It is an image that has enraged people across the nation. And tonight, for the second pre-season NFL game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand for the National Anthem. And he says he won’t stand until there is justice in this country for those wrongfully killed at the hands of police.
Tonight, we take a look at the bizarre history of the anthem and why outrage may be pointed in the wrong direction.
This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.
“When there is significant change, and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way they’re supposed to, I’ll stand.”
That was San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick explaining why he says he will not stand for the National Anthem. The internet, as you know by now, has exploded over the decision to sit, including fans setting fire to Kaepernick’s jersey.
But interestingly, Kaepernick won’t stand for an anthem that, as it turns out, celebrates the death of slaves. And I’m willing to bet you had no idea about this, because the only part of the song that we sing is the first verse.
And yet if you keep singing, “The Star Spangled Banner” says much more than you might think.
“The Star Spangled Banner” came to be during the War of 1812. It was written by Francis Scott Key. The War of 1812 was a war in which the United States attempted to take Canada from the British empire. But the U.S. underestimated the British, who were able to overrun Washington D.C.
“The Star Spangled Banner” was written in 1814 about the battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore. But as explained in an article by The Intercept, one of the missing parts of history is that part of the reason the British had been so successful was their active recruitment of American slaves.
According to The Intercept, “Whole families found their way to the ships of the British, who accepted everyone and pledged that no one would be given back to their ‘owners.’ Adult men were trained to create a regiment called the Colonial Marines, who participated in many of the most important battles, including the August 1814 raid on Washington. Then on the night of September 13, 1814, the British bombarded Fort McHenry. Key, seeing the fort’s flag the next morning, was inspired to write the lyrics for ‘The Star Spangled Banner.'”
So without question, American slaves played a role in fighting against Americans in that battle. About 6,000 former slaves total fought with the British to secure their own freedom, and Key speaks of them when he writes:
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.
Which candidly turns the anthem as we know it on its head. For those slaves, this was not a land of the free.
Reality Check: During the War of 1812, there actually was one group fighting for their freedom and “The Star Spangled Banner” celebrates America’s triumph over them.
“There’s a lot of things that need to change, one specifically is police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. Cops are getting paid leave for killing people,” said Kaepernick.
What you need to know is that for all the outrage over Colin Kaepernick, let’s end here with a question.
In 2015 alone, 102 unarmed black men were killed by police nationwide and hundreds have died every year.
In 2014, remember this guy, Eric Garner? He was choked to death because he had sold loose leaf cigarettes. No officer was charged.
12-year-old Tamir Rice, in 2014, he was shot to death within two seconds of officers arriving on the scene while holding a toy gun on a playground in Cleveland. No officer was charged there, either.
Even this year, 2016, Fernando Castille was shot to death in Minneapolis. He had a concealed carry license, he never touched his gun. Yes, he had a gun on him but he told the officer about it. And yet he was shot to death anyway.
These are only three faces of the hundreds of unarmed black men who have died at the hands of police officers.
Now, if you feel outrage when you see this picture and you do not feel any outrage when you see these images, isn’t that part of the problem?
That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about it on Twitter.