Tuesday, October 11, 2016

As a Black Man I’d be Crazy to Stand for the American National Anthem

by Kwado Akoma Akofena

Black NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has caused a huge uproar in America from whites on every level, from politicians, NFL football owners, and media hacks to average citizens because he refuses to stand for the national anthem to protest racism in America.

Mr. Kaepernick's been attacked vehemently by patriotic whites who totally ignore his factual position that for Blacks the American flag and the national anthem is a symbol and song of racist oppression and hypocrisy.

Right now, every Black person in America with any kind of pride and sense should be supporting Colin Kaepernick’s protest by not standing for the national anthem. If you have some Black pride and sense you would investigate who wrote the national anthem and when.

Let me expose the writer of the national anthem, Francis Scott Key, on September 14th, 1814 Key while being detained by the British, pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America's national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812.

During the Civil War, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was an anthem for Union troops, and the song increased in popularity in the ensuing decades, which led to President Woodrow Wilson signing an executive order in 1916 designating it as “the national anthem of the United States” for all military ceremonies.

On March 3, 1931, after 40 previous attempts failed, a measure passed Congress and was signed into law that formally designated “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem of the United States.

While writing this poem in 1814, Key owned slaves and referred to enslaved Blacks as “a distinct and inferior race of people”. From 1833 to 1840 Key was the district attorney for the city of Washington, D.C. and used his office to defend slavery and attacked the abolitionist movement to free slaves.

What most Black folks don’t know is that there are 4 verses of his poem. The 4th verse you don’t hear about partially reads: “Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps pollution; no refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror flight or the gloom of the grave.” Frances Scott Key wrote this verse to attack Blacks who joined the British to fight against America during the War of 1812; as the British had promised slaves their freedom.

It is a total lie and myth that the national anthem represents Black freedom, the writer of the U.S. national anthem was a racist, cold-blooded slave owner and the above verse was anti-Black freedom. Black people were enslaved in America for 246 years and it took us another 100 years just to get basic civil rights.

There has never been a war that the U.S. has been involved in that was about or for Black peoples’ freedom. President Abraham Lincoln made it very clear that the Civil War was fought to save the Union and not to end slavery. 

In closing, to white people, if the national anthem was written by a Black slave owner who enslaved your white ancestors, and a nation that has been racist towards you for 400 years would you stand for the national anthem?  No, ya’ll would not stand, so why should we?

Black Male Murders Continue Under the American Flag

The controversial stance of Black San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem and flag raising before NFL football games due to its racist-oppressive symbolism is not the “causative issue”.

The issue is not so much what Kaepernick’s stance is ‘for’, but what he’s ‘against’ – American racial oppression, particularly racist police murders of Black men.

Indeed, the racist police murders of Black men continue; this week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a Black man Terence Crutcher was killed by a white female police officer; Mr. Crutcher had his hands up and was unarmed.

Also, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a Black man Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by police; neighbors who witnessed the shooting said the officer who fired the fatal shot was white; that Scott was holding a book - not a weapon, as he waited for his son to get off a school bus.

The police murder of Scott has led to a Black rebellion in Charlotte – North Carolina’s governor has imposed a state of emergency and brought in the National Guard.

Let me contrast the police murders of the 2 unarmed Black men and the terrorist bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, who is responsible for a bombing spree that injured 29 people in New York and New Jersey.

Rahami was taken into custody the morning of September 19, 2016 alive after an intense shoot-out with police officers. Let me make this clear, ‘real-clear’, the so-called armed terror bombing suspect was not killed while unarmed Black men are killed, because white police hate Black men more and view them as a greater threat.

Thus, the real war in America is not against so-called terrorism; the real and long-standing war in America is the racist police war waged against Black men.

This racist police war against Black men has taken place under the American flag; the racist white police who murder Black men have the American flag on their uniforms; the American flag is on the police cars that they ride down on Black men.

Think about it, do you think Jews honor the Nazi flag that millions of them were murdered under during the Jewish Holocaust? 

The ultimate ‘disregard’ and ‘disrespect’ of Black people is for whites to expect Blacks to honor a flag under which so many racist deaths of Blacks has taken place during slavery (Black Holocaust) and afterwards. 

Don’t Stand For Their National Anthem – Recite Your Own Anthem

Every week white police men and women go to sporting events and before the game they stand for the National Anthem with hand over hearts, reciting the verse while the American flag is raised.

