“Eternal Father, bless our land. Guide us with thy mighty hand.” Those are the words that start the Jamaican national anthem. No melody instills more pride. Those of us who have become US citizens have adopted America’s anthem and have also sung it with pride.
But it’s origins have been brought under scrutiny because of football player Colin Kaepernick and the firestorm he started by not standing for the anthem at his team’s football games. Since the controversy began to unfold, we’ve come to learn that there’s a line in the original American anthem that celebrates the murder of slaves. In the land of free speech, the folks including Kaepernick who choose to protest the deplorable ways America has at times dealt with her black citizens by sitting or kneeling through the song, have every right to do so.
However, one right wing columnist decided that this type of protest had no justification because at the time the anthem was written, the slaves in question were fighting with the British against the US. Plus that verse hasn’t been included in military or service versions since the early twentieth century anyway so black people should essentially just get over it.
This nation of immigrants is made great because of the diversity of its inhabitants. The thing that most powerfully diminishes its greatness is when one group dismisses the legitimate grievances of another, essentially suggesting that old transgressions simply don’t matter, even when they still daily affect the offended group.
Folks like this writer don’t seem to give any valuable consideration to what this country has done to its African population. Perhaps if someone in his family had been tortured, raped and manhandled, and then the perpetrator proceeded to write songs referencing the abuse, he might have a different opinion on which words did and did not matter. I would never wish these ills on anyone but until he and others like him can find some empathy for the African American story, then I can find no respect for their opinions. I’m also reevaluating my opinion on the song that at once celebrates the freedom of our nation, and the murder of our African ancestors.
Calibe Thompson is a video media producer, speaker and author. Learn more about her services at www.islandsyndicate.com and watch her on ‘Island Origins’ Mon at 10:00PM and Tues, Thurs and Sat at 9:00PM on South Florida’s BECON-TV (Ch 63 / Comcast 19).