Truth on why they protest

Everyone should know that the third verse of “the Star-Spangled Banner” glorifies the killing of slaves fighting for their freedom as part of the British army: “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 truth is that the national anthem was not only written to glorify a military victory but also to glorify a slave nation, the United States, dominated by a class of land-owning gentry. In 1812, the “land of the free” did not include Black people, women or, in fact, most white men—a majority of whom were legally barred from voting in the 1812 elections. Francis Scott Key, the author of the national anthem, was a slave owner and white supremacist. That is not disputed. What can be added to this is the fact that the history of the national anthem, which was not adopted until 1931, also reveals the deeply racist character of this nation. It is no coincidence that a wave of reactionary protest has greeted 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s courageous and righteous stand against racist police terror. The song was not only penned by a racist and militarist, but also the struggle to have Key’s song made the national anthem was led by racists for racist reasons. But first, a little more about Key. Check out some lines from another song he wrote a decade before “the Star-Spangled Banner” to honor the U.S. raids against Muslim nations in North Africa from 1801 to 1805. Pay particular attention to the racist delight taken in the bloody victory over the “infidels”: In the conflict resistless, each toil they endured, ‘Till their foes fled dismayed from the war’s desolation: And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscured By the light of the Star Spangled flag of our nation. Where each radiant star gleamed a meteor of war, And the turbaned heads bowed to its terrible glare, Now, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave, And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave. Our fathers, who stand on the summit of fame, Shall exultingly hear of their sons the proud story: How their young bosoms glow’d with the patriot flame, How they fought, how they fell, in the blaze of their glory. How triumphant they rode o’er the wondering flood, And stained the blue waters with infidel blood; How, mixed with the olive, the laurel did wave, And formed a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.
In the same year, shortly after a race riot in Washington, D.C. when an angry white mob set upon a well-known free black restaurant owner, Key likewise sought to crack down on the free speech of abolitionists he believed were riling things up in the city. Key prosecuted a New York doctor living in Georgetown for possessing abolitionist pamphlets. In the resulting case, U.S. v. Reuben Crandall, Key made national headlines by asking whether the property rights of slaveholders outweighed the free speech rights of those arguing for slavery’s abolishment. Key hoped to silence abolitionists, who, he charged, wished to “associate and amalgamate with the negro.” Though Crandall’s offense was nothing more than possessing abolitionist literature, Key felt that abolitionists’ free speech rights were so dangerous that he sought, unsuccessfully, to have Crandall hanged.
In 1916, President Wilson issued an executive order to make the song the national anthem during World War I. But it wasn’t until 1931 that “the Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem by law.
Wilson undoubtedly was aware of the fact that the anthem is racist. Wilson, whose daughter Margaret Woodrow Wilson performed and recorded “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was deeply committed to white supremacy. He worked to aggressively segregate federal work places, defended efforts to restrict voting for African Americans and believed Black people were happier under slavery. He saw reconstruction—an era of affirmative action for Black people—as not just a mistake, but a shameless aggression against the (white) people of the United States. Wilson held the first ever film showing in the White House. The movie? None other than “The Birth of a Nation”—the “American classic” that glorifies the Klan. In fact, Wilson was quoted in the movie, “The white men of the South were aroused by the mere instinct of self-preservation to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes and conducted in the interest of adventurers.” Wilson was part and parcel of the ever deepening segregationist rule over the United States after the Civil War. He presided over a country of apartheid, lynch law, and white racist mob violence against people of color and immigrants. In 1916 when Wilson made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem, a wave of KKK resurgence was sweeping the nation in response to immigration and the migration of Blacks from the south to the north. This is not a coincidence. It is not a coincidence that some of Wilson’s re-election campaign slogans in 1916 were “America First” and “Our Country, Our Flag, Our President.” Under Wilson in 1918, a new major U.S. military base was commissioned and named after Confederate general and rabid white supremacist, Henry Benning. Who led the charge to get the base named after Benning? None other than the Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Forts Lee, Bragg and Gordon, all named after confederate generals, were all established during the Wilson presidency. John Brown Gordon was literally head of the Georgia KKK while he was serving in the U.S. Senate.

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