Every week these white police men and women swear to ‘protect’ and ‘serve’ with American flags on their uniforms and patrol cars. Every week it seems somewhere in this country patriotic white police are killing unarmed Black men.

On September 18, 2016, Tawan Boyd, 21, was viciously beaten by police in Baltimore, Maryland, dying from his injuries on September 21rst. September 27, 2016, Alfred Olango, 38, an unarmed Black man, was tasered, shot and killed by police in El Cajon, California.

Before, during, and after the National Anthem is sung and the American flag raised, Black men are routinely killed and murdered by white police. Indeed, the racist police murders of Black men is a normal way of life in America; it’s the American way like baseball, hot-dogs, and apple pie.

For hundreds of years in the South, white men called Black men ‘bucks’; hunting us down and murdering us like ‘deer’. For Black men, the National Anthem’s verse:

“And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,gave proof through the night that our flag was still there”,

The following is my reinterpretation of this verse:

“And the white police pistols are shot, bullet sounds bursting in air, gave proof yet another day that a Black man’s life was not there. Oh say does that star spangled banner still wave over dead Black men’s bodies in the land of hypocrisy”

The constant murders of Black men by racist police should give ‘proof’ to Black people of why we should not stand for the National Anthem.

As Black people, we have our own National Anthem to stand for – we have the ‘Negro National Anthem’, written by James Weldon Johnson, titled “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.

As Black people we should become familiar with our National Anthem; read it, memorize it, and recite it daily. The verse, “Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won” should be said daily as a morning affirmation.

As Black people, we must ‘realize’ and ‘accept’ that the American National Anthem was not written for us; it was written by a racist slave owner – it was written for white peoples’ freedom from Britain, while our Ancestors were those white peoples’ slaves. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Deeper Look at the National Anthem, the Man Who Wrote it, and the History Attached

By Martenzie Johnson

When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided not to stand for the national anthem, he set in motion a chain of events that not even he a black athlete fed up with systemic inequality of blacks in America could have foreseen. Even with the historical precedents.

Boxer Muhammad Ali refused induction into the U.S. Army in 1967, was stripped of his world title and had his New York State Athletic Commission boxing title revoked. Ali wasn’t revered as a civil rights leader by the public at large until he lost the ability to speak.

Olympic sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith won gold and bronze medals for the United States at the 1968 Olympic Games, raised their black-gloved fists as The Star-Spangled Banner was played, and were expelled by the International Olympic Committee.

Back home, the U.S. Olympic Committee suspended the pair, stating, “The untypical exhibitionism of these athletes also violates the basic standards of good manners and sportsmanship, which are so highly valued in the United States.” Even baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson complicated political history aside couldn’t bring himself to sing the national anthem or salute the flag.
Much like how the murders of nine black churchgoers allegedly carried out by white supremacist Dylann Roof in South Carolina a little over a year ago led to a nationwide reconsideration of the Confederate battle flag, Kaepernick’s defiance of police brutality in a nation that “oppresses black people and people of color” and the flag that he believes represents it has inadvertently sparked a reviewing of the 200-year-old song about that very flag: The Star-Spangled Banner.

By 1810, over 15 percent of the U.S. population was enslaved.

Francis Scott Key was born in 1779 on a Frederick County, Maryland, plantation to upper-class parents who benefited greatly from chattel slavery. He eventually studied law in the state’s capital and became a prominent lawyer in Washington, D.C., in the early 1800s. Following the Battle of Baltimore on Sept. 14, 1814, against invading British forces - where the lawyer had been “dispatched by President James Madison on a mission to negotiate for the release of Dr. William Beanes, a prominent surgeon” - Key famously penned what would become our national anthem.
After witnessing 25 hours of combat And the rocket’s red glare!/The bombs bursting in air! Key assumed the Americans had lost, but was then elated to see the Stars and Stripes still flying the next morning at Fort McHenry Gave proof through the night/That our flag was still there/Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave.

