Category Archives: NFL

A thought experiment about the NFL and the black national anthem

With the NFL preparing to play the “black national anthem” before The Star-Spangled Banner, it’s time for a thought experiment.

The idea for this post is not mine. Instead, it comes from the poster embedded below. I’m just expanding upon it.

As you know, starting with the no-talent Colin Kaepernick, it’s been the height of righteous dissent to take a knee when our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner plays. That’s because, according to those leftists coming soon for a country near you, The Star-Spangled Banner is so racist it must be erased. Although it’s an ode to flag and country, with nary a word about race, the fact that Francis Scott Key had slaves means that his sentiments are irredeemably tainted, as is the country that birthed him and took his lyrics as its national standard.

And so it’s time for a new national anthem — or at least, an era of segregated national anthems. To this end, the NFL has announced that, in the first week of its upcoming season, it will open the games with Lift Every Voice and Sing, the song identified as the “black national anthem,” before playing The Star-Spangled Banner.

But here’s a question for activists: Are you sure you want this? Is Lift Every Voice and Song as innocent as it sounds? Sure it’s a beautiful hymn (although a bit slow for my taste) with lyrics celebrating hope and freedom, but any thinking leftist ought to find it troubling. Here’s why:

1. James Weldon Johnson wrote the poem in 1900 to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. We’re now told that Lincoln can no longer be celebrated because he didn’t preside over and end up dying for a war that freed the slaves; instead, the slaves freed themselves. Honoring Lincoln denies blacks agency over their liberation.

That’s why the Boston statue showing Lincoln breaking a slave’s shackles, a statue that former slaves commissioned, must go. Those former slaves obviously weren’t sufficiently woke to understand that Lincoln had nothing to do with their liberty.

The song, by celebrating Lincoln, also celebrates black subordination to white domination. That’s bad. Really bad.

2. The song mentions God. It is, therefore, both offensive and violative of Jefferson’s statement about the separation of church and state.

It doesn’t matter that the explicit references to God first appear in the third stanza. After all, one of the main attacks against the Star-Spangled Banner arises from the fact that, in the third stanza, which nobody ever sings, Key wrote these words: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” Leftists, unversed in history, have uniformly, and inaccurately, attacked this line as a racist homage to slavery and an attack against blacks.

Using the same analytical methods, the repeated references to God in the third verse of Lift Every Voice and Sing are an aggressive attempt to force the Judeo-Christian God on Americans, including Muslims, Hindus, Satanists, Hoodoos, and Atheists. Whatever Johnson’s intentions, this cannot stand.

3. The song refers to America as “our native land.” Yes, that’s the very last line in the song, at the end of the third verse.

Some might try to argue that Africa is the “native land” to which the song refers, but it’s clear Johnson did not intend that interpretation. His lyrics vibrate with Christian words and imagery. Those unfortunates in Africa who were kidnapped by their fellow Africans and sold to Muslim traders before being traded to the rest of the world were not practicing Christians. That means that, when Johnson talks about a Native Land in which blacks have a Christian God, he must be referring to America.

Considering that many blacks trace their ancestry to men and women brought here in chains and forced into servitude, any song that has blacks embrace America as their native land is offensive.

The above three objections to Lift Every Voice and Sing come from the left — that is, if we assume that the left is actually principled and consistent, rather than reflexively anti-American. However, there’s one other, more ecumenical objection:

4. To the extent that the NFL is promoting the song specifically because it’s a “black” national anthem, that’s both racist and segregationist. Neither of those is or should be an American value.

We are one people. We are all children of God. We share equal rights under the law and, ideally, share the same abstract civic values, values that are rooted in individual liberty and the innate dignity of humankind. The fact that our Founders, having articulated that beautiful vision, had to work to align their behavior with their beliefs should not affect the inherent genius of those beliefs.

The beliefs themselves are not tied to any single race, sex, creed, or other external distinction between one human being and the next. They are rights with which we are all endowed — and breaking our national anthems down by race is antithetical to the wondrous unity of those ideas.

With the above in mind, imagine what would happen if someone decided to take a knee when listening to Lift Every Voice and Sing, the “black national anthem”? I wish I could say I thought of that profound question myself, but I didn’t. I found it in this meme/poster:

NFL Kaepernick Black National Anthem

At a guess, the answer is that, if someone took a knee for the “black national anthem,” we’d have a second round of violent protests fully equal to those that followed George Floyd’s death. And of course, the outrage mob would destroy the person who took a knee. He or she would be fired, harassed at home, and driven from pillar to post like a leper of old. That’s because, for leftists, it’s always “free speech for me, but not for thee.”

Speaking of the outrage mob, I’m reading Dan Crenshaw’s Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage. I don’t think it’s possible for me to recommend it highly enough. It’s an easy read that nevertheless raises profound issues and proposes cognitive changes that will help individuals in an age of outrage. Indeed, if enough p people made these emotional, practical, and cognitive changes, we could end the hysteria breaking America apart.

By the way, if we really are going down the path of having “national anthems” for every single group in America, here are a few more suggestions.

For gay men:

For lesbians:

For so-called transgender women:

For actual women:

For so-called transgender men:

For actual men:

I won’t go on. It only goes downhill from here.

Kaepernick & Co.: The difference between civil disobedience and virtue signaling

Living in a free country means that Kaepernick and his imitators have the right to take a knee when they hear The Star Spangled Banner. Having a right, though, doesn’t mean that you are right.

When it comes to Kaepernick & Friends, those people who feel offended by their disrespectful gesture are right to feel that way: There’s nothing noble about virtue signaling, which is all that these highly paid athletes are doing. It’s a meaningless, painless activity that simply puffs up their profile in the drive-by media.

Things would be different, however, if they engaged in true acts of civil disobedience. Doing that might earn them respect even from those who disagree with them.

Back in the day, civil disobedience used to mean something very specific. Although long a recognized part of Anglo-Saxon and English culture (mostly through jury nullification), it was Henry David Thoreau, in the mid-19th Century, who best articulated the doctrine we now recognize. Thoreau objected to a poll tax because he felt the money was being improperly spent to support slavery and the war with Mexico. Rather than paying the tax, he took a principled stand, refused to pay the tax, and went to prison.

As it happened, Thoreau’s friends quickly bailed him out, so he did not have much time to glory in his martyrdom. Nevertheless, this single night in jail inspired Thoreau to write the definitive essay about a citizen’s obligation to strike out against unjust laws and practices — and to demonstrate the law’s invalidity through each citizen’s personal martyrdom. Significantly, Thoreau felt that such a principled stand gained weight from an attendant sacrifice, which is usually imprisonment:

Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place today, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less despondent spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race should find them; on that separate but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her–the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor.

Part of taking a principled stand means a willingness to pay the price. Martin Luther King was willing to pay the price, as was Mohandas Gandhi. Rosa Parks, who knew she risked imprisonment when she refused to move to the back of the bus, was willing to pay the price. Nelson Mandela surely paid the price and then showed tremendous grace when he had in his hands the power to get revenge . . . but didn’t.

How things have changed in America. If you’re a Leftist, you get to break the law or with community norms . . . and receive only loud applause. I first realized that true, sacrificial civil disobedience is a dead letter for Lefties in February 2004, when San Francisco’s then-mayor, Gavin Newsom, suddenly announced that he was going to ignore California’s laws against same-sex marriage, and have the City issue marriage licenses to all gay couples desiring them. The Press oooh’ed and aaah’ed about his bravery, and gave him a platform he used to leverage himself to California’s Lieutenant Governorship and, he hopes, one day sees him seated in the governor’s office itself (helped by his current campaign to destroy the Second Amendment).

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