Consider the 3rd Stanza of The Star- Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key (September 14, 1814): “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 washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave.”
In order to intelligently assess Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the National Anthem it is important to understand what motivated Francis Scott Key to write the poem in 1814.
Francis Scott Key wrote the “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812 (aka the “Second War for Independence’) which was an armed conflict between the United States and Great Britain.
After Britain banned slavery with the Somerset case in 1772, the American colonists were afraid that slavery would be banned in the Colonies (Read Dr. Gerald Horne’s The Counter Revolution of 1776) hence the American Revolution and subsequent conflicts. The offensive language as referenced above demonstrates that Key was celebrating the defeat of the British Corp of Colonial Marines, a unit of enslaved Blacks who fought for the British with the promise of freedom. Their defeat in Baltimore, MD ensured that slavery would continue to be practiced on American soil.
It is also important to know that Key was a wealthy attorney and slave owner. According to the Smithsonian.com “Key not only profited from slaves, he harbored racist conceptions of American citizenship and human potential. Africans in America, he said, were: “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” This is the factual and historic basis of Kaepernick’s position.
Colin Kaepernick has clearly stated that he will no longer stand during renditions of the national anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Colin Kaepernick should be applauded and supported by the African American community for his well thought through and effective protest. For the African American community and its leadership to take any other position is another squandered opportunity. African American athletes and coaches should show their support for him. Imagine the narrative during mainstream American news programs if a significant number of athletes and fans “sat with Kap” during the National Anthem.
Some have been very adept at distraction and clouding the issue by turning his clearly articulated stand against racial oppression into an insult of veterans and disrespect for the flag. Our community cannot be misled by the likes of confused athletes like Victor Cruz who said, “I think, personally, the flag is the flag… you pledge your allegiance to the flag and sing the national anthem with your team.” Cruz wraps himself in the flag while the US Navy used the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico (his mother is Puerto Rican) as a bombing range and waste dump of used fuel oil and contaminated munitions.
Also, the US Congress has failed to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt which is bankrupting the island. Or Jerry Rice who is stuck-on-stupid with his “all lives matter” Tweets and “So much going on in this world today. Can we all just get along! Colin, I respect your stance but don’t disrespect the Flag.” Jerry, obviously with African Americans being murdered by the police in the street like dogs we all can’t get along. If all lives mattered Colin would not have to take the stance you “respect” but still seem to take issue with.
What is really at the crux of this “outrage” is that “Kap’s” refusal to stand for the anthem and comments about the flag are perceived to be an attack on a highly valued ritual and a symbol of America. Symbols and rituals are the glue and thread in the fabric that help to hold a culture together. By sitting during the anthem Kaepernick” threatened the very core of American ritual and culture.
If a significant number of African Americans “sat with “Kap”” that would send a chilling message. Not because of the act itself but because it would demonstrate the collective mindset that colonial powers fear the most and have worked to ensure never occurs. The colonizer always fears when the colonized find and demonstrate a common collective mindset.
Imagine the message that would be sent to the powers that be if a significant number of African American’s chose to keep their seats at future sporting events! Or, heaven forbid, chose not to attend at all and put that ticket, concession and paraphernalia money into community banks. This would clearly instill fear into the hearts of America.
The late Gil Scott-Heron said the revolution is not the activity you see in the street. The revolution is when you change your mind, when you change the way you look at things. All “Kap” did was keep his seat! Mrs. Rosa Parks kept her seat.
Dr. King demonstrated the impact of passive resistance. John Carlos, Tommy Smith raised their fists and Peter Norman stood in support. No guns, no swords; non-violent direct action. It’s about the power of the collective! Read FBI Document – COUNTERINTELLIGENCE PROGRAM BLACK NATIONALIST – HATE GROUPS RACIAL INTELLIGENCE 3/4/68 – “For maximum effectiveness of the Counterintelligence Program, and to prevent wasted effort, long-range goals are being set. 1. Prevent the COALITION of militant Black Nationalist groups. In unity there is strength; a truism that is no less valid for all its triteness…2. Prevent the RISE OF A “MESSIAH” who could unify, and electrify, the militant Black Nationalist movement…”
America has always feared an African American collective mindset committed to freedom, justice and equality. It’s not that “Kap” is Dr. King, Mrs. Parks or Mrs. Hamer but America fears his action could become a spark and in this very hot and dry summer that spark could become a raging inferno for justice and equality.
Have you noticed that whenever African Americans speak in the context “pro us” it gets spun into being “anti-them”? Why is that? It’s not about what white people think and what makes white people comfortable. That’s the trap we always fall into. It’s about our understanding history and demanding that the story is told correctly; the record gets straight and those who engage in bigoted racist behavior are held accountable and pay the price for the crimes they commit.
The issue should not be why did “Kap” not stand for the National Anthem? The issue should be, why was a poem written by a slave owning bigot who extolled the “virtues” of oppression and inhumane treatment accepted as the National Anthem of the “land of the free and home of the brave”?
As Dr. King said, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy…It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.” Now is the time for the community to take a stand, or in this instance take a seat, sit with “Kap”. If you don’t it will be a great opportunity squandered.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” on SiriusXM Satellite radio channel 126. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: [email protected]. www.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com
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