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Why Would a Black Person Not Stand During the National Anthem?

Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry –


Wallace Mabry

Wallace Mabry

Clearly, we have some pro-Trump, anti-sitting down or kneeling Black folks in the community with respect to the playing/singing of the national anthem. The grumbling from those we hear from and read about claim to experience a sense of gross disrespect to the country, the flag, and to America. They rest their cases on flimsy explanations and the fact they are “Americans.”

For the uninformed, let me state here most explicitly and without trepidation, that the author of the “Star Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key, was an aristocrat and city prosecutor in Washington, D.C.

Key penned the poem or verses, originally entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” during The War of 1812 where, after he had assumed the Americans had lost the war, he looked out that morning from Fort McHenry and he saw the flag flying.

What is significant about Key’s poem or verses is that somehow, curiously enough, the third stanza of Key’s poem or verses has been left out. It reads as follows:

“And where is that band who so vauntingly


That the havoc of war and battle’s


A home and a country should leave us no


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.”

The missing stanza refers to the fact the British had put together a battalion of runaway slaves and called them the “Colonial Marines.” Key, who was a lieutenant during the Battle of Bladensburg (1814), ran into a battalion of Colonial Marines and Key’s troops were beaten by the Marines, by the very same Black folks Key despised, and the British went on to capture and burn Washington, the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building, and the White House. Key fled for his life.

Key’s message in that missing stanza is, for all intents and purposes, “that the blood of all the former slaves and ‘hirelings’ on the battlefield will wash away the pollution of the British invaders.”

Key, without a doubt, was singing “that some Black soldiers got the best of him a few weeks earlier.”

A final word on Key: Key supported sending free Blacks (not slaves) back to Africa. He was pro-slavery, anti-Black and anti-abolitionist. “The fact is ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is the most racist, pro-slavery, anti-Black song in the American lexicon.”

Perhaps the greatest detriment to Black people is that we do not research for ourselves. We see an occurrence and we read into the occurrence what we are told to read into it. We place very little importance into finding out the historical basis of a thing, and because of that it is no wonder that our progress is at a snail’s pace.

Colin Kaepernick’s sitting, and then kneeling at the playing of the national anthem was and is a legitimate protest in a long series of physical, verbal, and written protests on the same and sundry issues involving Black people in America. While he has been protesting the killing of unarmed Black males by white racist police officers nationwide, his protest has meaning not only in respect to those occurrences in America, but to the broader grievances Black people have concerning our treatment, both historically and currently, in America. Those who complain about coming home and watching a football game without having to witness someone sitting or kneeling during the playing of the national anthem should probably stop watching football and go back to what they had been doing earlier in the day. Either that, or go to the library and catch up on some reading in the history section.

Apparently Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, has, after consulting with his friend, Donald Trump, decided he is going to bench any Dallas player who sits or kneels, which means, of course, that the player who is benched will not get paid. No doubt that will have a financial impact on who chooses to kneel and who stands with his hand over his heart ruing the day Kaepernick caused such a national outcry.

The point, herein, is that Black people are under siege from all angles of society. And, while a great many of us are doing as well as we can under the circumstances, others are doing much better, and improving daily as our networking, our relationships, and increases in our bottom-lines expand. There are, however, a few of us who are “caught between a rock and a hard place.” How can those of us who are Black elected officials, Black spokespersons, and Black writers not take on the responsibilities of which Black people have assigned them through their votes, their following, and consummate readership? One can applaud explanations of the causes and effects of trauma, and follow that all the way back to slavery and the atrocities of that era, which lingers still in the minds and souls of a great many Black people. What we need is change and not just the rhetoric of the process by which it occurs.

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