The National Football League took a knee on racism yesterday. Some argue the league is making a patriotic stand. I disagree with that. The NFL is bowing to white racists who either are not aware of just how racist a tune The Star Spangled Banner is or know, and hold African-Americans and their experience in utter contempt.
I lean toward the reaction of white America to Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the Anthem as contempt. I do so because of my own experience. I made my displeasure known on social media at the NFL’s new edict concerning player behavior during the National Anthem. I received many comments like, “I would expect that from a Jew.” Bigotry is not limited to one’s race.
The league plans on levying a fine on teams whose players do not stand during the playing of the song. The NFL Commissioner has cast the team owners in the role as overseers who are to administer the whip in an attempt to stifle player’s protests of a song that glorifies the killing of slaves.
The NFL shows no backbone.
The NFL has been good to many African-Americans. The league is a pathway for many minorities out of abject poverty and is involved in our communities with many charities. They are a very generous organization.
My hometown is impoverished. The Chicago Bears Charity, Bears Care, bought school supplies for children whose families struggle. They asked for nothing in return, and they were humble about their giving and did not make a big production out of their kindness for the local TV cameras. They help raise funds for hospitals, provide scholarships for worthy students who need help, and even go to help when natural disasters strike.
All those activities are admirable, and there should be more such work by businesses. That said, I cannot sanction the League’s pandering to a sentiment that marginalizes African-Americans. The NFL should stand up for the players.
How the Star Spangled Banner is racist
Most Americans know the opening line to the Anthem. It is a rousing battle song, depicting the flag standing tall despite the siege against Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Many people sing the line with gusto and are filled with patriotic pride.
Oh say can you see,
By the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed,
At the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched,
Were so gallantly streaming.
And thy rocket's red glare,
Thy bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that spangled star banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
How many know the following stanzas? Not knowing the other verses of the song is probably a good thing. They are racist and pro-slavery, expressing the national sentiment toward African-Americans in 1812. Slavery was the accepted norm in 1812, and the State of Maryland, the birthplace of the song, was sympathetic to the South. The Union Army is the only reason Maryland did not side with the Confederate States in the Civil War.
Here are the lyrics beyond the first line that are a testimony to our shameful past.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave
In the war of 1812, the high British losses on the battlefield. A unit called The British established a regiment called The Colonial Marines, which was made up of runaway slaves. The British promised them their freedom if they would take up the English cause. The slaves were fighting for their freedom, as well as the freedom of all slaves in the Colonies.
The Colonial Marines were the first to fight against slavery in the United States. Francis Scott Key, the author of the Star Spangled Banner, expressed the sentiment of many whites in his day. A Washington, DC lawyer, he is said to have wanted to show more “Christian kindness” toward slaves, and ship them back to Africa.
The fact that slaves fought against America stuck in his craw, and he penned the stanza celebrating the death of the slaves, who many also viewed as British “hirelings” on the battlefield.
However, we do not sing those other stanzas.
That is the most common argument Colin Kaepernick and his stand against respecting the National Anthem. No, we do not sing the lyrics, but that does not mean they no longer exist. They do exist, and it is cynical to make the descendants of slaves respect a song that glorifies the killing of their forefathers who spilled their blood to try and gain freedom.
There are solutions
Go back to the time before 9/11/2001, when teams stayed in the locker room and took the field after the anthem.
Stop playing the Anthem at games. It is not a sacred song and singing America The Beautiful, a song that does not glamorize war and calls for unity is a far better selection.
As a fix, the NFL is looking to punish those who have a legitimate bone to pick with the song. I do not blame them and support their protest.
If we truly cared about some of our Nation’s shameful past, and want to try and are sincere about making amends for our history, we would get a new anthem. Killing people who fought for their freedom is not an American ideal, at least it should not be in 2018.
For those who can claim, “I didn’t know,” as an excuse for their outrage, now you have the story. If you still are hostile at those who support taking a knee, then you are showing contempt for those who do not want to honor a song that glorifies killing slaves.
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