Monday, July 06, 2020

Writing People Out Of America

That is a terrible message, although not for July 4. July 4 comes every year and always between July 3 and July 5. July 4 is a day for barbecues; Independence Day is an occasion to celebrate the unity of Americans, all Americans, as we proceed, by fits and spurts, with this American experiment.

With his tweet, Minority Leader McCarthy wrote one group out of this great experiment, an impulse becoming more popular as

Starting with the nationally televised regular-season opener between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 10, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, will be performed before every Week 1 kickoff, before "The Star-Spangled Banner," according to a person familiar with ongoing discussions. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because plans have not yet been finalized and announced by NFL officials.

History should not be erased, and so it bears noting that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" never has been the "Black National Anthem."  . Written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900, the song was proclaimed sometime before 1921 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (now, "NAACP") as the "Negro National Anthem." The experience of blacks whose descendants were slaves, chronicled by "Lift Every Voice and Sing," may differ dramatically from those who have recently emigrated from Africa, Jamaica, Haiti, or elsewhere.

That was when de facto and de jure segregation was the the lay of the land, a time of brazen discrimination and violence against "colored people," as they were then known (now, "people of color"). Though from 1960 through 1968, there were only three reported lynchings of blacks, in the nine-year period ending in 1920, 495 were reported lynched.

Times were different, and it's understandable that in or about 1920 a civil rights organization would believe that blacks had no choice but to resist identification with the United States of America.

Nonetheless, while cultural anthropologists may argue whether "black" is a race, ethnic group, and/or color, "black" never has been a nation- the root of "national." Therefore, there can be no black or Negro (as it was called since the NAACP got its hands on it) national anthem, though there could be a black or African-American anthem.

Though those may seem mere "details," therein God lies (as in "lays," not as in veracity). When a song or poem is identified as a "national anthem," the meaning is clear- it is a rallying point for, or intended to lift the spirits of, individuals of that nation. When that song appears immediately before (or after) the National Anthem, it clearly is being presented as an anthem for people of that country.  It is why, for instance that the Canadian national anthem is played back-to- back with the Star- Spangled Banner at many athletic events featuring a team from Canada and one from the USA.

An African-American conservative blogger argues Martin Luther "King always appealed to the American dream for all. He was a patriot and he never wanted blacks to deny or separate themselves from being American. I think claiming an anthem for ourselves as black people is doing just that."

If he isn't sufficiently credible, consider the opinion of an assistant professor of English at historically black Clark Atlanta University.  Timothy Askew, who says he loves the song and has studied it for over 20 years, maintains "To sing the 'black national anthem' suggests that black people are separatist and want to have their own nation. This means that everything Martin Luther King Jr. believed about being one nation gets thrown out the window."

Admittedly, it's possible to make too much of this move by the NFL. As noted by USA Today, its source indicates "after brainstorming with numerous players and the NFL Players Association, NFL officials also plan to honor victims of police brutality through elements such as helmet decals or jerseys." Thus, it may be simply a way for the NFL to sell merchandise, which raises the profile of its players and further enriches its owners, who employ Commissioner Roger Goodell and determine his professional fate.

African-Americans do not constitute another nation. As Askew appreciates, this is one nation and blacks are a part of this country.  They are a part as much as are immigrants, whom Kevin McCarthy wants to read out of this nation. Blacks also are a part of the fabric of this country and are so no matter how hard the National Football League, its players association, or David Duke portrays otherwise.

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