Joshua Fauver is a member of the Green Party of Louisiana’s coordinating committee and is the co-founder of American Third Party Report. Fauver published the following statement on Facebook today:
So, currently there is a lot of talk going on about NFL Players protesting during the national anthem. I want to speak to that subject for just a moment because I’ve seen several different reactions from so many different people. I want to offer my own perspective on the matter.
The author of the national anthem, Francis Scott Key, was himself a slave owner. So when he wrote the words “the land of the free” he wasn’t talking about our African American bothers and sisters. Not only that, but on the third stanza of the song as was originally wrote by Key reads “No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” which no doubt refers to the Corps of Colonial Marines, one of two units of black slaves recruited between 1808 and 1816 to fight for the British on the promise of gaining their freedom. So, it’s quite clear that when the words “land of the free” were written down in that song, he didn’t have a single African American in mind. Furthermore, following the war of 1812, when the U.S. and the British signed a peace treaty at the end of 1814, the U.S. government demanded the return of American “property,” which by that point numbered about 6,000 people.Thankfully, the British refused and the majority of those 6,000 people settled in Canada. Amazing that Americans went from fighting for freedom to fighting against it in just a short amount of time.
And, for so long, the flag didn’t represent freedom for our African American brothers and sisters. For almost the first 100 of years of this country history that flag didn’t represent freedom, it represented slavery. And for the next 100 years after that, the flag still represented oppression, not the freedom from it. Consider that in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam that African American soldiers were sent overseas to fight for freedom for people there, freedoms they themselves didn’t have back home, while wearing that flag. That flag sent them to fight and die to preserve freedoms for foreign peoples, in foreign lands, freedoms they wouldn’t have when the returned home.
It’s easy for some of us to make statements like “The flag has always stood for freedom.” The truth is that ever since 1776 that this country and our nation’s flag has represented freedom for some of us. When Francis Scott Key wrote “land of the free” he was talking about a select group of us. There has never been a question, or a debate, or a war, or a decade of civil disobedience since the founding of this great nation concerning the subject of whether or not a certain race of us are free. The same can’t be said for our African American brothers and sisters. I think it’s important that we remember that. It’s easy for some of us to gloss over that sometimes, to neglect that historical reality, and not look at today’s issues through the lens of that historical context.
You see, the pledge we make to the flag includes the words “liberty and justice for all.” That’s the high calling that we say that flag represents. Historically that has not been true. Even today that is not true of what that flag represents. And if anything has been proven by Collin Kaepernick’s protest it is that not only do we not have justice for all, we don’t want to afford the liberty to raise awareness about the lack of justice.
The truth for those of us who aren’t people of color is we don’t, and really can’t, fully understand what African American people have gone through in this country. You know? Like we can’t understand the inhumanity and barbarism of slavery? We didn’t go through that. We don’t know what not having civil rights is like, we have had them since 1776 in this country. And the truth is for most African American adults today, they are just a generation removed from the Civil Rights era. Either they went through it or they were raised by someone who did, and that has certainly shaped and molded them.
I say all of that to say this; until we can separate our experiences from the experiences of others, until we empathize with those who have had different experiences than we have, that this isn’t getting better. Until we learn to empathize, to sympathize, to understand our experiences are much different, and try to see it from their perspective and through the lens of their experiences, and through the lens of historical context, this issue and issues like it are going to persist. We are going to continue dealing with the issue of slavery, dealing with the issue of inequality, dealing with this here until those of us who are not people of color learn to at the very least try to understand the experiences of people of color and to empathize with them. Until we do that, race relations in this country are not going to improve. If we continue to be insensitive to their experiences, things are not going to get better.
(Originally published at the American Third Party Report)