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Pete McDaniel on Kelly Tilghman

January 16, 2008

I was searching for something to say about the Tilghman affair when I saw this post by reader Emily Brown of Sparta, MI, elsewhere on this blog. She responds to Pete McDaniel's piece in the new Golf World. Pete's piece, the accompanying piece by Bill Fields and Emily's letter are all worth a read. I excerpt here:

I cannot agree more with what he said. It seems that we forget our terrible past and tend to give a pass because "it is just a word". What is even worse than the incident is some of the blogs and things I have read in support of Kelly that say it wasn't a problem, nothing was wrong - why the fuss? Well they should read Pete's column. The very use of the word is a grave indication of at best a lack of racial sensitivity.

I am currently studying William Grant Still as I will be giving a recital this spring with the second half devoted to his work. He is considered to be a great American composer but because he was an African-American he did not receive a proper hearing. One of his works is "And they lynched him on a tree" for double chorus (one black, one white), narrator and orchestra. It is an amazing and disturbing work that tells of a lynching from the people closest to the incident - mother, townfolk,etc. A great recording of this is William Grant Still: Skyward My People Rose by Vocalessence Ensemble Singers. Golf Channel should be required to do a show featuring this or a similar work!

I emailed the Golf Channel and chastised them for their slow and inadequate response. I suggested that both Kelly and their management should receive racial sensitivity training. I just read a news note where they commented that their email was turning in favor of Kelly. I really feel that they just view this as a publicity problem and only gave the suspension because they had to. They are not truly remorseful. Their responses are inadequate and self-serving. They should do what I suggested plus plan a major series on the history of golf and racial discrimination - with the assistance of Pete.

Again, Pete has hit the nail on the head. Please tell Pete to keep his voice strong. The world needs the unvarnished truth!>

Emily, thank you.  I happen to disagree that the Golf Channel sees this simply as a publicity problem or that Kelly does. I believe they take it very seriously.  But without arguing that, your suggestions at least take us beyond the "she should be fired because he was fired" level of debate and address the issue of changing behavior.

I'd recommend another exercise, one I happened on a long time ago in researching a history of Bessie Smith. Read through the Chicago Defender archives for stories on lynchings. They aren't hard to find, from the 1920s to the 1950s. They were, as Pete says, far more frequent and far more recent than most of like to believe.

---Bob Carney