With Colin Kaepernick and several other individual professional athletes and teams kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and other injustices, an unintended consequence arose: the reexamination and scrutiny of the National Anthem.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I only knew about the first stanza of the Star-Spangled Banner most of my life. I believe that is also the case of most Americans because it is the only stanza sung at national, military, and sporting events. That first stanza conjures up a feeling of patriotism ending with, “…and the home of the brave”. In fact, all four stanzas end that way.
However, the stanza that’s been reexamined and scrutinized lately is the third stanza. This stanza reminds the colonizers how vulgar slaves are and that they must vow to never provide them shelter should they run away. In fact, they should terrorize the runaway slave. This stanza also reminds the colonizer that they should never save the slave from death or dying.
So yes, we’ve been bamboozled, hoodwinked, led astray, run amuck into saluting a vile song that was set to the music of a popular British drinking song since it was officially adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931. It has been nearly 100 years of foolishness with this song and it is way past time for us to stop saluting this foolishness.
I fully understand that members of the military are mandated to salute the flag and the anthem; however, the overwhelming majority of us are not. Thus, when we’re saluting this anthem, it’s totally voluntary. I’m not suggesting anyone take a knee during the song or make any kind of scene whatsoever. But I don’t think it’s asking too much of anyone to simply not place a hand over the heart or maybe even not remove hats or other head-wear.
We have our own unofficial anthem that I believe we should make official. Lift Every Voice and Sing has been referred to as the “Black National Anthem” by the NAACP since 1919 (the song was written in 1900). The tune is as beautiful as the lyrics. It would be a serious “boss” move if every Black vocalist who agreed to performing the Star-Spangled Banner, agreed only under the condition of performing Lift Every Voice and Sing as well. I will not disparage one of our national treasures- Gladys Knight for agreeing to perform the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl this year in Atlanta; however, it would be nice to hear her perform Lift Every Voice and Sing in the civil rights capital of the nation and the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the King Center.
I think two things we all could do to help right this absurd history: First, stop referring to Star-Spangled Banner as the National Anthem and just call it the Star-Spangled Banner; second, start referring to Lift Every Voice and Sing as the Black National Anthem.