Mavec: Taking a knee
I have noticed that there is a lot of criticism and misunderstanding about why NFL players nationally are taking a knee during the National Anthem at football games lately. It is not out of lack of respect for the nation, for the flag, or for any organization or person associated with the flag. It is to make awareness of the lack of respect that this “equal” nation, and the original and often forgotten version of The Star-Spangled Banner, has for African-American people and other minorities.
Although the first verse of this anthem is the only verse usually sung before games, there are three more. There are four verses that Francis Scott Key wrote in 1814 about the American victory at the Battle of Fort McHenry. The third reads, “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 groom 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.”
Tricky to understand in today’s language, right? Well, broken down, this verse is in reference to Key’s disgust at black slaves being allowed to fight with the British in the battle in return for their freedom and his ultimate pleasure at their deaths. As if, somehow, their deaths were reasonable and deserved because Key thought of their fighting in the battle as treason. It is also unwell known that Key was, in fact, a slave owner, an anti-abolitionist and once called black people “a distinct and inferior race of people.”
It is this kind of thinking that still exists in our world today that black people and other minorities are inferior, less than, and dispensable. It is how the constant killing of black women and men by those sworn to honor and protect everyone is now seen as a sport rather than an injustice. It is how minorities are told not to riot because they will be seen as threatening, but also not to peacefully protest because they will be seen as un-American and unpatriotic. It is how racism is still a very real thing that people sweep under the rug every single day. But hey, you shouldn’t kneel for a cause boys you should just play football. You shouldn’t want to make a difference, just win games.
How are you more upset with someone for not standing during an “anthem” that celebrates slavery and slaves’ deaths than you are with an entire race of people being treated unfairly? So no, taking a knee is not an act of injustice or disrespect against America. It is taking a stand against the mistreatment of African-American and minority people worldwide. And I, for one, respect anyone’s decision to take a stand or a knee against inequality.
Mavec is a reporter for the Tribune.
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