It “might be time to finally replace” the “Star-Spangled Banner” as the United States’ national anthem, some critics now say, even suggesting “Imagine” or “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as potential alternatives.
As demonstrators across the county take aim at historic monuments and statues and companies rebrand well-established products in the name of racial justice, calls to replace the national anthem are charging to the forefront.
Lyndsey Parker, editor-in-chief of Yahoo Music, wondered if it was time for this country “to dispense with ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and adopt a new anthem with a less troubling history and a more inclusive message” and spoke to historian and scholar Daniel E. Walker, who expressed support for such a change.
He believes the debate is really about the “deep-seated legacy of slavery and white supremacy in America, where we do things over and over and over again that are a slap in the face of people of color and women”:
“The 53-year-old in me says, we can’t change things that have existed forever. But then there are these young people who say that America needs to live up to its real creed,” Walker tells Yahoo Entertainment. “And so, I do side with the people who say that we should rethink this as the national anthem, because this is about the deep-seated legacy of slavery and white supremacy in America, where we do things over and over and over again that are a slap in the face of people of color and women. We do it first because we knew what we were doing and we wanted to be sexist and racist. And now we do it under the guise of ‘legacy.’”
Kevin Powell, a Democrat, activist, and author, presented issues with the creator, Francis Scott Key, “who was literally born into a wealthy, slave-holding family in Maryland.”
Francis Scott Key became “very close to President Andrew Jackson, who was the Donald Trump of his time, which means that there was a lot of hate and violence and division,” he told Yahoo Music.
“At that time, there were attacks on Native Americans and Black folks — both free Black folks and folks who were slaves — and Francis Scott Key was very much a part of that,” he explained, adding that Francis Scott Key was the “brother-in-law of someone who became a Supreme Court justice, Roger Taney, who also had a very hardcore policy around slavery.”
“And so, all of that is problematic. And the fact that Key, when he was a lawyer, also prosecuted abolitionists, both white and Black folks who wanted slavery to end, says that this is someone who really did not believe in freedom for all people,” he continued, claiming that we “celebrate him with this national anthem, every time we sing it.”
The “Star-Spangled Banner” officially became the country’s national anthem in 1931– well over one hundred years after Key wrote the poem during the War of 1812, as he watched U.S. soldiers raise an American flag over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.
Critics also point to lines from the full version of the poem, which is rarely, if ever, performed — “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”
While the scholar suggested that any new anthem should go through a “vetting process,” Powell named a specific song to replace the “Star-Spangled Banner”: John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Yahoo also floated “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
The proposal to change the national anthem drew strong reaction from those on social media:
And… there goes the national anthem… https://t.co/Jd6CH5GQGJ
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) June 25, 2020
Perhaps the worst paragraph ever written. pic.twitter.com/J5sshdpOoM
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) June 25, 2020
Hey Americans, get it yet?#BLM and Democrats literally want to tear your country apart.
No joke, literally tear everything that is America apart and burn it to the ground.
If you aren’t ok with that. You better start speaking up. 🏼♀️https://t.co/23gDrIZc8e
— Nicole Arbour (@NicoleArbour) June 25, 2020
plz kill me https://t.co/NsmxcIIC1d
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) June 25, 2020
It’s happening. There are now calls to replace the National Anthem. pic.twitter.com/K6qhvxvUNb
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) June 25, 2020
Trying not to take this troll too seriously, but can't help but laughing at making the national anthem a song containing the line "imagine there's no countries" https://t.co/JuelzUVNwD
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) June 25, 2020
“If there’s a tradition that hurts any part of the society — sexist, patriarchal, misogynistic — then it’s time to just throw it away,” Powell added.
The debate comes as protesters across the nation demand racial justice, toppling monuments and vandalizing memorials in the process.