The president of the California NAACP has decided that the national anthem is racist and anti-black because the lyrics contain the word "slave," so she's pushing to get rid of it, according to CBS Sacramento.
Inspired by unemployed ex-quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to respect “The Star Spangled Banner” in protest of this country's supposed white supremacy, Alice Huffman looked up all the lyrics of our anthem, even the stanzas we don't ordinarily sing. She noticed that the third verse includes the line, “no refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”
“It’s racist. It doesn’t represent our community. It’s anti-black,” she concluded.
Here is the third verse:
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.
She says that "some" interpret the lyrics to be a celebration of the deaths of free blacks who had formerly been slaves. As Walter Olsen wrote in the National Review Online, the song's writer Francis Scott Key did not leave behind an explanation of the lyrics, so we don't know definitively what to make of that line. But Olsen points out that it's just as likely that Key intended the words "hireling," with its connotation of "mercenary," and the generic, non-racial insult "slave" to refer to white involuntary conscripts forced into service with the British. Not to mention the fact that "slave" is simply a handy rhyme with "grave" and all the rest.
The interpretation, then, is our choice. Huffman's choice was to pick a line from a verse no one sings, give it the most offensive spin, and throw out the baby with the bathwater by eliminating the song altogether.
“This song is wrong. It shouldn’t have been there. We didn’t have it ’til 1931, so it won’t kill us if it goes away,” she said. It also won't solve anything, as she herself admits, but believes that it would be a long-overdue step toward social justice. "This is about a song that should never have been the national anthem. This country is a country that has shared values, and the more we respect each other, the better off we’ll be as a country,” said Huffman.
We'll be better off as a country, Ms. Huffman, when some people stop imagining racism everywhere they look.
Speaking of which, Huffman complained that the racial justice message of Kaepernick's protests have gotten lost amid the controversy. “The message got distorted, the real intentions got overlooked, it became something that’s dividing us, and I’m looking for something to bring us back together,” she said. Well, campaigning to eliminate the national anthem should certainly unite the country. Good thinking, Ms. Huffman.
The California NAACP also wants Congress to censure President Donald Trump for asserting that those who don’t stand for the anthem should be fired. The organization is also demanding that the NFL bring Kaepernick back.
“He still has a lot of talent, and he has the right to play," declared Huffman. "Why should he be persecuted over peaceful protest?” First of all, no one has a right to play in the NFL. Second, Kaepernick's not being persecuted. He has screwed himself out of a job because his political activism has heavily impacted the NFL, driving away hordes of football fans who don't want politics mixed with their sports. Also, as various NFL insiders have pointed out, Kaepernick's not a good enough quarterback to overcome the downsides of hiring him. He has the right to protest; he doesn't have the right to avoid the consequences of protesting.
The California NAACP is looking for legislative sponsors for all of these Congressional resolutions. No takers so far.