MANSFIELD: Correcting America’s Racist History

The owners of National Football League teams voted unanimously to officially adopt a policy that requires all players to stand during the playing of the national anthem if they are on the field, totally ignoring the fact that the song loved by so many Americans contains verses that are a paean to our nation’s slave past. The third stanza goes thusly:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
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.

According to an excellent article on ‘The Root,” the “band” that Francis Scott Key is referencing in the first line is the Corps of Colonial Marines, two units of former slaves that were raised for service in America by the British during the War of 1812. “The Marines were a battalion of runaway slaves who joined with the British Royal Army in exchange for their freedom. The Marines were not only a terrifying example of what slaves would do if given the chance, but also a repudiation of the white superiority that men like Key were so invested in.”

At the Battle of Bladensburg, in 1815 Key, “who was serving as a lieutenant at the time, ran into a battalion of Colonial Marines. His troops were taken to the woodshed by the very black folks he disdained, and he fled back to his home in Georgetown to lick his wounds.”

So Key faulted the slaves for fighting for their freedom during the “havoc of war and battle’s confusion” as line two states, and questions why they left their masters in the next line. And in lines five and six he expresses that the black soldiers be hunted down and killed, but he didn’t get his wish. Most of the black troops withdrew to Bermuda with the British after the war and eventually settled in Trinidad as free men.

So, similar to the worshipping of the Confederate Flag, statues of the traitors Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and other iconography of our hateful past, many Americans revel in our nation’s racist history, and when blacks attempt to correct the record we are castigated for it … but that’s not going to stop us.

Nor will the tactic of forcing black NFL players to stand and salute bigotry. The struggle will continue.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.

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