Black Americans have no obligation to honor the national anthem.
Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem last August put the Francis Scott Key song in the limelight. The discussion gained further momentum after Sunday’s #taketheknee movement when a number of NFL players kneeled during the national anthem. Aside from the song’s overpowering patriotism, which Black folks have zero reasons to relate to, the third verse of the “Star-Spangled Banner”—which is oft omitted from recitations—does reference slavery. There’s been significant speculation around the context in which one of the song’s verses alludes to one of the darkest corners of history.
Key, who was a slaveholder, was watching the Battle of Fort McHenry play out from a British troopship in 1814—the second year of the War of 1812 as he detailed his affection for the country. His reflections on the battles fought before him—including the deaths of slaves—became an oath to patriotism.
“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.“
Some interpret the verse as a celebration of the slaves’ deaths. Others say the song is simply a reflection of the era in which it was written. We say no matter Key’s intention, anything normalizing slavery is essentially racist and, consequently, unappealing.
So we’d rather preserve our energy to stand up for an anthem that’s a bit more worthwhile. Ever since the controversy surrounding protests of the national anthem, social media users have made it clear songs such as “Dipset Anthem” and “International Players Anthem” are more worthy of respect than a slaveholder’s questionable ode to America.
me when the national anthem plays vs me when dipset anthem plays pic.twitter.com/BMi81Xdvbd
— HolidayKirk (@HolidayKirk) September 24, 2017
Look, lets just change the National Anthem to The International Players Anthem & be done with it.
— Mr Big Appetite & The Lemon Pepper Stepper🧸 (@OptimusGrind__) September 25, 2017
There’s even a petition calling for the latter to replace the national anthem. The California resident behind the call to replace the controversial song argues that “International Players Anthem”‘s reference to safe sex and the illustrious Andre 3000’s sheer presence in the song as reasons it should become the country’s new anthem. It also has a one-up on the “Star-Spangled Banner” in that its writer(s) don’t have a history of owning slaves.
While the UGK song and “Dipset Anthem” make competitive candidates for a new anthem, there are many others to choose from. While the NFL likely won’t be replacing their All-American song with any hip-hop bangers anytime soon, we personally don’t mind doing so.
Here are some anthems we can actually get with:
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” AKA the “Black National Anthem” – James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson
Ok, so the song doesn’t actually have “anthem” in the title, but “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has been universally recognized as the Black National Anthem.
“Dipset Anthem” – The Diplomats
Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Cam’ron show us how their crew does it with the “Dipset Anthem.”
“International Players Anthem” – UGK
The music in UGK’s “International Players Anthem” sounds like something we’d hear in the church, so we wouldn’t mind giving praise to this. R.I.P. Pimp C.
“Ruff Ryders Anthem” – DMX
“Stop, drop, shut ’em down, open up shop.” The chorus is certainly simple enough so the “Ruff Ryders Anthem” would at least be easy to memorize. Not to mention, DMX and his crew were the hardest in the game in the ’90s, so we’d have no issue saluting the squad.
“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” – JAY-Z
A classic hood tale is found in JAY-Z’s “Hard Knock Life.” One of HOV’s most clever musical masterpieces puts a ghetto twist on “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from the movie Annie.
“B.K. Anthem” – Foxy Brown
Probably more preferred by Brooklynites but in Foxy Brown’s “B.K. Anthem,” the MC recounts her younger days wildin’ out in the NYC borough.
“Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO
The LMFAO song is part of the pre-clubbing ritual for pop-loving party folks.
“The Anthem” – Pitbull
If you just want an anthem to twerk to, and happen to enjoy Spanish music, this one goes out to you, sis.
“Ratchet Girl Anthem” – Emmanuel and Phillip Hudson
You don’t have to live by the ratchet code comedians Emmanuel and Phillip Hudson so vividly illustrate in the “Ratchet Girl Anthem.” But it’s so damn funny you might not mind adopting it as the song you can call your own.
Who knew we had so many anthems we could pledge to? If you’d like to learn more about the national anthem’s questionable origins, check out the documentary by Morgan State University students What So Proudly We Hail.