FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT/WAVE) - On Friday, Senator Mitch McConnell stopped in Bowling Green to with the owner of Taz Trucking who received PPE loans from McConnell’s CARES Act.
While speaking to a small crowd, the senate majority leader commented on the controversy surrounding the playing of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ at the 2020 Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky anthem, written by Stephen Foster, was initially written about a Kentucky slave being shipped off to the deep South, yearning to be back with his family.
Senator McConnell was asked: “Do you feel that ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ should be played at this weekend’s Derby?” He responded by saying “I do,” as the room full of people he was speaking to broke out into applause. “In fact I called the president of Churchill Downs today and recommended that they play “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Throughout its history, people have protested the song. WAVE 3 News explained that Civil Rights protests in 1967 focused on the Kentucky Derby that year. Two decades later, the second line of the song, which contained a racial slur, was changed as part of the work of State Representative Carl Hines, the House’s only black member at the time.
“Like so many monuments and traditions and embedded things that we’ve held close, they’re almost so close, they’re so far within us, that we can’t see or hear them,” Emily Bingham, a historian who has studied the meaning of the song said. “We just don’t notice, we don’t think, and we unconsciously reproduce what is actually a painful and traumatizing, triggering experience.”
Senator McConnell mentioned the changing of the lyrics at the event on Friday.
“It used to have some language in it that I think could have been viewed as racially insensitive. That was dropped out what 30 or 40 years ago? Way back,” Senator McConnell explained.
He went on to say that it is a Kentucky tradition that should not be taken away.
“It’s very much apart of our culture and tradition and absolutely should be played at the Kentucky Derby as well as sporting events that people feel that’s appropriate,” Senator McConnell said.
Ultimately, Churchill Downs officials decided to go forward with playing “My Old Kentucky Home.” However, track officials say the playing of the song during the post parade will be preceded by a moment of silence and reflection.