Forgive me for dragging you kicking and screaming back in to your middle school Kentucky history class, but I believe facts are important, and many people make the mistake of participating in arguments and debates without the benefits of the facts. As important as I think the thumbnail sketch of the above historical moments are, I'd wager most of you didn't learn about any of that in school. And even with these facts, Ed Hamilton's 8-foot bronze sculpture of York will over look the Ohio River in 2003, civil rights legislation passes, D.W. Griffith is still considered to be the innovative father of film grammar, UK basketball and Coach Rupp are legends, the Kentucky Derby is the most exciting and most watched two minutes in sports and somebody changed the original lyrics to "My Old Kentucky Home." But even though I get a little choked up on senior night when local TV cuts to a close up of the wildcat seniors, including the African Americans, with tears streaming down their faces, I know it's not the song that's making me misty eyed. And I know quite a few people would consider me ungrateful for being even slightly critical of an institution which awarded me an honorary degree, but I'm equally critical of another Lexington institution's handling of its Jefferson Davis treasures and they awarded me an honorary doctorate too. I consider myself a part of both of these great schools so I believe that gives me the right to be critical of "us." In 1997 the Virginia senate voted to remove "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" as its state song because of lyrical references to "darkeys" and "old massa." Florida legislators tried but failed, to revoke state song status from Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home," also because of a lyrical reference to "darkeys." In the original lyrics of Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home" the second line is "'Tis summer, the darkies are gay." I don't know of any organized attempt at revoking our state song nor do I know when "darkies" was replaced with "people" in what is now advertised as the words to our state song. Clearly the most difficult thing to talk about in Kentucky is race. People's capacity to talk around it continually amazes me. Many well-meaning people would like to pretend as if racism doesn't exist and that the mere mention of it is unnecessarily bringing up the past. Yet the same people, almost in the same breath talk about the importance of tradition. Nobody can change the past, but I think it's important that we learn from it. It was only 30 years or so ago on UK's campus when a certain fraternity would celebrate Old South weekend by parading around on campus on horseback dressed as Confederate soldiers. And prior to the annual Sharecroppers Ball they would parade down town to the courthouse and declare their secession from the university by replacing Old Glory with the Stars and Bars. Of course the ball continued its nostalgic notion of authenticity by featuring an all-black service staff and first-rate black entertainers. During this same era it has been noted that when UK played Ole Miss, it was impossible to tell which fans were which due to the number of Confederate flags being waved in the stands. We've clearly come a long way since those days and the success of UK athletics in the post-Rupp era has clearly benefited from the participation of African American athletes, but this isn't about sports, or race or tradition. It's about a song, right? A song written in 1853, 10 years before the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in states in rebellion against the union, which we now know didn't include Kentucky. It would be two more years before the 13th Amendment was ratified, thus freeing some of my very own relatives. In spite of the often falsely perpetuated "happy slave" image of our Bluegrass state, when Congress passed a militia act that allowed freed slaves and free blacks to join the Union army, this most certainly contributed to the record number of African American Kentuckians who enlisted with the Union. You can decide for yourself if one has anything to do with the other. I honestly believe that it's a recruiting disadvantage for an institution to not fully divest itself from all vestiges of racism. Even the Pope has apologized for the church's role in slavery. I believe it's an additional disadvantage to celebrate anything that can be misconstrued as insensitive to other people that the institution purports to want in its family. I don't have any power, because I'm just a poet, but I wonder what would happen if African American athletes knew all of the facts and dared to question some of them. I'm not suggesting a boycott by any means, but I think if Jack Givens, Valerie Still, Sam Bowie, Jamal Mashburn, Derrick Anderson, Derrick Ramsey or any African American athlete at UK responsible for the banners that adorn the ceiling in Rupp Arena or the massive amounts of hardware in the trophy cases had objected en masse or signed a petition to replace the song, many of their most loyal/rabid fans, myself included, would eagerly add their name to the list.