The Star-Spangled Banner is actually four verses long, though, and features lyrics that go beyond what we’re used to hearing at presidential inaugurations, military ceremonies and sporting events.
Though the well-known first verse, “in which a young man peers into a foggy and rain-soaked dawn to find out whether his country has been conquered in battle, is urgent, open-hearted and honest,” the third verse all but contradicts any meaning of a “land of the free” and “home of the brave” (emphasis mine):

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.
The War of 1812 was caused, among other things, by Great Britain’s attempt to restrict U.S. trade and America’s desire to expand its northern territory by annexing Canada. By 1810, more than 15 percent of the U.S. population was enslaved, and British forces recruited escaped slaves to fight for the slaves’ freedom against the American militia. This unit, referred to as the Colonial Marines, was part of the British forces that overran Washington, D.C., in 1814 and set fire to the White House.

So when Key references the “foul footstep’s” of the “hireling and slave” who “no refuge could save” from “the gloom of the grave” in the third verse, he’s referring to the killing of Colonial Marines. As noted by The Root political editor Jason Johnson, “The Star-Spangled Banner is as much a patriotic song as it is a diss track to black people who had the audacity to fight for their freedom.”

Following the War of 1812, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, with the United States ordering the return of “such slaves as may be in your control, belonging to any inhabitant or citizen of the United States.” The British refused.
Key did not have a complicated or complex history with race. He “supported sending free blacks (not slaves) back to Africa and was about as pro-slavery, anti-black and anti-abolitionist as you could get at the time,” Johnson wrote in his article for The Root. He owned slaves while writing the national anthem, at one point referring to blacks as “a distinct and inferior race of people.”

Though Key won several legal cases on behalf of slaves during the 18th century, 2o years after writing the national anthem, he is believed to be responsible for inciting the Snow Riot of 1835 with the overzealous prosecution of a young black man accused of trying to kill his mistress.
According to Smithsonian, Key “used his office as the District Attorney for the City of Washington from 1833 to 1840 to defend slavery, attacking the abolitionist movement in several high-profile cases,” including an episode wherein he unsuccessfully sought to have a New York doctor hanged.

Nothing Kaepernick has said in recent days gives reason to believe he knew anything about the history of Key or The Star-Spangled Banner when taking his stand the past few weeks. He never mentions Key by name and never takes umbrage with the actual words behind the song. But the sixth-year veteran’s history with race likely well-prepared him for this moment.

Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee. His mother was a white woman, age 19. His father was African-American, and left the home before Kaepernick was born. At 5 weeks old, Kaepernick was placed up for adoption, and a white couple in the area eventually adopted him.
From the beginning, Kaepernick’s parents made him aware of his race but didn’t force the issue. “I never felt I was supposed to be white. Or black, either. My parents just wanted to let me be who I needed to be,” he told MrPorter.com last September. Halfway through the 2012 season, Kaepernick took over the starting job for the 49ers, and just that quickly the 6-foot-5, chiseled 24-year-old with the half-sleeve tattoos was the face of an NFL franchise. And the criticism began.

Just weeks after his first start, former Sporting News columnist David Whitley wrote a scathing critique of Kaepernick, based solely on his ink. “NFL quarterback is the ultimate position of influence and responsibility. He is the CEO of a high-profile organization, and you don’t want your CEO to look like he just got paroled,” Whitley said, while also comparing Kaepernick to inmates at San Quentin State Prison in California.

A season later, as Kaepernick led the 49ers to their second consecutive NFC Championship game, Democrat & Chronicle reporter Sal Maiorana tweeted “Kaepernick. Always so media friendly. Turn your cap around and act like a professional quarterback.” Quarterbacks of all races wear caps backward.
Despite never having made a statement about race at that point in his career, Kaepernick was continuously thrown into the racially coded debate over appearance and behavior. Since remaining seated for the national anthem, Kaepernick has been called the N-word too many times to count. Based on everything Kaepernick risks losing by taking this stance football contract notwithstanding his stand is that much more courageous.

In 1900, as part of a celebration of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, civil rights activist and educator James Weldon Johnson performed Lift Every Voice and Sing, a poem he had written a year prior. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) adopted Lift Every Voice and Sing as its official song, later renaming it the Negro national anthem before it was again changed to the black national anthem toward the end of the 20th century.
A second verse of the song sings:

Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat / Have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
The Star-Spangled Banner wasn’t written for people like Kaepernick. The song was penned by a slave-owning lawyer who spent a lifetime fighting against the rights of African-Americans. But whether Kaepernick knows it or not, his stance alludes to a different national anthem - a “chast’ning rod” won’t stop him from standing up for what’s right.