter.net
Tue Mar 15 11:23:13 PST 2005

Some people are quick to take offense at anything.  I don't know who wrote
Darktown but I really don't think that it was offensive at the time or even
the color of the composer.  The point being that I hear some Blacks call
each other names that would get me killed.  Many of them seem to feel that
they "own" the words kind of like a copyright.  Remember that at one time
the N word was politically correct and that we are on a journey to accept
each other and there are bumps in the road.  Most of us really don't want to
offend anyone no matter what their religion or color.  Having said all that
I'm really against changing history or glossing over what has happened.
That includes the names of tunes.  Please note that Arnold Schwartzenegger
wouldn't change his name.  In German it's really offensive.

Maybe we should have a renaming contest.  Let's see it could be "The night
the lights went out in my part of town dance".  Somehow it doesn't have the
same ring.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Charles Suhor" <csuhor at zebra.net>
To: "Bill Haesler" <bhaesler at bigpond.net.au>
Cc: "dixieland jazz mail list" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 12:12 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Re: Darktown Strutters Ball

On Mar 14, 2005, at 10:53 PM, Bill Haesler wrote:
> I was unaware, from this long distance, that "Darktown Strutters' Ball
> could
> be offensive to black audiences. Ella Fitzgerald and Fats Waller
> recorded it.
> However, I bow to your knowledge on this one. You are on-the-spot and
> have
> observed it....I am simply amazed to learn that the song "Darktown
> Strutters' Ball is
> offence to some Blacks,

Thanks for your straightforward comments, Bill. On this topic, I can’t
always tell when list mates are being literal or ironic. I hope it’s
the latter.

Unpacking the “Darktown” word, it’s not surprising in America that the
word today carries strong resonance of “Darkies,” a condescending (at
best) name for slaves and later, for free blacks in Stephen Foster’s
and others’ songs and in literature, movies, and common parlance. This
is powerful stuff. If folks just want to say that Black Americans today
“shouldn’t” be offended, they have an arguable point but I think it’s
arrogant to dismiss others’ sense of their own history and place in
American culture.

The difficult question is, which claims of offensiveness have moral
force, and which are capricious? I think the “Darktown” complaint is
right on, whereas, e.g., a recent demand for an apology for a speaker
who used the word “niggardly” (a big word for “cheap,” of course, with
etymology in 14th century Middle English) was unfounded and

Claiming a general contempt for “Political Correctness,” as some have
done, instead of considering each case of offensive language on its own
merit is another way of saying, “I don’t want to deal with this.” PC is
a genuine category of analysis but it has itself become a political
tool, a big broom for sweeping away any concerns about bias by people
of color, women, gays, and others whose claims are uncomfortable to us.

Charlie Suhor

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