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Protesting the National Anthem

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Protesting the National Anthem

Reginald Webb, Times Staff

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I applaud San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the National Anthem to bring attention to racism and police brutality.

It has stirred up controversy and inspired others to use the National Anthem as their platform of protest.  He has been subjected to a great deal of scrutiny, harsh criticism in social media, and death threats.

Many regard the National Anthem as something that should be off limits as far as protests are concerned. They consider it a tribute to our troops primarily and as such offensive to not stand for it.

While I understand how someone could reach this conclusion, it is a mistake to demonize and regard Kaepernick as anti-American.

The Anthem actually is a good platform for protest. It is a tribute to a flag symbolizing freedom, liberation and resolve. The lyrics not included in the song we all know begin to reveal the hypocrisy of what we think the National Anthem represents and its writer, Frances Key’s avarice.

Key’s poem delights in the killing of slaves who had signed up to fight with the British in exchange for their freedom. Key, an anti-abolitionist feels the slaves are treasonous and should simply remain obedient as subjects. The anthem Americans are supposed to show so much public pride for glamorizes the killing of slaves.

So those amongst us so offended and angry at Kaepernick should also appreciate the humility of him and other black Americans who have been asked to celebrate this song, their patriotism, and allegiance, in spite of its offensive lyrics glamorizing the killing of slaves.

These slaves were fighting for the British in exchange for their freedom. They had tried this with America only to be betrayed in the Revolutionary War. Frances Key sees them as treasonous and enemies of the state deserving slaughter, traitors fighting to be liberated from bondage of about 200 years at that time.

So as we fast-forward to the present and witness the National Anthem being used to protest racism and police brutality. It is a fitting platform for protest. Like the war that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, the flag will survive this current peaceful debate and conversation. Mutual respect and understanding will hopefully emerge from this controversy.

Likewise, the loudest critics who make statements like “leave the country if you do not like it,” as if somehow Kaepernick must be satisfied with the status quo might begin to respect the views of others. Should he have no concern and be thankful he was adopted or satisfied with his personal wealth and accept society as it is?  The attitude of those so offended by his actions assume it is more their country then his. Should not those who can stand for our flag and beam with pride understand the need for those that do not feel that pride? Why would they not want the same for those who do not feel the pride? They cannot simply fake it to keep the peace.

The underlying message is the indictment that blacks and other racial minorities in America can reside in America as citizens, but with a lesser claim of ownership. Criticism or challenging America with regard to values such as equality and justice is frowned upon or seen as un-American.

Making a more perfect union is not always a popular endeavor when society’s shortcomings are being exposed. The denial and lack of regret shown by many with regard to these police shootings really exposes the different realities people are experiencing and their inability to empathize with others who are experiencing something different such as these police shootings. The perception justice is not equally applied continues to prevail in affected communities adding to the frustration and outrage.


8 Responses to “Protesting the National Anthem”

  1. Richsrd L.Rodgers on October 11th, 2016 1:42 pm

    Very interesting, so much of our history not taught.

  2. The Times on October 13th, 2016 7:50 pm

    Thank you for your comment Richard!

  3. Geoffrey Stevenson on October 11th, 2016 1:53 pm

    The problem is Kaepernick is protesting the wrong thing. If there is a specific law or policy of a public institution that is racist let him identify it and we should work to change it. But studies show that if you normalize on behavior, not on race then police shootings , in general, are not racist. True there are the exceptions. White folks are shot by police at the same rate as blacks if the behavior instigating the shooting is examined, not the color of their skin. Unfortunately the videos of those do not generate the publicity and fortunately , do not cause people to riot and burn down their neighborhoods (which is really dumb). The root cause happens before the police are involved. The culture, education, and poverty of the neighborhoods should be examined. Police shootings are a symptom, not the problem,

  4. Reginald Webb on October 18th, 2016 2:12 pm

    I appreciate your perspective on this. The history of oppression and violence toward blacks by law enforcement is part of our history. I think you might want to consider the lack of data regarding police shootings nationwide. Also, please consider the differences in police presence in communities for varying reasons also might be responsible for a higher frequency of incidences in predominantly black communities the same way it affects incarceration. As far as your statement about the rioting and burning down one’s community, I think we should all try to understand the heightened and elevated response a community might have when it is vulnerable to alienation, victimization, exploitation, and violence. There is alot we should consider before we judge that expression in my view. Also, culture is not synonymous with behavior which people always mistakenly like to cite as attributive. A response to conditions one lives with is behavior. In all fairness, I believe we regularly fail to attribute some of these affected communities conditions on those responsible before the police shootings like the criminals they never seem to catch like the major drug traffickers, illegal gun traffickers, corrupt law enforcement and city officials, and yes our collective indifference toward these symptoms until they irritate us on television. I feel we do not do the problem justice to simply judge the responses of those directly affected. What we do often is diminish the real trauma and despair these events are causing to fellow citizens and the unapologetic posture police seems to maintain in many of these instances has not been helpful.

  5. Gunter Holmquist on October 11th, 2016 2:58 pm

    Your cultural bias is showing. The slaves fighting for the British were at that point enemy combatants, not slaves, so why wouldn’t American forces wish to kill them with the same élan used to dispatch the Red Coats? It matters not where the English forces originated, they were fighting against the United States of America, and in doing so, any person taking up arms against the United States would be an “Enemy” and worthy of perishing in combat at the hands of American soldiers. No hypocrisy at all. Once they joined the ranks of English soldiers, they were no longer slaves, and were deserving of no more empathy than that given to any other bit of English carrion rotting on the battlefield. This is a trumped up assault on our national anthem by people who either relish the spotlight of protest, or who are too stupid to actually judge events in the proper historical context. Most likely both.

  6. Melissa M. on October 13th, 2016 10:29 pm

    Have you watched Roots? They were considered slaves and were forced onto the front lines, used as human shields.

  7. Kevin Zent on October 12th, 2016 3:03 am

    I just read your article and agree that Mr. Kaepernick ‘s protest of the national anthem is good, but for an entirely different reason than you noted. It is good because part of the freedom our soldiers have fought for since the inception of our country is the freedom to voice our opinions whether they are popular or not.

    As usual there are at least two sides to the story. While the author points out that some of the “Star Spangled Banner” is racist, CNN posted an article on August 31 2016 where it is pointed out, “the fourth verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” begins with this opening line: “O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand between their loved home and the war’s desolation.” When Key used the word “freemen,” he used a legal term encompassing any man who was free, that is both blacks and whites. As a lawyer, Key used language precisely.”.

    I am not exactly sure what Key meant, as I was not there to speak to him about the subject, but I believe our country stands for freedom and justice. Unfortunately we are a country of human beings who make mistakes. This conversation is good and should be welcomed, we can always improve our country, but as someone who was in the military from 1975 – 1989 I can tell you this country it is OK to discuss, agree or disagree. Most of the rest of the world does not have those options.

    This article misses the mark in some whys and hits it in others. Opinions are that way. Thank God our opinions are allowed and welcomed.

  8. A Miller on October 12th, 2016 3:33 am

    The National Anthem is glorification of war – the brutal murder of others – and not a celebration of peace, cooperation, and the betterment of human kind.

    We have the ability – but not the desire – to provide food, water, and housing for all. The Messianic age is nearly within our grasp. Instead, we glorify avarice, jingoism, and hatred.

    Shouldn’t we be better than that? We CAN be. We SHOULD be. WHY AREN’T WE?

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Protesting the National Anthem