Shaun King: I’ll Never Stand Again For The Star Spangled Banner (VIDEO)

A week or so ago, a young football player named Colin Kaepernick chose to sit down during the National Anthem. Good Lord!

There has been a huge pushback and outcry from the overly righteous world of the internet.

Seriously, you would think that the guy had announced his intention to defect to Yemen.

Kaepernick said that he wanted to express his unhappiness with a country that continues to experience institutional racism. Big whoop.

It’s kind of shocking to see how much of a reaction there has been to this very understated action. I mean, aren’t we supposed to be the country where everyone can express their opinion openly without fear of reprisal? Or did I miss something?

I’m not alone in my discomfort with the vilification of young Mr. Kaepernick. The New York Daily News writer Shaun King looks closely at the Star Spangled Banner history, and has some serious information to share with the rest of us.

First off, the famous “Star Spangled Banner” wasn’t even originally a song. It was written as a poem in 1814, by a young man named Francis Scott Key. It was called “The Defense of Fort McHenry.”

Most of us have heard about young Mr. Key watching the bombardment of the fort, and feeling depressed about the chances of the U.S. outpost surviving the night. We’ve been told about how excitingit was for Key and the other observers to see the dawn break over the fort with the Stars and Stripes still flying.

What we didn’t learn in elementary school, though, has been brought out by Shaun King.  It turns out that young Mr. Francis Scott Key was a solid supporter of slavery, an incredible racist (even for that time), and a staunch anti-abolitionist.

Shaun King highlighted the third verse of the famous poem that much later (in 1933) became our National rallying song. It goes like this:

“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
    That the havock 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 foot-steps’ 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.”

Just in case you are having a hard time decoding the 19th century poetry here, what the poet was saying was basically, “So F* you, mercenary soldiers and hired slaves. I’m glad you suffered and died in the war.”

It turns out that the British were hiring American slaves to fight for their cause in the War of 1812. A number of those slaves, in hopes of finding freedom at last, fought valiantly for the British against the country that was holding them in chains.

Francis Scott Key was furious to see that so many American slaves had joined the British military. He was the slave owning son of a slave owning family. He wanted to hold onto his valuable human commodities. His views on Africans was very clear and very vicious. He said that Blacks were:

“…a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”

So, OK.

An NFL quarterback refused to stand to honor the poem written by this racist assh*le. A New York journalist, a free Black American, agrees with his stance and is encouraging the rest of us to join him.

I’m in.

I think that my country should have a National Anthem that celebrates all of us, not just the slave owning top tier from 150 years ago. I think we should have a National Anthem that includes us all, no matter what color we wear.

And for God’s sake, can we please have a National Anthem that we can actually sing?

Featured image by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr. Available through Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Karen is a retired elementary school teacher with many years of progressive activism behind her. She is the proud mother of three young adults who were all arrested with Occupy Wall Street. To see what she writes about in her spare time, check out her blog at "Empty Nest, Full Life"