Honoring the national anthem

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

‘The Star Spangled Banner’ is a song honoring the flag that is supposed to unite the citizens of this country in a display of pride and patriotism. It should inspire respect and deference and an adamant desire to defend the liberties and rights that so many other countries are denied. It acknowledges a flag that has been so valiantly defended by our country’s military, offering their services and lives to protect the shores of this country as well as the liberties and freedoms we all enjoy.

Recent events of civil unrest have made us aware that there are many people who do not share the same views—to the extent they refuse to honor the national anthem by refusing to participate in standing, singing, or honoring the anthem when sung in public. While many Americans are outraged and see this as a sign of defiance, treasonous, and anti-American, there are others who feel justified in bringing attention to the national anthem with its emphasis on the American flag that they don’t think honors or respects all citizens.

In fact, the disrespect and lack of equality some Americans experience as citizens (especially some people of color) is so blatant that some can no longer engage in what they see as a sham and masquerade when the national anthem is sung or played. It recalls feelings of discrimination, injustice, and inequality making it hard for many African Americans and minorities to feel a sense of inclusion. This view is further supported when we have to rally in protest to let this country understand and realize that Black lives matter.

We are all aware that racial tensions are at an all-time high, sparked with the escalation of unarmed people of color being killed by some law enforcement agencies in this country. The history of African Americans in this country has been riddled with slavery, discrimination, and unadulterated racism stirring legitimate disillusion for many people of color. Many African Americans who have served our country, come home from abroad and feel victimized and treated like second-class citizens. The social, economic, and educational, disparities encountered by people of color in this country is so profound that it should be understandable why some African Americans fail to see the unity the flag honored in the national anthem is supposed to promote.

While the national anthem should rally all Americans to come together, the reality is that there is much to be done to make everyone feel equal, respected and united. One’s loyalty and respect for the national anthem has much to do with their reality and experience as a citizen. Teaching and indoctrinating people to stand and honor the flag regardless of their circumstances doesn’t necessarily work anymore.

There are those who have inherent privileges and entitlements that make them impervious and even outraged that anyone can feel anything but love for this country and what it represents. One’s defiance or lack of participation during the nation anthem doesn’t necessarily mean they hate this country and want to live in another one—but that this country needs to work harder to be the great country it professes to be. Some feel that ignoring the shortcomings of this country only prevents the healing process necessary to truly unite us and to grow as one.

The actions taken by many actors, entertainers, and athletes using their national recognition to speak out and bring attention to critical political and social injustices is admirable and much needed to uncover the hideous wrongs so many times covered up by smokescreens called ‘entertainment.’ We must not be so entertained by sports, music, and movies that we become immune or insensitive to recognizing and changing injustices occurring around us. We should embrace those courageous enough to bring about attention to social ills and injustices against others.

While the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick is seen as controversial and hailed as anti-American for refusing to stand during the national anthem, he is supported by just as many people as a hero and advocate for justice and change. No doubt, he must have known the reprisal and backlash he was to encounter with his defiant refusal to stand up during the singing of the national anthem. If nothing else, he has help provoke Americans to stop putting their heads in the sand and advocate for real changes and promote equality.

Regardless of the spin the media may put on Kaepernick as disrespectful and anti-American, in all fairness people should realize and understand his protest is solely against blatant oppression and injustices against African Americans and minorities. There is no proof that he has said anything negative or derogatory about those who serve and protect our country. His protest is about hypocrisy and bringing about real positive concrete change for all people in this country. Let’s not let the real issue be side tracked or skewed by the media.

It is understandable that many people see the flag as sacred, but desperate times bring about desperate measures. Therefore, you should try to understand the urgency for some people to help prioritize that all lives matter, promoting changes to make it a reality. Using the national anthem as a platform to bring attention to oppression may be seen as inappropriate by some, but much warranted by others committed to promoting change.

Sometimes one’s love for this country causes one to speak out or protest, putting oneself into a position that may be less than popular. Loving this country sometimes means having the courage to speak out against crippling injustices to make this country better.

When we look at the magnitude of oppression occurring, perhaps we should thank those in the national public spotlight for being brave enough to speak out against injustices or uncomfortable issues, despite the negative backlash that may occur. Only when we take off our rose-tinted glasses can we really see what is truly real and go forward to make positive changes to make us one—united in pride, respect and love.

Hopefully, one day we will all be able to stand and sing the national anthem so that everyone will truly feel inclusive.