The Star Spangled Banner, hailed by some non-American netizens as one of the most beautiful national anthems ever made due to its splendid harmony and rich history. However, what does the iconic anthem really symbolize to every American?
Historically speaking, it was Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old Georgetown lawyer who penned this quintessential American poem and attached it to a familiar melody. He was detained by the British and witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13-14, 1814. Unsure of the outcome of the battle, he looked towards Fort McHenry dreading to see the British Union Jack flying over the fort. Instead, he saw the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ proudly flying and realized that the brave Americans had been victorious.
Notwithstanding the pride that the anthem exudes in the country’s citizenry, there are still some who backlashes its original concept especially to the African Americans. Some of them argued that there were verses in the anthem that were purposely omitted due to its racist stance. Hence, they deemed the whole anthem as not just mere musical atrocity but as well as intellectual and moral too.
Recently, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has willingly immersed himself into controversy by refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States. In an exclusive interview after his game, he explained his action as “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Not surprisingly, he was not the first and only athlete who used his popularity with same platform. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson, would simply be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time were it not for the color of his skin and the special circumstances of his career. He wrote in his autobiography I Never Had It Made, “There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.” Years later, Martin Luther King Jr. would honor Robinson as a “legend and a symbol” who “challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration.”
Indeed, The Star Spangled Banner elicits diverse feelings from the people of America. Although surely to most, this iconic hymn emanates heartfelt patriotism, still it is inevitable for some who think that they belong to the minority, feel oppressed by it. You can decide for yourself if what historically transpired and written 200 years ago should affect your perception about this beautiful iconic anthem. Nonetheless, never forget that the national anthem symbolizes unity for America. Singing it should be meaningful and heartfelt.
Let us know what you think.
Deric Muhammad, Houston-based activist, will be on the show and he will share his thoughts about the controversies with regard to the African Americans and The Star Spangled Banner.
You don’t want to miss this show! Save the date – September 30, 2016 1PM-2PM at Al Rucker Show!