The NFL will continue trying to disunite America by featuring two separate “anthems” to begin the Super Bowl. Our country has only one national anthem, which speaks for all its citizens. To suggest otherwise is anathema.
As also happened last year, fans will be asked to stand at attention not just for “The Star-Spangled Banner” but also for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” long known colloquially as the “black national anthem.”
It’s a lovely song, a paean to liberty, and a worthy expression of black people’s historical struggle to overcome unspeakable mistreatment.
Its final sentiments, despite the “gloomy past,” are admirably patriotic: “May we forever stand/ True to our God/ True to our native land.”
This being so, it is important to explain why it is a bad idea that it be sung alongside the national anthem.
The affront lies not in the message within the song but in the message sent by when and how the song is to be presented. By pairing it with the national anthem and expecting attendees to stand at attention, the NFL signals that “The Star-Spangled Banner” does not speak for everyone. Rather than respecting a single unifying anthem, the league presents two, one for white people and one for black people, as if the latter were not included in the meaning and grandeur of the first.
This is part of the political Left’s radical racial agenda of national division. Identity politics define people by racial or sexual group membership while immutably characterizing each group and each person within it as either victim or victimizer. Rather than one history in which modern sensibilities demand that black people receive equal recognition, separatism posits that there must be a separate month for black history. Rather than one course of mathematics, the “woke” educrats push a separate black mathematics. The separate black anthem is a musical endorsement of the forces and agenda that are driving deep fissures into our culture and threatening our society.
Even institutions such as the Smithsonian tell us that black people are oppressed by supposed attributes of “whiteness” that include individualism and “self-reliance,” the “nuclear family,” the “scientific method” using “objective, rational linear thinking,” and the “Protestant work ethic” emphasizing (Lord forbid!) that “hard work is the key to success.” To suggest this is to insult black people by asserting that they uniquely lack these qualities.
But the work ethic, self-reliance, rational thinking, and the rest are not congenitally foreign to people who have dark complexions.
When scores of NFL players several years ago refused to stand for the national anthem, their message was based on the misguided notion that the United States corporately was responsible for what was claimed to be a nationwide epidemic of police abusing black people. No data support those calumnies about police, nor did right reason support the condemnation of America as a whole as a racist nation.
The logic of those distorted assessments produced the idea that the national anthem itself is disreputable, or at least is exclusive of black people. This notion is horribly wrong. Frederick Douglass, a great black advocate of emancipation, loved to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his violin for his grandchildren, and he argued that the Constitution of the land the song honored was rightly interpreted as a document promising freedom to black and white alike.
The national anthem began being played ritually at sports contests at the end of World War I, and its playing became a universal practice for the NFL as World War II ended. It defies reason to think the song that, for generations, was understood to represent all Americans suddenly, about three years ago, became only for white people.
“To sing the ‘black national anthem’ suggests that black people are separatist and want to have their own nation,” said Timothy Askew, an English professor at historically black Clark Atlanta University, in a 2010 interview.
“This means that everything Martin Luther King Jr. believed about being one nation gets thrown out the window.”
Askew, who did copious research into the origins of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” added, “I think it is important that African Americans nationally understand that we should be moving towards racial cohesiveness,” but the idea of a “black national anthem” does the opposite.
Askew is right. The NFL is wrong.
It’s fine to play a lovely song at some point during the festivities. There’s everything wrong, though, with using it to balkanize a civic ceremony of national unity and pride.
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