Is it time the United States changed its National Anthem? This new question has come to the fore following the nationwide outcry to finally put an end to racism against the blacks. Over the past few days, the U.S. has seen a number of statues, monuments and buildings with ties to slavery being pulled down. Is the anthem next?
Historians, activists and journalists have been among people who have demanded that "The Star Spangled Banner" is replaced as the National Anthem given the politics of its author. In fact, many want the anthem to be replaced by John Lennon's "Imagine".
Anti-Racism Move Sparks Debate over National Anthem
Activists say "The Star Spangled Banner" is tainted owing to the fact that its author, Francis Scott Key, was a slave owner. The debate intensified after Historian Daniel E. Walker and activist-journalist Kevin Powell made the remarks in an article written by Yahoo Music Editor Lyndsey Parker on Thursday.
The article cites a report from American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) where it mentions that Key was a "white supremacist" who often made overtly racist remarks. The article says that Key's lyrics no longer sound appropriate given the ongoing cultural reckoning and recognizing of systemic racism in the U.S. Key's statue was toppled by protesters in San Francisco last week during demonstrations against racial injustice.
The United States has been witnessing massive protests over the past month, with people calling for the end of racism against the black. Although slavery officially ended 155 years ago, African-Americans have time and again been subject to racial slurs and abuse which on several occasions have translated into riots. The call for changing the National Anthem comes at a time when the nation is once again embroiled in a similar crisis.
Demonstrations have taken the shape of riots and looting and now protesters are pulling down statues of people that have ties to slavery. This has made Key's lyrics in "The Star Spangled Banner" a subject of debate, with many calling for a replacement.
What Makes Key Controversial Now?
Key was reportedly an owner of slaves and once defended slaveholders' rights to own human property. The ACLU report mentions that Keys was raised by a slave-owning family in Maryland who allegedly characterized African-Americans as an "evil that afflicts a community."
Powell told Yahoo Music that Key was also a close friend of President Andrew Jackson, who he described as the Donald Trump of that era. "The Star-Spangled Banner" was officially made the National Anthem of the United States in 1931 but before that, it was a poem called the Defence of Fort M'Henry written by Key.
Over the past week, many have shown their aversion towards the National Anthem, while a section is echoing Powell's sentiment of replacing it with Lennon's "Imagine" which is more relevant during these times. Earlier this week, Liana Morales, a Black student at New York's Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts, refused to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" at her virtual graduation ceremony. Also, on Thursday, Tulsa Athletic, a semi-professional soccer team of the National Premier Soccer League, said that after judging the lyrics of The "Star Spangled Banner", it will no longer play it before matches and instead will be replacing it with Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."