Sunday, July 06, 2008

Misuse of The Black National Anthem

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

When a jazz singer last week substituted the lyrics to the "Black National Anthem" for those of the "Star-Spangled Banner" at a ceremony, she not only surprised her Denver audience. She focused attention on a song little known outside the black community.
The jazz singer, Rene Marie, was supposed to sing the traditional National Anthem at the ceremony in Denver. She sang the "black National Anthem" instead, without announcing it in advance. This has angered a lot of people.
Here are the words to the "Black National Anthem," which was written as a poem in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson:

"Lift every voice and sing Til earth and heaven ring.
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise High as the glistening skies, Let it resound loud as the roiling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.
Sing a song full of the faith that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march til victory is won."
The words are not offensive in themselves. In fact, they are inspirational. Singing them would be appropriate in the right context, particuarly if Rene Marie had announced in advance that she was going to sing them, and had she invited the audience to share with her the hope and inspiration that the words convey. Then she would have been applauded to the skies. Shared experience does much to glue a community together.

The anger comes from the impression that the song was not sung for cultural pride or inspiration, but for use as a cultural wedge, a tool to underscore division rather than unity.

Rene Marie said the traditional National Athem "does not represent me." Okay, Rene, we get it: you don't like white people, and what better way to say it than to denigrate the National Anthem that is sacred to so many Americans.

You don't identify with America or the rest of us who live here too. We can never be friends, for how can the oppressed be friends with the oppressor? So no cinnamon rolls over coffee in the morning for us. No backyard barbeques, no car-pooling together to the football game. It wouldn't work. For you it's endless, burning, smoking anger, and for us, eternal shame, endless mea-culpas, and nonstop apologies like supplications from a Tibetan prayer wheel.

You want to emphasize your separateness, to underscore your eternal victimhood, your unrelenting oppression, your eternal hostility to white America, the fact that white society will forever owe you deference, apology and probably endless monetary reparations as well.

The black grievance industry is getting a bit tiresome these days. We are sick of hearing your endless song of woe. There can never be racial healing while many prominent blacks choose to nurse their sense of grievance and resentment. Think about that, Rene.

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